Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Return of the Savior

Ladies and gentleman...as quickly as he left, he has returned. The clouds have parted, and BILL SNYDER RETURNS AS THE COACH OF KANSAS STATE FOOTBALL!!!

Looks like he's primed for another magical turnaround. I hear the angels singing.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Meeting the President

Last night it finally happened. After two years of talking about it, trying to work the magic and massaging the network (all to no avail), the pieces came together, and I had the privilege of meeting President Felipe Calderon face to face.

Craig Johring, my co-director, shared the honor with me. We kind of felt (and probably looked) like two kids in a candy shop...two very white kids. It's not just the fact that he's the president, but the parallel paths of our journey, that made our meeting so special.

Craig and I arrived in Mexico City in September 2006. A special electoral court had just certified that indeed Felipe Calderon Hinojosa would serve as Mexico's next president, rejecting a request by an opposition candidate to annul the election. About the time we showed up, the city was in turmoil with protesters blocking major traffic veins and effectively seizing the downtown historical center.

As the storm passed and Calderon took office on December 1st, an even bigger battle began. Vowing to fight the systemic corruption and powerful drug cartels, he assembled military assaults on known criminal strongholds, even dissarming local police forces suspected of aiding druglords. His victories didn't come without a cost. Execution style murders escalated as these dilenquents found their livelihood threatened. Several law enforcement personnel were assinated and even the innocent became a target.

And then a big blow last week. The crash of a Learjet on a crowded Mexico City street that carried the Secretary of the Interior, a close personal friend and ally to Calderon in his war on organized crime.

This particular night, in front of several thousand energetic Christians, I saw a man who bore the scars of sacrifice but who still held high a hope for a Mexico filled with justice, prosperity and love. His vulnerability and humility in asking for prayer and referring directly to the Savior while quoting Scripture roused affectionate cheers from the crowd. At one point, he stated, "Pray for me that I may share the strong faith that you all have."

It's no coincidence that God called us here when he did. We have a six-year window to work alongside a God-fearing leader, sympathetic to the cause of Christ to help transform a supercity and touch a nation. Our stories share more similarities than I can even recall in this post.

I continue to eat, sleep and breath citywide transformation, which made it even more special to see that the new Christian project rolled out that evening (with the full support of President Calderon) bore the title....."Transformaciones Mexico".

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

When God Wants More than an Event

A really good post from Guy Muse today on what happened when his big event, full of lots of money, practice, and publicity, fell flat on its face. God had something just a little bit bigger planned than a one-night event, and he used them to make it happen.

My question...what would it look like if we always had that end in mind?

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Sobering Medicine for Obama Euphoria

In the midst of all the hoopla and history-making, let's make sure we keep our heads on straight. Yes, we can celebrate and congratulate and commemorate (and we should), but we must never capitulate. We now have a president elect that has a few ideas counter to what our founding fathers' believed. As Abraham Lincoln stated, "Stand with anybody that stands right; stand with him while he is right and part with him when he goes wrong."

With a liberally controlled Senate, House and soon-to-be Executive Branch, well, we're in for an interesting four years. For all those God-fearing men and women who voted to put this man in office, you owe it to yourself and the rest of us to ensure we chart a God-fearing course. Or God help us, we will look you squarely in the eyes when the ship starts to sink and ask someone to sacrifice themselves to plug the hole in the bow.

Ronald Reagan offers us an appropriate perspective as we enter this next phase of American government. We would do well to consider carefully what the American socialist Norman Thomas said back in 1927: "The American people would never vote for socialism, but under the name of 'liberalism' the American people would adopt every fragment of the socialist program." Sobering indeed.

Friday, November 07, 2008

World Evangelization Numbers

Guy Muse posted some interesting info from the IMB on his site:

Lottie Moon Fast Facts from the IMB on the state of world evangelization and the costs involved in the Southern Baptist global missions enterprise:

International Mission Board vital stats
  • 5,359 missionaries (as of 5/12/08)
  • 25,497 new churches*
  • 609,968 baptisms*
  • 567,413 new believers in discipleship*
*As reported in the 2007 Annual Statistical Report

Status of World Evangelization
  • 11,573 people groups worldwide; 6.6 billion people
  • 6,508 unreached* people groups; 3.8 billion people
  • 5,903 Last Frontier** people groups; 1.6 billion people
  • Less than 2 percent evangelical
**Less than 2 percent evangelical, no active church planting

Lottie Moon past and present
  • 2008 goal: $170 million
  • 2007 receipts: $150,409,653.86
  • $3 billion given since offering’s inception
  • $3,315 collected in 1888 for first offering, enough to send three women to China

IMB budgeted income:
  • Lottie Moon Christmas Offering - about 50 percent
  • Cooperative Program - 33 percent
  • World Hunger and General Relief - 6 percent
  • Field-generated funds, investment returns and other income - 11 percent

Total IMB expenditures 2007 - $300.4 million
  • Overseas missions - $256.0 million
  • Missionary support - $214.1 million
  • Field work - $41.9 million
  • Stateside - $44.4 million

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Evaluating results solely in financial terms, $300.4 million was spent in 2007. That comes to $11,781 expended for each of the 25,497 new churches planted last year, and $492 for each of the 609,968 baptisms. If this sounds like a high cost per church/baptism, try comparing your own church's costs per baptism and church plant (assuming there were baptisms and church plants since 10,449 S. Bapt churches did not baptize a single person, and according to the Barrett and Johnson's, World Christian Trends, the cost of each baptism in USA institutional churches is a staggering $1,551,466!!! not to mention new church plants.)

If one divides the number of IMB missionaries (5359) by the baptisms and new church plants, the numbers average out to 4.75 church starts per missionary (9.5 per couple), and 113 baptisms each in 2007. Of course these figures include the work of all of our national overseas partners, and not solely work done by the missionaries, but it does give an idea of the kind of global response and the overall costs involved.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Effectively Confronting Corruption in Mexico

If you ever plan on driving in Mexico, you should prepare yourself to deal with corrupt officials on a semi-regular basis. Failure to do so could cost you dearly.

After a few years in country and more run-ins with corrupt police officers than I care to recall, I've learned how to effectively remove the venom from their bite. Another recent and relatively heated exchange in Acapulco made me consider sharing this knowledge with tourists and fellow expatriates in Mexico. After one ignorant exchange in my early days, let's just say I haven't had a problem since.

The following tips could save you a big headache and a lot of money when an officer stops your vehicle for an infraction you know you didn't commit:

  1. Ask the officer why you were stopped.
  2. Do not be intimidated by a uniformed official. Remain calm and confident and implement the plan below.
  3. They will ask for your license. BEFORE giving them your license, ask for their name and badge number. This is your most valuable move and accomplishes several things. You gain leverage now because you can later easily identify the official. They would rather remain anonymous. This is just simple accountability. You also let them know that you know what you're doing and are not an ignorant tourist that they can easily manipulate. Once they have your license, they have a certain amount of power over you. You may (and should) refuse to surrender your license until you have recorded this information. Take out a pen and paper and write it down, and let them see you write it down. If you can't communicate in Spanish, use hand gestures to explain you want to see their badge. (Note: Most officials wear their badge on their chest, which allows you to easily see their name and identification number. If they're not wearing their badge or refuse to give you that information, you can bet they plan on trying to take advantage of you.)
  4. Always carry the number of a nearby U.S. (or your home country) Embassy with you. Again, let them see that you have the number to the embassy, and don't be afraid to call it. For the embassy to help, they will need to have the above information as well as the patrol car number, as you can read in this excerpt taken from their website: In some instances, Americans have become victims of harassment, mistreatment and extortion by Mexican law enforcement and other officials. Mexican authorities have cooperated in investigating such cases, but one must have the officer's name, badge number, and patrol car number to pursue a complaint effectively. Please note this information if you ever have a problem with police or other officials. In addition, tourists should be wary of persons representing themselves as police officers or other officials. When in doubt, ask for identification. Be aware that offering a bribe to a public official to avoid a ticket or other penalty is a crime in Mexico.
  5. Call a corruption hotline. In 2007, Mexico City made a hotline available to report extortion and corruption. You can reach the hotline Honestal by dialing 089 or 5658-1111. I can't say if they provide bilingual service, but you should call nonetheless. (Note: By this point, you will most likely have sufficiently scared these cops straight, and they will send you on your way again with no further hassle.)
  6. Call a lawyer or your insurance company. If you know a lawyer in Mexico, call them. They will speak to the official and set the record straight. Also, if you have Mexican insurance on the vehicle, they usually provide a help number. Call and explain the situation to them. They may be able to help, and if not, they can connect you with someone who can.
  7. Refuse to pay the bribe. You must commit to this no matter how much pressure they apply. Some officials will try to convince you that you can pay the "fine" directly to them. That is NEVER the case. They may try other tactics to intimidate you, such as physically removing the license plate from your car or threatening to call a tow truck. Don't let that push you into submission. As you continue to resist their extortion and the drama escalates, they will back down. It's better for them to move on than to have to deal with the headache that will insue should you identify them as corrupt. Most of them will eagerly let you pass after just five to ten minutes.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Plane Crash Near President's Home in Mexico City

Just a few hours ago, around 6:30 p.m. in Mexico City, a Learjet 24 crashed near the home of President Felipe Calderon (and just half a mile from my former residence). Among the eight killed in the crash was the Interior Minister Juan Camilo Maurino, one of the President's closest advisers and a prominent figure in the battle against organized crime and drug trafficking.

"His death causes me enormous pain," Calderon stated at a news conference. "I ask all Mexicans that they don't allow any event, no matter how difficult or painful, to weaken them in the pursuit of a better Mexico."

Initial evidence would suggest an attack from the very delinquents that Juan Camilo Maurino sought to bring to justice. This is a great loss for Mexico and a reminder of the need for (and cost of) leadership that confronts corruption and insecurity head on.