Is Religion Declining in the U.S.? Don’t Bet On It.

Every now and then, some very smart people in the United States take a look at society and conclude that religious commitment is declining.  These smart people have been saying this since…..1660.  That’s when the second generation of Puritan ministers started preaching sermons, which we call “jeremiads,” bemoaning what they saw as the decline of religious faith in New England.

And with that, a proud American tradition was born:  predicting the decline of religion in America.  Secular leaders have declared this with some satisfaction, seeing it as an example of progress.  Christian leaders, like the Puritans, have declared this with anguish, seeing it as a way to stir complacent congregations to action.  The reported decline of American religion is such a common practice that that is has popped up every two decades or so for the past 350 ears.  And then the smart people are proven wrong by reality.

The line between secularism and religion keeps shifting and taking on different forms, but religious commitment keeps persisting.  I’ve been suspicious of the recent declarations that the rise of the “nones” mean that religion is declining in the United States.  I have been doubtful, not just for historical reasons, but for the way that the data has been interpreted.

Thomas Kidd, a professor of American history at Baylor University, (and an excellent historian, I should add) analyzes the data much better than I can.  You should read his blog post, which can be found here.

(For those that read my last post, I should tell you that, yes, I am still planning another one on the flag controversy.  In case you are interested, that is).




Breaking News: The New York Times Has Discovered Evangelical Christians living in New York City.

We interrupt our sporadic string of “Circuit Reader” blog posts to report that the New York Times has come across an amazing discovery: there are evangelical Christians —a lot of them –living within the very borders of the Big Apple.

The Times, with its modest motto, “All the news that is fit to print,” regularly reports on topics that it deems essential for human flourishing, including politics, education, business, sports, arts, automobiles, health, food and (what is so obviously central to the meaning of life), fashion.   It has devoted regular sections to each of these.

Religion does not have its own section because, unlike fashion, nobody finds it important. Plus it is fading away as the United States becomes more secular and it will soon be irrelevant. Particularly virulent and oppressive forms of religion, like evangelicalism, are only practiced by close-minded or rather unstable white people in the Midwest and the South.

These people live in New York City?

These people live in New York City?

But this entire view of the world may be undermined by this new discovery. The Times reported today, shockingly, that there is “An Evangelical Revival in the Heart of New York.” Using painstakingly dogged investigative journalism unseen by a Times reporter since Billy Graham drew 2.4 million people to his NYC crusade in 1957, the newspaper has discovered that this Saturday there will be a festival in Central Park that is expected to draw 60,000 people. The evangelist Luis Palau, who is actually well-known by people in exotic places like Rio de Janeiro, Guatemala City, Wheaton, Dallas, Santiago, and Pasadena, will be preaching.

900 of the 1700 churches supporting the festival are Hispanic, an ethnic link which may have led the Times to this fascinating discovery. Even more surprising, the newspaper has found that immigrants from Latin America, Asia and Africa find comfort in the lively atmosphere of New York City AND pentecostalism. In another breakthrough, akin to the accidental discovery of penicillium mold by Alexander Fleming in 1928, research has revealed that there are between 1.2 million and 1.6 million evangelicals living in New York City,

What's this?  Evangelicals read books?

What’s this? Evangelicals read books?

“The size of the festival belies the city’s secular reputation and speaks to the vibrant evangelical movement in New York,” the newspaper reported in a rather puzzled tone.

No word yet on whether or not this means the Times will pay attention to religion in the future.



Ebola, the Media and Christianity

A little analysis from our favorite media giant with the Big Religious Blind Spot, The New York Times, from an article on October 10:

“The first to respond to the Ebola crisis in West Africa, Doctors Without Borders remains the primary international medical aid group battling the disease there.  As local health systems have all but collapsed and most outside institutions, including the United States military, have yet to fulfill all their pledges of help, the charity has erected six treatment centers in West Africa, with plans for more.”

So, Doctors Without Borders was the first organization to respond the Ebola crisis.

Uh, not quite.  When Doctors Without Borders arrived in Liberia to battle Ebola they collaborated with Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical missionary agency.  Samaritan’s Purse has had medical care in Liberia since 2010, so they were right there when Ebola first broke out.  They were, in fact, trying to alert the world to the Ebola problem before it became a big news item in the West.  In July, an official of Samaritan’s Purse declared:

“We need them all to help us in the fight against this dreadful disease…I call on the international community and the donor governments of the world, particularly in Europe and the United States, to step in and recognize the very limited capacities of the ministries of health in West Africa and to help them contain this disease.”

And where does one find this declaration from Samaritan’s Purse, an organization fighting Ebola in Liberia along with Doctor’s Without Borders?

A New York Times blog.

Don’t these reporters read their own paper?

A picture from the Times in July, showing Kent Brantly treating Ebola patients in Liberia.  Any further comments I would make at this point about this would be way too snarky and disrespectful.

A picture from the Times in July, showing Kent Brantly treating Ebola patients in Liberia. Any further comments I would make at this point about this would be way too snarky and disrespectful.

That article even carried a picture of Kent Brantly working on Ebola patients.  Brantly, as you may know, is the doctor from Samaritan’s Purse who later made international news as the first American to contract Ebola.

So why does The New York Times say that Doctors Without Borders (which is an excellent organization, by the way) was pretty much the only organization in West Africa working on this?  Why do they fail to mention the work of an organization like Samaritan’s Purse?

Another blind spot.  And it is a blind spot connected to the reality that missionary organizations make some secular people uncomfortable.

You don’t have to take my word for it.  Slate writer, Brian Palmer, who declares himself to be an atheist, makes the very point that missionaries are overlooked in the whole Ebola crisis.  Palmer explains how he was recently at an international conference discussing Ebola and the control of infectious diseases and somebody made the point that Doctors Without Borders were the “only group on the ground” dealing with this problem.

Palmer, however, wrote in the Slate article (he doesn’t mention whether he said anything at the conference) that missionaries have long been on the ground dealing with these issues.  He also indicated that missionary doctors and nurses actually have long-term commitments, don’t just parachute in during a crisis, and do not profit economically from their work.

Of course, this is not news to any of us who are familiar with missionaries.

But it is news – uncomfortable news – for certain kinds of secular Americans. Palmer gives reasons why secular people are uncomfortable with missionaries — and why he himself, in fact, is uncomfortable with them.  (The subtitle of his article is  “Should we worry that so many of the doctors treating Ebola in Africa are missionaries?”)  There’s nothing new there — those arguments he gives have been around for more than a century, as Palmer points out himself.

I give Palmer a great deal of credit, however, for bringing to light the good work done by a group with which he has serious disagreements.  That is a difficult step to take.  It is so difficult that The New York Times can’t seem to pull it off.

Now before I end up out of line in my snarky comments about the Times, (I might already have crossed that line, actually) I better point out that I am often not able to pull that off, either.  We Christians, who ought to know something about humility, respect, and loving those with whom we disagree, ought to be able to regularly point out good work done by people with whom we have serious disagreements.

Do we?


(My thanks to my friend and colleague, Scott Waalkes, who brought the Slate article to my attention and understands evangelicals and missionaries, even though he grew up amidst Calvinists in Grand Rapids.)


Is this News to You? The New York Times has a Blind Spot with Religion.

In the last couple of weeks, pro-democracy protests have been surging through Hong Kong.  Evangelical Christians are playing a significant role in the organization and leadership of the Umbrella Movement leading the protests.

Yet, in its extensive coverage of these developments, the New York Times doesn’t  discuss religion.

Are you surprised by this?

I am not.

An example:  The Times ran a front page story last week (October 2) about Joshua Wong, who is leading the pro-democracy student protests.  The paper ran the headline, “At 17, Leading Protests That Rattle Hong Kong.”  Several pages later the story continued with a second headline, “Student at Forefront of Hong Kong Democracy Movement is Unlikely Agitator.”

Joshua Wong

Joshua Wong

What makes him unlikely?  Well, he is young.  We find out that Wong started protests of government curriculum in his school three years ago.  And we learn that he represents an idealistic culture of protest.  We also learn that his university entrance exam scores were middling.

What else is unlikely?  It would be unlikely for the Times to recognize that Joshua Wong has been shaped by evangelical Christianity.  The article did mention that Wong’s parents were “Protestants who kindled a concern for social justice,” but that is the only mention of religion in any of the articles the Times reported.

It is not just Wong.  A disproportionate number of protesters in Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement are Christian.  The same goes for the Scholarism movement that Wong founded several years ago.  Two of the three leaders of the Occupy Central with Love and Peace movement are Christian.   And interestingly, some of the criticism of the movement, as well, comes from Christian leaders.  One of the most vocal critics in Hong Kong is an Anglican bishop.  The Times does not mention any of this.

I’m not surprised because, as I mentioned in my last post, the Times has a blind spot when it comes to religion.  Now, I should mention that I subscribe to The New York Times.  It’s a good way for me to get relatively deep coverage of world events.  That is, the coverage is good unless religion (particularly Christianity) is a significant factor in the story.  It appears to me that the people in power at that newspaper just don’t understand religion or have a good sense for how it could motivate modern people, particularly in public ways.

The Times is not alone in that regard.  A lot of the news media has a blind spot when it comes to religion, Christianity and evangelicalism.  Much of the rest of our news media is just like the Times in this regard.  That is one reason why many American Christians argue that there is a liberal bias in the media.

But the problem of blind spots is not just with “liberal media.”  The “conservative media” has its own blind spots.  (See Bill O’Reilly on race, for instance).

The problem with blind spots is us.  By “us” I mean those individuals who breathe and think and have desires, a demographic that covers a remarkably high percentage of people.

I have blind spots.  So do you.  We don’t know what they are, because we are “blind” to them.  Get it?

Every now and then, our eyes are opened, at least a little bit.  That was the point of my embarrassing story about my exchange with the post-modern feminist on my dissertation committee.  You might recall that she asked rather pointedly how I could claim to provide a solid analysis of the evangelical missionary movement and not consider women, since women made up a majority of missionaries.

I wonder, then, what would happen if were able to ask the editors of The New York Times how they could claim to be investigating the causes of this pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong and not consider the role Christianity plays, since Christians make up a good deal of the leadership?  Of course, people like me don’t have the ear of the Times editors.  And even when our blind spots are pointed out, we often don’t truly believe that they exist.  So we don’t see them.  I doubt I could convince the Times editors that they have a blind spot.

But the point here is not to tweak the noses of The New York Times.  (Well, OK, I have to confess that I do actually want to tweak the noses of The New York Times.)

My point is that we need to realize that all of us have blind spots and we need to be aware that they exist, even if we don’t know what, exactly, they are.

Those Missionaries. I’m Sure Glad We Don’t Stereotype People Like They All Do.

Remember back when the American establishment admired missionaries?  No you do not, because that was 1901 and you were not born yet.

I say this because I’ve been re-reading Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible for a faculty/student book club I am in.  It’s a clever novel, but I am finding it more annoying than the first time I read it about fifteen years ago.

I’m afraid, then, that a tone of annoyance will probably run through this post.  I apologize to all of you for this, except to those former students (this for you, Brian Faehnrich, if you are reading this) who said they enjoyed times when I ranted in class.

(Sigh.  I really shouldn’t do that.  Rants often reinforce stereotypes, which is the main problem addressed in this post.  We humans are a messy lot, aren’t we?)

imgresKingsolver’s novel tells the story of a missionary family (parents and four daughters) in the Congo in 1960.  The missionary father is strict, stubborn, uncaring, narrow-minded, obtuse, controlling and tragic.  The first time I read it, I was willing to let this go as a story about an outlier — every group has their disturbed individuals, after all.

I was too charitable.  This time through, I see the novel as a critique of a patriarchal system that encompasses families, religion and politics.  Men dominate these systems in the novel and that creates all sorts of problems for everyone they interact with.

And it is all too simplistic.  Patriarchy is a complicated and problematic feature of many societies, but I’d like to leave that aside for now to draw attention to Kingsolver’s understanding of missionaries.  She seems to have picked up these perceptions from the American establishment.  None of the twenty-eight books that she lists as sources effectively address missionaries or evangelicals, with the exception of a book written by David Livingstone in 1872 and Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart.  So it seems Kingsolver is basing her understanding of missionaries on the assumptions of her culture.  Granted, I am sure she ran into missionaries and a few evangelicals when she lived in the Congo, but of course, real-life missionaries apparently ran into a few Africans when they lived in the Congo, and that didn’t always guarantee that they understood them well.

As I mentioned, the American establishment admired missionaries in 1901.  You could see changes coming in 1901.  That was the year that Mark Twain published a number of pieces that accused missionaries of behaving badly.  Actually, he depicted them of being hypocritical, narrow-minded imperialists.

Mark Twain:  expert on Chinese culture, anthropology, and theology.   Or wait a minute...maybe he was the guy who wrote *The Adventures of Tom Sawyer*

Mark Twain: expert on Chinese culture, anthropology, and theology. Or, wait a minute…maybe he was the guy who wrote “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”

Twain’s writings were controversial at the time, but these kinds of ideas gradually caught on in the American establishment.  In 1927, the nationally known pundit, H.L. Mencken, wrote that the Chinese “see that the missionary is not only a most unpleasant theological propagandist, but also that he is the advance agent of all sorts of commercial exploiters, and even of military assassins…..If the missionaries will retire gracefully, shouting polite hosannas, well and good; if they linger, they will be heaved out.  Who will blame the Chinese?”  By the 1970s, social scientists were using the term “missionary position” to explain how missionaries tried to convince South Pacific Islanders the “proper” position for sexual intercourse.  This was, of course, an illustration of how missionaries thoroughly impose their cultural values on others.

Imagine, then, the situation faced by a student that I had taught in the early 1990s when my wife and I served at Rift Valley Academy in Kenya.  This student, whose parents were missionaries, had gone off to college at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.  During arrival weekend she was involved in one of those mixers that help students get to know one another.  A fellow freshman asked her where she went to high school and she told him Kenya.  When she explained that her parents were missionaries, he replied, “Oh. Your parents are cultural imperialists.”

Now, this guy was quite bright, if not especially blessed with tactfulness.  Northwestern is a prestigious university and it does not accept dull-witted types.  But I should point out that this guy was 18 years old and had not yet had a single college class.  (Not that his college classes would have changed his thinking on this issue).  He hadn’t been to Africa and he did not even know any missionaries.  In other words, he didn’t know a hill of beans about missionaries except for a stereotype he had picked up somewhere in American culture.

The same goes for Mark Twain.  And H.L. Mencken.  And those social scientists in the 1970s.   And Barbara Kingsolver.

Let’s start with Twain.   Some missionaries in 1901 — the ones Twain was writing about — were behaving badly in China in their reaction to the Boxer Rebellion.  They were demanding that the Chinese government pay reparations to missionary agencies in response to rioters who had killed a number of missionaries and destroyed property.  And they wanted the militaries of the western imperialist powers to back them up.  That is not good.  But most missionaries did not respond this way.  Hudson Taylor, who led the China Inland Mission, for instance, which suffered more missionaries killed than any other agency, stated that CIM missionaries would not demand anything, but proceed with gentleness and meekness.

H.L. Mencken, champion of the "smart set" in the 1920s. Like Mencken, the "smart set" understood what was going on with missionaries in places like Africa and China because they were, you know, "smart."

H.L. Mencken, champion of the “smart set” in the 1920s. Like Mencken, the “smart set” understood what was going on with missionaries in places like Africa and China because they were, you know, “smart.”

H.L. Mencken?  He regularly wrote things like, “Religion is fundamentally opposed to everything I hold in veneration — courage, clear thinking, honesty, fairness, and, above all, love of the truth.”  Hey, that’s clever, H.L.  It’s also a fine example of a statement that does not give careful consideration to clear thinking, honesty, fairness and the love of truth.  Mencken regularly reached for ammunition rather than illumination when it came to areas of religious faith.

Those social scientists in the 1970s?  Recent research has shown that the “missionary position” story is an academic myth.  There is not a shred of evidence that any missionary anywhere ever said or did anything like this.  We can, however, trace the story to speculation by social scientists in the 1940s.

Twain, Mencken, the social scientists and Kingsolver are not the causes of missionary stereotypes.  Due to twentieth-century cultural, theological, and social forces (hey, that all sounds exciting and clear, doesn’t it?) the stereotypes would have emerged from others anyway.   And they did, in fact.  The point is that missionary stereotypes permeated the twentieth-century American establishment.  As I hope to show in the next post, there are important reasons why these stereotypes need to go.

Oh, and my former student at that freshmen mixer at Northwestern?  She asked the guy what he knew about the world and he explained that he had a good awareness of the world.  His parents actively supported international organizations that promoted family planning around the world.

“Why then,” she said, “are my parents considered cultural imperialists and yours are not?”  He did not have a good answer.


Is the American church dying?


(I’m interrupting my series on why we shouldn’t run education like a business because I ran into this helpful article analyzing the statistics.  Thanks to Tommy Kidd for alerting me to the article). 

You may have heard in the news sometime during the last few years  that Christianity is fading away in the United States.  These claims are made because of the rise of the number of people who claim no affiliation.  But it would be poor statistical analysis to conclude that the church in the United States is shrinking because of that data.

Take a look at this article. 



Are Evangelicals Effective at Dealing with the Poor?

Feel free to chime in on this one.  We are going to try to understand evangelicals better.

This is kind of a funny project for me, since I identify myself as an evangelical.  I go to church with these folks.  And I study these people.  You’d think I’d have this figured out.

Well, this is what I do know: evangelicals are good at evangelism.

Granted, we have all probably run into a zealous evangelical or two somewhere in our life who awkwardly thrust a tract in our face or fired off personal questions about heaven and hell in the first sentence they ever addressed to us.  One might question the effectiveness of evangelistic efforts that make the Christian faith look as inviting as a colonoscopy.

But this has not been evangelicals’ main methodology.  Through a variety of other ways in the past couple of centuries, such as revivalism, evangelicals have been very effective in bringing others into their branch of Christianity.  Though evangelicals did not exist in any clear way in 1700, they now make up about a third of American society.  The vast majority of African Americans who have embraced Christianity in the last two centuries have come by way of evangelical churches.  During the last few decades, evangelical churches have been growing while mainline Protestant groups in the U.S. have been in decline.  In Africa, Asia and Latin America, the growth has been even more dramatic.  Evangelicals, particularly Pentecostals, have grown remarkably in China, South Korea, sub-Saharan Africa, Guatemala, Brazil and many other places.  Say what you will, evangelism has been very effective in these regions.

But let’s return to the question I’m kind of avoiding:  are evangelicals any good at dealing with the poor?

This is a more complicated question.  Here are a few different responses that I have come across:

A)  No.  Evangelicals mostly see the poor as people to be evangelized.  With a few exceptions, like the Sojourners crowd, white American evangelicals through the twentieth century looked with suspicion on anything that sounded like the “social gospel.”  And they looked with deeper suspicion upon any governmental programs aimed at the poor.   This “evangelism-only” impulse carried over into the missionary movement, so that Latino and African Christians in the last few decades have upbraided American evangelical missionaries for promoting a partial gospel that neglected issues of poverty.

B)   Yes.  Even though many evangelicals distanced themselves from social causes in the mid-twentieth century, there has been an upsurge of concern and activity since the 1970s.  Those Latino and African Christians who chided American evangelicals were evangelicals themselves, after all.  And no less of an evangelical icon than Billy Graham came on board with their theological arguments at the 1974 Lausanne Conference.  Since the 1960s, we have seen the growth of agencies like World Vision, Compassion International and Habitat for Humanity – organizations that were all founded by evangelicals and still receive the bulk of their support from evangelicals.  And evangelicals had always formed the backbone of older organizations directed toward the poor, such as the Salvation Army and rescue missions.

C) Not really.  Evangelicals often have good intentions, but their effectiveness is limited by an individualistic approach to poverty.  Thus evangelicals will send relief supplies to victims of earthquakes or hand out soccer balls on short-term mission trips, but these are temporary efforts that do little to address long-term systemic and structural issues of poverty.  Evangelicals need a theology that can address issues such as political inequities, class structures, economic systems and institutional racism.  Because they think individualistically and their theology is individualistic, evangelicals often don’t understand the role that structures and institutions play in poverty.

D)  Somewhat, but more indirectly than directly.  When evangelicalism, particularly Pentecostalism, spreads among the poor of the world, it instills certain behaviors among converts that have economic benefits.  Converts develop habits of self-discipline and are transformed in ways that order is brought to disorderly lives.  Evangelical Christianity provides hope for the future, which encourages and empowers its adherents to persevere through difficult economic situations.

There are more explanations, but that seems like a good place to start.

What do you think?





The Face-to-Face Factor

I have just returned from Kenya, where David Dixon (a colleague of mine) and I took nine Malone students on a service-learning trip.  Since David grew up in Kenya and I lived there for six years, it was like going home for us, in some respects.

This wasn’t exactly like a short-term missions trip because it was tied it to a class on the History of Christianity in East Africa.  We emphasized learning more than most trips that churches sponsor.  But it was similar in several respects:  we visited a number of African ministries, we participated in service activities, and we were there for a limited time.

I have seen many dimensions to the diverse nation that is Kenya, including the dimensions that include deep poverty.  So it wasn’t much of a stretch for me when, on our second full day, my Kikuyu friends, Isaac and Esther Munji, took our group down to visit a new church they had planted in a poor town called Maai Mahiu.   Twenty years ago the town consisted of a gas station, a half dozen shops, a few homes and an orphanage.  Today Maai Mahiu is like the Wild West.  Situated along the primary highway that runs through East Africa, the town is pretty much a huge truck stop.  5000 people live in a place that is full of, among others, eager shopkeepers, truckers, prostitutes, homeless streetboys, orphans —  in other words, a lot of people who have lost their ties to families and communities.  It is estimated that about 90% of the people in this town are HIV positive.

Maai Mahiu: The Wild West of Central Province, Kenya

If you have traveled to economically-deprived locations outside of the United States, you can probably imagine what our students faced:  dirt streets with fetid water trickling through them, children scampering about in ragged clothes, trash scattered here and there, and a rather powerful cocktail of not-altogether pleasant smells.

We arrived at the church, Rift Valley Fellowship, and met a small gathering of about a dozen women and teenage girls.  Isaac had everyone introduce themselves.  Then we split up into two groups to walk to the houses of these women and pray for them.  So I set off with a group and ended up with about ten of us crowded into a one-room home.

Again, this was not new to me.  I have visited some pretty poor dwellings in Kenya before.  I have prayed in homes with Kenyans.  I’ve walked through some poor neighborhoods.

So why did I find myself crying as we prayed?

It is the face-to-face factor.  The reality of a situation just has a way of hitting a person much deeper if it is witnessed face-to-face, as opposed to reading about it, or watching it on TV, or hearing somebody talk about it.  We can know things in our head, but most of the time they don’t move us to action like the face-to-face factor does.

Several realities of this face-to-face encounter hit me at once:  the difficult poverty of these women, the recognition that prostitution is one of the few options for generating income for women in this town, the personal dimension of meeting, talking to and learning names (Jane, Francis, Marcy) of people in this town, the thankfulness these women expressed that someone would care enough about them to come pray for them in their home, my recognition that our students were at that moment getting overwhelmed by all of this, and a deep sense of gratitude that our students still dove into this overwhelming cross-cultural situation, earnestly praying for these women.

The problem of describing this in a blog is that it is difficult to transfer the power of these

Jane, outside of her home.

realities to those who have not had the face-to-face experience.  I can give you a glimpse, but I cannot fully recapture the reality of that moment in this limited medium.  I have known this for many years.  There have been times during the past two decades that Elisa and I have joked that we just need to take certain people to Kenya so that they can understand things better.  And there are more numerous times when I have been in need being transported myself.

The face-to-face factor is something to ponder carefully.  It is one reason why I believe that the best online classes, though often helpful and necessary, will never be able to match the benefit of a good in-class experience.  It is why we need to spend time with our kids and cannot hope to raise them as effectively from afar or in snippets.  It is tied to the mystery of intimacy, as Philip Yancey points out, for human beings are the only species of animal that commonly has sex face to face.  The face-to-face factor is why we cannot be lone wolf Christians, but must worship, fellowship and pray with others in church.

And the face-to-face factor may serve as the biggest benefit derived from short-term missions trips.  There is a debate within some segments of the American evangelical community about the value of short term missions.  There are good questions to consider in this debate, which I may discuss later.  For now, let me say that I have talked to missionaries and local Christian leaders who say that the face-to-face impact of these trips is a major benefit, for it often spurs Americans to further action.  It connects people across cultural and national boundaries.  And it provokes deeper questions about Christ’s calling for our lives.

I don’t know of any systematic studies that have tried to gauge the impact of the face-to-face factor in short-term missions, though maybe they are out there.  I do know that a trip to Haiti in 1969 had a big impact on my parents.  (How many times did we view slides of Haiti in our living room with visiting friends and family?  About eleventy-bajillion, to my 2nd grade way of thinking).   A short-term trip to the Bahamas when I was in college played a major role in my life decisions.

The Bible speaks a number of times about face-to-face encounters.  Usually it refers to the bright hope of seeing God face to face some day.  I can’t begin to plumb the depths of meaning to this idea, but it does suggest that knowing and being known are more than simply mental processes.  Now we see through a mirror dimly, then we will see face to face.

For a glimpse into the impact of the face-to-face factor on our Malone students, you can check out their final Kenya blog here.