Center of Christianity

Never make the mistake of thinking “Western” Christianity is the “center” of Christianity.

There are more Christians in Africa (680m) than there are people in the United States.

There are probably more Christians in Asia (354m) than there are people in the United States.

This article on the shift of the center of Anglicanism from the global North to the global South is just one example. Most of the Anglicans in the global south have little interest in the things that occupy the attention of the global north.

It’s worth thinking about whether the “majority of Christians”–e.g. believers in Africa and Asia–think about, worry about, or do about the issues that “we” focus on and write about.

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Failing forward

I have read dozens of books on strategy, experimentation, and the role of failure in teaching us. I have tried a lot of what I’ve read. What it boils down to is this:

  1. You have to have a broad sense of the direction you are going in. Various books call this various things – intent, vision, whatever. The end-goal may or may not be crystal clear – in most cases its quite fuzzy. But you have to have some sense of this to orient yourself.
  2. You have to have some action. You have to get in the car and drive in the direction you want to go. Sitting still until the path is crystal clear is often a recipe for getting nothing done at all. We all want the Google Map into the future but usually don’t have it. We have to do things the old ‘Go west, young man’ pioneering way.
  3. You need to have a frequent way of testing experiments. What doesn’t work should be stopped and changed. This is analogous to making frequent compass sightings when you are orienting yourself across a path. You take a sighting, walk toward a landmark, and take another sighting. Likewise, in work, you make an experiment, learn from it, and either iterate or try something different.

None of this is rocket science. The thing I’ve found most helpful is increasing the frequency of experiments. If you can run a daily experiment, you are 365 chances to get somewhere in a year–vs a weekly (52 chances) or monthly (12 chances). But, in order for an experiment to teach you anything, you must:

(1) make failure survivable
(2) define the experiment such that you know if it’s a ‘win’ or a ‘fail’ (or, in my own work, a ‘knock it out of the park’)
(3) define the experiment in such a way that you know what you are trying to learn from it.

Another thing I’ve found helpful: have a list of rules or heuristics you use when making initial experimental decisions. I’ve been collecting a personal list of 100 things to remember when thinking. Here’s an example of “useful decision razors” published by someone else.

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Serving Movements

A new DMM Dashboard will soon be up at 2414now.net.

A short comment: the DMM Dashboard took life as something given to movements. The purpose of the dashboard is not to provide statistics or proof to the wider Body of Christ about movements, and so it is missing much of the methodological description that would be appropriate to such a document.

My goal is not to authenticate, prove, etc., movements to people who aren’t involved in movements. My purpose is to serve movements, to help them see the trends in the data that they are reporting, and most importantly to provide gap lists of places and languages that are not yet served by movement teams. (These gap lists are not available in public or on the Internet–for security reasons, I share them only with movement practitioners who are sending teams & who are sharing data with me.)

The Dashboard is, therefore, a limited snippet of a conversation had with a very small number of people. The few articles I have written are very compressed articulations of larger presentations I have given for that very small number, and often limited by space constraints in the publications they are in.

I think you deliver the best value when you know your audience and are laser-focused on serving them, and do your level best not to get distracted by other things.

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Rapid vs Long-term

One of the shifts in movements is in ideas around the speed of discipleship. Westerners seem to equate “rapid expansion” with getting a person shallowly saved, and then moving on. But the reality on the ground – both in the West and among movements – is actually quite different.

Most believers in traditional churches grow up in the church; those that convert to Christianity are a result of a context of friendships with believers and/or a spiritual crisis. Global statistics generally indicate about 45 million believers are born into the church worldwide, and 15 million are converts. Far more are the result of long-term “growing up” discipleship of Christian families. (Yes, there is the issue of fall-away–I’m not going to deal with that at the moment.)

Believers in movements typically come in as a result of conversion (not demographic growth), since many if not most movements are in contexts of non-believing populations. These conversions result from an initial study of Scripture stories often coupled with some form of power encounter that meets a need. A typical story one hears is of healing, deliverance, or another form of need being met, coupled with a “Jesus-did-this-would-you-like-to-hear-more-about-him,” followed by a set of times reading Scripture stories (“Creation to Christ,” often) about Jesus, followed by a moment when one chooses to follow Jesus and eventual baptism.

The net result is that in movements, there is often far more discovery of who Jesus is prior to conversion than there is for converts in the West – this discovery is probably more akin to people who grow up in the church and hear Bible stories, etc as they are growing up.

In addition, in movements, there is a far stronger sense of the presence and active power of God delivering people. In traditional churches, the flavor of encounter is more of the “I suddenly understood what they’d been saying” variety; in movements its more “I had this terrible sickness or I was possessed and Jesus appeared to me in a dream and told me to go to these people and they prayed for me and I was healed.”

Second, people in traditional churches often think of discipleship as a kind of program, a long-term effort of the church, special training, etc. In movements, people join in discovery groups – but these are not really like “small groups” in the West in how we typically think of them. They are often an extended household or multiple households living nearby. Such small discovery groups truly walk life together – they continue for long periods of time through stages of life, so discipleship is ongoing. Together, they are reading Scriptures and actively seeking to apply them in their own lives. In this setting, discipleship never ends.

So, yes, movements do encourage rapid expansion – to “advance in time,” so to speak, when people begin sharing their faith. Most movements encourage people to begin sharing stories of Christ with others the instant they hear them. But this doesn’t mean discipleship ends and sharing one’s faith. As people are walking with each other, they are encouraging each other through processes like sharing with others and forming new groups. On the ground, groups tend to stay together (except in cases of migration, etc) and coaching relationships develop between groups and leaders of groups.

This becomes a very stable ‘network’ of churches that are intensely walking through life together, worshipping together, obeying Scriptures together, and encouraging one another – a very intense and thriving structure. In this situation, discipleship and leadership training are not one-time–they are perpetual, and that changes a lot of measurements.

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A balance of processes

  1. Communion – Worship, prayer – time before the ultimate Lord of the Universe
  2. Family & Fellowship – husband, father, friend – be part of the social group around me, encourage people, one-another
  3. Labor on a project for someone – to serve, to better understand their needs, learn from doing
  4. Make something – of value that contributes to the whole of an audience
  5. Observation – read people around me, seeking to understand (before being understood)
  6. Reading – to learn from the condensed & thought-out ideas of others
  7. Reflection – take time to think about what I have learned from all the processes, what changes to intentionally make
  8. Rest – get a sufficient amount of rest, food for physical/mental/emotional health
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Accuracy, Precision, Truthfulness

When we look at any given mission statistic – e.g. the numbers or percentage of the world that are unreached – we can ask a reflexive question: “Really?!”

Problems with a specific number boil down generally into three categories:

  • is the number accurate – that is, is it correct within a specific range, or is it flawed, the methodology for counting off, etc.
  • is the number precise – how narrow is the range in which it is correct – to the nearest million, for example, or to the nearest digit
  • is the number true – is there any intentional deception, and what is the motivation behind the deception?

Understanding the methodology behind a particular number is important to answering the first two questions.

For example, the definition of “unreached” is a people group lacking a church with the capability of evangelizing the group to its borders without cross-cultural assistance. Unfortunately, there is no numeric measure of this as the term was originally defined. However, two groups that measure this number – Joshua Project and the IMB – have come up with definitions revolving around the percentage of the group that is Christian, and the percentage that is evangelical.

The number in both instances has a fairly simple methodology revolving around one or the other of these numbers being less than a very small percentage (e.g. Christians less than 5% AND evangelicals less than 2% in the case of JP–less than 5% Christian OR less than 2% evangelical within IMB). The assessment of ‘reached’ or ‘unreached’ therefore relies on two specific pieces of data for every people group in the world–and the precision of those two pieces of data is less critical than we might initially think.

This is a yes/no question that is fairly easy to arrive at. The unreached definition only wants to know whether the percentages fall within an admittedly very small range. For most people groups in the world, the answer to that question is fairly clear: they are very obviously either (1) unreached (low % Christian, low % evangelical), (2) unreached by IMB’s definition but not JP (high % Christian, low % evangelical, especially in non-Evangelical majority regions like Europe), or (3) reached (% Christian over 5%, 5 evangelical over 2%).

The unevangelized definition from the World Christian Encyclopedia, on the other hand, incorporates the exact percentage of % Christian into its formula. This makes it more sensitive to the precision of the number. Being over/under the 50% line makes some difference in the summary statistics.

To answer the third question – whether a number is true – requires us to think less about how the data is gathered and more to understand the people and motivations behind the work of gathering and analysis.

In my own experience, I have encountered issues where big national or global numbers in missiology:

  • are inaccurate due to lagging (e.g. they haven’t been updated in a long time),
  • accused of being too high or low because we (intentionally or otherwise) mistake the methodology (we personally limit “Christian,” for example, to evangelicals, and then hold a research group “wrong” when they don’t use the same definition),
  • are too low because they are missing data due to security issues, or even – in a very small handful – intentionally too low to obscure a sensitive security situation on the ground.

But on the big global numbers I have not yet encountered intentional deception.

Now, I know that some ministries and denominations have “evangelistically spoke,” as the euphemism goes, but this is, in the long run, [nearly always?] discovered. It certainly doesn’t endure over the years.

I also know there are instances where large numbers have been or are being debated–are there really that many believers in China?–but the ranges in terms of percentage of population really aren’t that high. For example, in terms of China’s total believer count, I’ve seen arguments about ranges from 2 to 10% or so over the years, but never that China’s believer count is, say, actually 20%. It becomes important in a believer count under 5% would obviously have something to say about unreached. But nowadays–time, again–I don’t know anyone who would claim the number of believers is below the 5% threshold. Time has a way of sorting all these matters out, and researchers are nothing if not patient.

Truthfulness, however, can be a matter of judgment and faith in a source. I know that in some cases, those who say they tell the truth (like myself) have been thought by some to be doing otherwise. In the end, whether someone tells the truth must be left to evidence–or if evidence is unavailable, then left to a judgment of their character. I can only say that for myself, my number one rule is “Non mentior. Never lie. Veritatem quaerite. Seek truth.” Whether you believe me – or anyone – when they say that is a decision the hearer must make.

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Roundup 297

Pray with us

1. We continue to pray for an end to the war in Ukraine. Most of the analysis I read suggests we should prepare ourselves for something that will last far longer than we would like. Russia seems to not be pulling back, and the US is backing Ukraine, and many nations are getting tired even of civilized Ukrainian refugees.

2. Several countries in the ‘unreached’ world lead very fragile lives. Heat waves, droughts, and rising prices sparked by the Ukraine war are combining into a perfect storm pushing millions into poverty, hunger, and out of their homes. Over 60 million have been displaced; over 140 million are suffering acute hunger. Pray for Christians, churches, and ministries to be a blessing in this time.

3. The mutation of Covid into a somewhat less deadly variant, and the wide proliferation of at-home tests, means many surges of Covid will be far less visible: people will test and manage the disease at home, largely out of sight of the nightly news or the mainstream press. Nevertheless many cross-cultural workers will continue to face Covid in contexts with far fewer medical options and governments eager to either suppress or unable to cope. Pray for those who have to make health decisions with very little regular information, some with few medical options, as well as for those who are finding ministry contexts difficult.

New Events

North Africa + West Asia = Middle East (570m)

Chadian national committee on food security on looming food crisis. HumAngle
Dubai airport’s passenger traffic reaches pre-pandemic levels. Al-Monitor
Iraq’s prized rice crop threatened by drought. Hurriyet
… after 3 years of drought, declining rainfall, amber rice production ‘symbolic’ in 2022.
… Iraq engulfed in 8th sandstorm in weeks: hospitalizations, flights grounded. BBC
Sudan: January-March timeline of political turmoil, lawlessness. Dabanga
… “as attempts to revive democratic transition collapse” …
… Darfur displacement soars as peace deal falters. AllAfrica
Turkey’s tourism sector to grow 2x rate of national economy. Hurriyet
Is a water crisis brewing between Turkey and Iran? Al-Monitor
Yemen: first commercial flight in 6 years leaves rebel-held Sanaa. Middle East Eye

East Africa (520m)

US redeploys troops (~700) to Somalia. BBC
Worst drought in decade ravages East Africa. Hiraan Online
… “1 person dying every 48 seconds… reminiscent of 2011 famine w/260k dead”
… “16.7m wake up hungry, not knowing where next meal will come from”
… “Nothing in 3 years… starting to believe starvation was meant for us… SomTribune
Somalia elects next president, but terrorists hold true power. Hiraan Online
… “after 16 years, al-Shabab has a firm grip on much of Somalia”

West + Middle Africa (600m)

Mali arrests suspects after foiled coup attempt. AP
Nigeria: Female student beaten, burned to death for ‘blasphemous’ text messages. Reuters
… school in Sokoto state immediately closed following the attack …

South + Central Asia (2b)

Afghanistan face veil decree: “feels like being a woman is a crime.” BBC
To survive, some Afghans sift through deadly remnants of old wars. NYT $
… searching for discarded metal, many killed by unexploded munitions …
Hostilities between Taliban and Tajikistan over border closure, seizures. RFE

Why an Indian couple is suing their son over grandchildren. BBC
… goes a bit more into the societal pressures …
Op/Ed: as violence & threats grow, India’s Muslims fear the worst. WaPo $
… “has warned India could be on the cusp of a genocide against Muslim citizens”
India’s power grid still creaking under hybrid work model, heat wave. CNA
… coal inventories drawn down, understocked ahead of hottest part of the year
… asks importers for more coal to tackle heat wave. Straits Times
Poor workers, generally working outdoors, bear the brunt of India’s heat wave. CNA
0.5m Indians flee floods in northeast brought by rain. CNN

Iran: Triggered by rising food prices, protests spread to 6 provinces. NYT $
Khamenei warns Iranians of danger in declining birth rate. Al-Monitor
… current birth rates are below replacement level: fertility rate of 1.7 per woman …

Pakistan: Baloch women fear crackdown after Karachi suicide attack. Guardian
… first female suicide bomber in Pak. killed 3 Chinese teachers; Chinese leave Pak.
Heat wave in Sindh, Pakistan hits 50 deg C. Straits Times

Sri Lanka says it has secured foreign exchange to ease fuel shortage. CNA
… economic crisis likely to get more violent: ‘descending into full blown crisis’. CNA

Tajikistan: Gorno-Badakhshan deadly toll from unrest, protest repression. RFE

Eastern Asia (1.6b)

Where are the churches in China? Why? Geographical patterns of church development: June webinar with Dr. Fenggang Yang looks interesting. ChinaSource

China’s Covid lockdowns drive middle-class citizens to go abroad. WSJ $
… Well: many “want to emigrate” but many “face hurdles… passports and paperwork”
… Analysis: is the era of free movement for Chinese citizens coming to an end? Quartz
OTOH: Is studying overseas losing its allure for Chinese students? Sixth Tone
… 18% decline in Chinese student applications to US universities in 2022 vs 2021
… 25% decline in Chinese student population in Canada
Shanghai moves to ease lockdown. CNA
… “no new infections outside quarantined areas for fifth day in a row”
China removes Covid-19 test rules for US, UK, others. Straits Times
… no PCR test 7 days before flying, still need 2 tests within 24-48 hours of flights
… Beijing quarantine period reduced from 14 days to 10

Japan allowing small “test tourism” group tours. CNN

North Korea Covid cases climb to 1.97 million (7.6% of population). Korea Herald
… analysis: “may be trapped between famine and plague.” Foreign Policy $
S Korea to increase international flights to meet travel demand. Korea Herald

Southeast Asia (700m)

More than 5,600 civilians killed in Myanmar since the coup. RFA
Indonesia drops Covid-19 test requirement for vaccinated foreign visitors. CNA
Thailand: tourist arrivals to triple to 1 million monthly from October. Straits Times
… “rolls back most of the pandemic-era travel curbs”

Americas+Europe+Pacific

Southern Baptists report 19% attendance drop after Covid-19. Link
… OTOH: +31k baptism over 2020, +$300m giving, +$100m mission giving

Russia’s ‘special military operation’
Those returning to Kyiv suburb face new hardship: homelessness. NBC
… Ukraine has worked hard to replace/repair damaged infrastructure (roads etc)
… rebuilding destroyed houses, apartment buildings “a much thornier task”

New Data

Leisure and business flights surpass 2019 levels for first time since pandemic. Link
… Mastercard Economic Inst annual travel report: “Travel 2022: Trends & Transitions”
Global Report on Internal Displacement 2022: near 60 million IDPs worldwide. Link
Most of the 140 million suffering acute hunger are in these 10 countries. UN
… Afgh., DRC, Ethiopia, Haiti, Nigeria, Pakistan, S Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Yemen …
… 44 million in 38 countries are at “emergency levels of hunger” – 1 step from famine

Covid global case data

5/20: 524.0m cases, 6.27m deaths (trackers: Johns HopkinsNYT)

Longer Articles

The export bans driving up food prices around the world. Quartz

I haven’t read the whole thing (I don’t have an Economist subscription, and I’ve used up my monthly articles) but this month’s cover and analysis is all about “The coming food catastrophe,” and it looks like a good explainer. Economist $

Why do we include articles about sandstorms? Because: Dust is a growing threat to lives in the Middle East. “Life came to a halt amid a swirl of dust–such scenes have occurred almost weekly in Iraq since April. In past decades, 2 or 3 big sandstorms a year; this spring, Iraq has already logged eight… The UN puts the direct economic cost at $13 billion per year.” Droughts = more dust = more standstills, more costs, more challenges. Economist

Book Notes

The books I’ve read in 2022. Also, the books I read in 2021.

Tech & Futures

What studying thousands of Christian WeChat accounts reveal about Chinese Internet evangelism: rampant commercialism & plagiarism were probably more harmful than government censorship. CT

Al-Monitor noticed Sorani+Kurmanji Kurdish now in Google Translate. Al-Monitor
Holographic technology allows pastor to be in nine locations at once. ChurchLeaders.com
California greenhouse run by robots. Impact Lab
Ingenious underwater drone can transition to flight in less than a second. Gizmodo
Apple testing live captions to transcribe audio content on its devices. Verge
Implantable payment chips: the future, or cyberpunk pipe dream? Digital Trends
… will this be the most clicked article for this issue?

Quotable

“Every congregation is a congregation of sinners. As if that weren’t bad enough, they all have sinners for pastors. ” ~Eugene Peterson

“Community is messy and sometimes frustrating. But there’s no way that we can grow the way that God intended without it.” ~Darryl Dash

“If you really want to learn how something works, try to change it.” ~Matt Mazur

“If you find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere.” ~Frank A. Clark

“If your agency can handle your mission alone then your vision is too small and your strategy is too cowardly.” ~Dick Brogde

“There is no commentary that opens up the Bible so much as sickness and sorrow.” ~J. C. Ryle

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Roundup 296

Pray with us

1. We continue to pray for an end to the war in Ukraine. Most of the analysis I read suggests we should prepare ourselves for something that will last far longer than we would like. Russia seems to not be pulling back, and the US is backing Ukraine, and many nations are getting tired even of civilized Ukrainian refugees.

2. Heat waves, droughts, rising prices from the Ukraine war–throughout the Horn of Africa and much of Asia, these are combining into a perfect storm that will likely push millions into poverty, hunger, and possibly even famine and political revolution. It’s hard to read this seemingly unremitting litany of bad data points strung out in an ever worsening trend line. I don’t think the end is near, and I’m not thankful for disasters, but I am praying for the church to be a blessing in the midst of these situations.

3. I was stunned–literally almost to tears–by two items in the tech world this week. One was the list of new languages Google Translate will make possible (including some like Bhojpuri and Oromo), and the other was a new ocular device from Google that would “subtitle the world.” (Scroll to tech, the last link, and consider what this could do.)

4. I was mildly amused by an article about Indian parents suing their son for not providing a grandchild, but then an analysis by friends who work in South Asia made me look anew at how radical the prayer, “…as we forgive others…” could really be. Read the article in Long Reads and pray with us for the communities of believers who would love to see God bring major transformation to the region.

New Events

North Africa + West Asia = Middle East (570m)

Experts warn of bleak long-term outlook for drought hit Iraq. National News
… water scarcity, increased drought, dust storms, heat waves, loss of forest cover …
Between searing drought & Ukraine war, Iraq watchful over wheat. Al-Monitor
… “the drought is unbelievable… even well water can’t be used, it’s salt water”
Yazidis displaced anew by north Iraq violence. Al-Monitor

East Africa (520m)

Somaliland: herders say they die with their herds in droughts. SomTribune
… three consecutive failed rainy seasons, slow start to 4th, push Horn to brink of famine
“People are dying”: Ethiopians escape war only to face hunger in Somaliland. Guardian
… 2 refugee camps in Borama, where est. 2,000 families reside …
Interfaith tensions simmer in Ethiopia after attack in Gondar. AllAfrica
… some 150 people injured, unknown number dead after week of violence.
Somalia: 400k+ children at risk of dropping out of school due to drought. Link

West + Middle Africa (600m)

8 soldiers killed in Togo, raising spectre of expansion of violence. Reuters
… “so far spared the violence… but…”
Sierra Leone: where every pregnancy is a deadly gamble. WaPo
… 1 in 20 women in Sierra Leone die as a result of pregnancy or childbirth
… “every 90 seconds a pregnant woman dies”
… “practically every death preventable, but civil war + Ebola devastated health system”
… Ebola killed 7% of medical workers
Nigerian domestic airlines stop operations until further notice over rising fuel $. Reuters
Conflict in Burkina Faso aggravates ongoing food crisis. ReliefWeb

South + Central Asia (2b)

Eid under the Taliban shows a changed Afghanistan. NYT $
… “thousands piled into buses and set out to see family they had not seen in years”
The Taliban have made the burqa mandatory again. Foreign Policy
Taliban divisions deepen as Afghan women defy veil edict. AP
… “until now pragmatists and hardliners have avoided open confrontation”
Afghan refugees still adjusting to US move. AP video
… more than 76,000 have been admitted to the US, hard to find jobs, pay bills …
As the world looks away, violence on the rise again in Afghanistan. Diplomat
… marked increase in violence against women, journalists and educators

“Perpetual violence”: India’s dangerous new pattern of communal tensions. NYT $
… “nationwide provocations spreading through social media inspire local groups…”
India’s huge landfills go up in flames amid record-breaking temperatures. Straits Times
… birds fall from the sky in Gujarat as heatwave scorches India. Straits Times
India in quandry over wheat exports as heat dampens production forecasts. Straits Times
… export to address global shortage, or keep wheat home to keep domestic prices stable?
Contextualization: How fast food giants like McDonald’s found their Indian soul. BBC
Total fertility rate in India down across the board. Times of India

Video: Pakistan bridge crumbles after heatwave triggers floods. BBC
Pakistan bans sugar exports in a bid to stabilize the price. Ariana

Sri Lanka issues shoot-on-sight orders to quell Sri Lankan riots. AFP
… “any involved in looting/odamaging… a day after mobs targeted ruling politicians”
Worst violence in weeks of protest: Thousands of troops deployed, curfew set. Link
… Prime minister resigns. AP
Many flee Colombo as elders meet to seek solution to crisis. CNA

Eastern Asia (1.6b)

The Great Awakening in China. Yang Fenggang, ChinaSource
… “has lasted more than 4 decades, with millions turning to religion yearly”
Eventually, China’s borders will reopen. Will foreigners return? Sixth Tone
… “number of foreigners in China has halved, could halve again this summer”
… “foreign arrivals and departures dropped to 4.6% of 2019 level”
… “big reduction in number of foreign students”
… “international schools have lost 40% of their staff”
“I’m very anxious”: China’s lockdowns leave millions out of work. NYT $
… 280 million migrant workers, 11 million recent college graduates hit hardest …
China’s singles agree: age matters. Sixth Tone
… age discrimination issues abound …
Thorough read: Beijing’s desire for births is up against a more feminist nation. Quartz
… plan for extended mandatory maternity leave read as forcing women out of workplace
… women in 20s and 30s fear expanded maternity benefits make employers leery of hiring
China restricts citizens from ‘non-essential’ foreign travel. Sixth Tone
Shanghai imposes tightest restrictions yet. BBC
… “leave a key to your house in the door so we can come in and disinfect the space”
At mercy of zealous residential committees, the locked-down vent frustration. CNA
… “what they are allowed to do depends on the latitude of the juweihui”

N Korea reports first Covid-19 outbreak, orders lockdown in “grave emergency.” Ariana

SKor: over half of 20-somethings do not plan to have children after marriage. Korea Herald

Southeast Asia (700m)

Long queues for petrol stations as fuel crisis hits Laos. CNA
… importers with drop in currency value, low foreign exchange reserves, soaring price of oil
Laos to drop Covid-19 entry curbs for vaccinated tourists. Straits Times
Myanmar to resume issuing tourist e-visas on Sunday. Straits Times
… activists are hoping tourists stay away, fear tourist $ will end up in junta treasury. CNA
Thailand cuts long-term ‘high potential’ resident visa fee in half to 50k baht. Link
… “high-income individuals, foreign pensioners, workers, specialists”
… “encourage foreign investment… 1 million foreigners entering/staying in 5 years”

Americas+Europe+Pacific

New Zealand drops most of its Covid border restrictions. NBC

Russia’s ‘special military operation’
What life is like for Ukrainian refugees living on a Cold War era gunboat. TIME
Putin, Ukraine committed, dug in for long-lasting war. NBC
… “US essentially poses as a senior patron of Ukraine, determined not to let it lose”

New Data

Tourism recovering, but not back to pre-pandemic levels. Al-Monitor
Passenger traffic at Abu Dhabi tripled over 2021, aided by flights from India. Al-Monitor
US Evangelicals choose to give to secular charities over Christian orgs. Link

Covid global case data

5/13: 520.0m cases, 6.2m deaths (trackers: Johns HopkinsNYT)

Longer Articles

Prayer Journey for the Haredim: praying for the Jews, an unreached people group. Link

The 37% rule for making decisions. Inc
… also known as the stopping algorithm: spend 37% of the time gathering information,
… then choose the next best option that comes along that’s better than anything you’ve seen

The secret science behind the power of small talk. Fast Company
… “social lubricator” that builds trust and relationships across cultures

Give us a grandchild or pay back $900,000, say Indian couple who are suing son. Link
… I asked a Beyond field leader about this, wondering whether to include it or not, and got a wonderfully insightful analysis back. In part:
1. The community think process is, I give to you, and then one day you give back to me.
2. When a kid is 18, it’s not what are you going to do with your life–you have your duty.
3. It’s not done out of love, but out of obligation. Hard to go above and beyond.
4. Even children’s names can be determined by the grandparents, not the parents.
5. You wait until you’re old enough to be in charge and make others do their duty by you. It perpetuates from one generation to another.
6. In this environment, the Lord’s prayer is a radical idea: I pray you forgive me what I owe you, and I release others from anything I think they owe me.

Book Notes

I finished Futureshock last week, and though written in the 1970s, I was pretty amazed at how well it predicted the trendline we are on, and how applicable it still was. I hadn’t read it before, but I’ve ordered the other two in the trilogy: The Third Wave and Powershift.

The books I’ve read in 2022. Also, the books I read in 2021.

Tech & Futures

Sudan’s electric rickshaws. AFP Video
Apple to discontinue the iPod after 21 years. BBC
… arguably, a device that changed the world …
Turkey, Kazakhstan sign agreement to jointly produce drones. Al-Monitor
Killer Robots are here–and we need to regulate them. Foreign Policy
China is 3D printing a 590-foot hydroelectric dam with zero human labor. Futurism
A portable wind turbine that fits in your backpack. Fast Company

Google announces a host of new functions planned for Voice, Assistant, Maps, more. Link
… multisearch: snap a picture of a bookshelf, get info on all the books on it
… Google Assistant better able to understand conversation w/o “Hey, Google”
… fusing billions of images to provide immersive views in Google Street View
… attempting to use AI to fix your poor webcam meeting experience. Link
Google Translate now supports 133 languages spoken by 300 million worldwide
… incl Assamese, Bhojpuri, Oromo, Kurdish, Tigrinya, several more… Link
… and a mind-blowing look at the possibly near future of Translate: subtitles for the world

Quotable

“If all of your prayers were answered this week, would it change the lives of others, or just yours?” ~Todd Adkins

“Conversion to Christ does not produce a bland universal citizenship: it produces distinctive discipleships, as diverse and variegated as human life itself.” ~Andrew Walls

“People in any organization are always attached to the obsolete–the things that should have worked, but did not, the things that once were productive and no longer are.” ~Peter Drucker

“Just because a church is large doesn’t mean it’s healthy. It could just mean it’s swollen.” ~Charles Spurgeon

“We live in a culture that has cultivated the idea that the skeptical person is always smarter than one who believes. You can almost be as stupid as cabbage so long as you doubt.” ~Dallas Willard 

“We can know the right words yet never be changed. This is the difference between information and transformation.” ~A.W. Tozer

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” ~attributed to Picasso

“The courageous have fears that cowards never know.” ~Stanley Hauerwas

“If the frying pan is not heated up, the corns cannot pop.” ~Yoruba

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Roundup 295

Pray with us

1. We continue to pray for an end to the war in Ukraine. The war has again appeared to be largely stalled, with many concerned about the potential for explosive escalation in an effort to achieve war aims. Some articles suggest certain events (attacks inside Russia, and other border countries) are small examples of this escalation. Poland and others are being stressed by hosting Ukrainian refugees.

2. Many countries are feeling the sting of hunger and economic disaster. This is amplified by the Russian-Ukrainian war, as well as climate issues (heat waves, droughts, etc). We pray for the church to find ways to help those who are starving, many of whom are among the least-reached of the unreached.

3. We are thankful for the rapid multiplication of followers of Jesus in spite of the wars, rumors of wars, disasters, plagues, and the like that are spreading over the Earth. Movements now contain over 114 million believers–headed toward 2% of the world.

New Events

North Africa + West Asia = Middle East (570m)

No place for converts: Iran’s persecuted Christians struggle to keep their faith. RFE
Sudan: 115k displaced by West Darfur violence. AllAfrica
Landmines, other war hazards killing people in Libya. HRW
… the leftover detritus of war …
Inflation in Turkey soars to eye-popping 70% in April. NBC
… “eat away at earnings, put even basic necessities out of reach of many households”
… Russian invasion = surge in gas, oil, grain $ = challenge for import-reliant Turkey
Turkey’s plan to draw refugees back to Syria: build homes for 1 million. NYT $
… building schools, hospitals, homes, more in northern Syria …
Abu Dhabi removes Covid capacity restrictions, masks remain. Al-Monitor
Thousands sick as latest severe sandstorm sweeps Iraq. Al-Monitor
In Yemen’s Taiz, hope & disappointment one month into ceasefire. NewHum

East Africa (520m)

UNICEF: Ethiopian drought -> “dramatic” increase in child marriage. Hiiraan Online
Oromia region reports 1.3m cattle deaths in 8 drought-stricken zones. AllAfrica
Tigray’s health system “total collapsed,” say health workers. AllAfrica
… “acute shortages, 10s of 1000s w/chronic haven’t been treated in months”

4th consecutive failed rainy season dragging Somalia into starvation. Hiiraan Online
… 11 years ago, famine killed 250k people, half children …
… “famine” = 20% of households with complete lack of food. Not quite there yet…

West + Middle Africa (600m)

Since 2016, prices of basic necessities in Nigeria have skyrocketed. Al Jazeera
“As hunger in central Sahel reaches record levels…” ReliefWeb
Ethnic clashes in Cameroon aren’t about religion. Foreign Policy
… long read on the conflict in the northwest, which has simmered a century

South + Central Asia (2b)

Afghan refugees face hardship in Iran. AP
97% of Afghan population now facing food shortages. Ariana News
With spate of attacks, Islamic State begins bloody new chapter in Afgh. Straits Times
The drug trade now flourishing in Afghanistan: Meth. WaPo $

A visit to conservative Kashan unveils Iran’s gradual social change. FT $
… “not long ago, most women in the desert city would have worn black chador.”
… “not any more… change is everywhere…”

India: 46-deg. heatwave making power crisis worse. Straits Times
… hours long blackouts, street protests, outages in half of states …
… “the whole summer will be a test”
… 2 out of 3 Indian homes face power outages amid heat waves. Quartz
“We are living in hell”: Pakistan & India suffer extreme spring heatwaves. Guardian
… temperatures in Balochistan hit almost 50C (122F)
… heat causing northern glaciers to melt, thousands at risk of flood bursts
Heat wave threatens India’s wheat output, export plans. CNA
Heatwave is “testing the limits of human survivability.” CNN
… How hot is too hot for the human body? MIT
How can India cope with the heat waves? Economist $
India has begun deporting Rohingyas to Myanmar. Foreign Policy

Analysis: Pakistan’s food security dilemma. Straits Times
Balochistan: rising violence by separatists adds to Pakistan’s lethal instability. NYT $
Sri Lankan tea exports drop to lowest level in 23 years. CNA
… biggest export commodity, bungled ban on fertiliser imports to save foreign $
In depth: Sri Lankan tea pickers’ dreams shattered by economic crisis. Straits Times

Eastern Asia (1.6b)

China’s doomed fight against demographic decline. Foreign Affairs $
… last week: Amid low birth rate worries, China increases pressure on women. Diplomat $

China’s southern megacity Guangzhou rushes to quell outbreak. Straits Times
Dongxing: “small border city grapples with post-lockdown survival.” Sixth Tone
… “persistent lockdown-like situations disrupting daily life, livelihood”
More than 12m in Shanghai can leave home as Covid-19 risk ebbs. CNA
… “number in sealed, controlled zones has fallen”
Under lockdown in China. NYT Interactive
Beijing sees more Covid closures as anger grows in Shanghai. Japan Times
… “nothing makes sense here”
Flying into Beijing is tougher than ever as China ramps up Covid measures. CNN
… “foreigners can enter only under very limited circumstances”
… “very difficult for American journalists to get a visa due to deteriorating relations”
Fearful of getting cut off (as Russia has been), China pushes for self-reliance. WSJ $

Japan to allow tourist groups as early as this month. Straits Times

NKor halts rail crossings with China, where Covid is on the rise. CNA
… “worsened economic problems, threatened food supplies to millions”
Foreign residents in S Korea to rise to 4.3% of population by 2040. Korea Herald

Southeast Asia (700m)

Southeast Asia travel catching up at last as Covid curbs ease. Straits Times
… “high oil prices could make tickets more expensive”
… “limited number of flights as airlines haven’t restored all services”
After 2 year ban, Indonesian mudik mass migration in full swing. CNA
… “first time in years to spend Idul Fitri with her family”
… huge traffic jams as 10s of millions travel. Straits Times
… expect all holidays over next year or two to have big spikes in travel (CNY?)
Analysis: violence in the south of Thailand is not going to change soon. Link
Cambodia’s strongman, Hun Sen, plans his succession. Economist $

Americas+Europe+Pacific

New Zealand drops most of its Covid border restrictions. NBC

Russia’s ‘special military operation’
Blasts, bombs, drones: shadow war on the Russian side of the border. RFE
… “largely unheralded by Kyiv, downplayed by Russia [perhaps embarrassed]”
Russia committed 65% of ground forces, 25% are now combat ineffective. @JackDetsch
Death in Ukraine’s Kharkiv is everywhere, rarely explained. AP
… “the outskirts of Kharkiv have the feel of an open-air morgue”
Meet the Afghan refugees fighting with Ukraine against Russia. Middle East Eye
“Rumors are swirling of generals preparing for a coup in Moscow.” CityAM

New Data

Covid global case data

4/29: 512.2m cases, 6.2m deaths (trackers: Johns HopkinsNYT)
World Health Organization: Nearly 15 million deaths associated with Covid. NBC
… most of the fatalities were in Southeast Asia, Europe, and the USA …

Other data

FSIN Report: Global Food Crises 2022. PDF

Longer Articles

Kevin Kelly: “103 bits of advice I wish I had known.” Several nuggets in here. kk.org

Book Notes

The books I’ve read in 2022 (updated this week). Also, the books I read in 2021.

Tech & Futures

#EverythingCanBeAutomated (nearly):
Robot chef learns to ‘taste as you go’, build taste maps of dishes, adjust. Science Daily
Autonomous robot performs laparoscopic surgery with minimal surgeon assist. Link
How Amazon trained its robots to sort packages. Impact Lab
John Deere is slowly becoming one of the most import AI companies. ImpactLab
… “not just farmer assistance. The farmer can leave the cab and operate from an app.”
OTOH: “Robot vacuums still haven’t floored me.” Wired

Drone systems to safely land flights of medical supplies. Drone Life
… emergency medical shipments & other medical uses is a big use case for drones
Turkish-made Bayraktar drones used by Ukraine “destroy” Russian patrol boats. Link
… war, of course, being another big use case: drones distracted ship, missiles hit it
Small drones are giving Ukraine an unprecedented edge. Wired
Ukraine using commercial spy satellites to hunt Russian tanks. WSJ
… “access to intelligence once the domain of only a few governments”
New tech lets drones fly autonomously through unstructured environments. Link
… think of swarms of drones flying autonomously through forests …

Launcher demo’d full thrust on a 3D-printed rocket engine. TechCrunch
… “aiming for small, efficient, low-cost to orbit and quick turnaround”

“This portable device can turn saltwater into drinking water.” Fast Company
… developed by MIT researchers, prototype can process 1 liter per hour …

Apple+Google+Microsoft working on password-free logins using smartphones. Link

Prototype floating cities: Busan, S Korea chosen to host one. Link
… interconnected platforms accommodate community of 12,000, potential for 100k …

Quotable

“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.” ~Tara Velis

“You can’t declare a 500 piece puzzle a 100 piece hurt because you want to.” ~Neill Mims on complexity

“In church today we are diligently praying for an infusion of cash when we desperately need and infilling of the Spirit.” ~Mac Brunson

“God is under no compulsion to make your dreams come true, but He will spare no expense to see that His will is accomplished in your life.” ~Richard Blackaby

“Quit praying for revival in the nation when you won’t even befriend your unchurched neighbor next door.” ~Ed Stetzer

“Assumptions limit the way we look at problems and they’re disastrous to the creative process.” ~Todd Henry

“All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered. The point is to discover them.” ~Galileo

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Roundup 294

Pray with us

1. We continue to pray for an end to the war in Ukraine. Pray especially for the more than 8 million Ukrainian refugees in surrounding countries–more than 1 in 8 Ukrainians are now refugees. Pray for churches and believers to be a blessing to these displaced.

2. Ramadan is winding down. Let’s continue to pray for Muslims to encounter Jesus. There are a number of prayer campaigns being launched around this time, including two strands of 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World (here and here). Also, Frontiers has “Hidden Treasures of the Muslim World,” a 30 day prayer guide available via daily emails. Also note the Global Day of Prayer for Turkey below.

3. The ripple effects of the Russian-Ukrainian war are being felt especially amongst the poor, with rapidly increasing prices leading to widespread hunger. One analysis suggested that every percentage point increase in global food prices equals 10 million hungry. Pray for believers to find specific, practical ways to help the hurting near them.

New Events

North Africa + West Asia = Middle East (570m)

Egyptian Christians alarmed by murder of Alexandria priest. Al-Monitor
Egypt’s gig economy workers face rough ride. Al-Monitor
… economic pressures push educated, urban youth into work-on-demand model
… “they bleed you dry left and right… taking advantage of vulnerability…”

Jordan, once fertile, is pushing back as desert encroaches. CSM
… “efforts to restore damaged but once fertile land is sprouting hope”

Saudi royals are selling homes, yachts, art as Crown Prince cuts income. WSJ
… more than $600 million worth has been sold … data point on the oil boom?

West Darfur violence leaves 200+ dead: hospitals, markets closed. Radio Dabanga
… “several days of violence, attributed to attacks by militas”
… Analysis: Why are Sudan’s Janjaweed on the attack again? BBC

East Africa (520m)

“I lost everything”: Somaliland fire upturns life, economy. Hiiraan Online
… market employed more than 12,000 …
UNHCR says 500,000 displaced by drought in Somalia in 3 months. Hiiraan Online
… projects 1.4 million could be displaced within six months …
Horn of Africa historic drought is the product of cascading failure. Quartz
… “Somalia sees 45% increase wheat prices, previously sourced from Russia, Ukraine”
Six people killed in blast at restaurant in Somali capital. Reuters
… “targeting security officers and politicians”
Children are being killed, maimed by discarded explosives in Ethiopia. Reuters
… “danger makes them fearful of fetching water, resuming farming”

West + Middle Africa (600m)

Attacks in Mali, Burkina Faso kill 21, wound dozens. Reuters

South + Central Asia (2b)

Ariana Afghan Airline launches new weekly Kabul to Moscow route. Ariana News
Iran-Afghan border reopens in Herat province. Khaama Press.
In Pakistan, Afghan refugees face hardship, frosty reception. Japan Times
Deportation threat in Turkey dashes Afghans’ hope for safety, new life. Middle East Eye

India’s scorching heat:
… hottest March on record, scorching temperatures rising past 104 F (40 C)
… temperatures forecasted to max out at 118 F in the coming days. Gizmodo
… surging power demand (aircon) = power cuts to factories. Reuters
… threatens crucial wheat harvest, intended to make up for lost Ukrainian exports. NBC
Modi may replace religion-based marriage & inheritance laws w/civil code. Straits Times
… ahead of national elections in 2024, “risks alienating broad spectrum of voters”

Life for Kyrgyzstan’s Christian converts is getting worse. Open Doors
… threats, poisoned pets, nowhere to bury your dead

Visitors trickle back, but trekking mecca Nepal seeks more. Straits Times
… adding new tourism infrastructure, investment in hotels, new sports …

Longread: Inside Sri Lanka’s unprecedented mass protests. Foreign Policy

Eastern Asia (1.6b)

The Chinese government is hunting Uighurs around the world. NBC
… and receiving help from some “surprising” countries
… has more tools than ever to target Uyghurs abroad. RFE
Covid cases in Beijing are stirring fears of a Shanghai-style lockdown. Reuters
… to test 20 million for Covid-19, racing to stamp out outbreak. CNA
… all Beijing schools closed Friday in bid to fight the spread. CBC
Other places testing too:
… many smaller cities are also under lockdown, though less noticed in press. RFA
… Guangzhou mass tests, cancels flights after suspected case. CNA
China’s pursuit of zero Covid-19 is driving expats away. Straits Times
… “also, tight entry controls have made it difficult to enter”
“Companies are beginning to panic.” Fortune
… “China’s lockdowns will make supply chain issues, inflation even worse”x
China says imports are causing outbreaks of Covid-19. Economist
… ding-ding-ding, blame you wins hands down.
Amid low birth rate worries, China increases pressure on women. Diplomat

Southeast Asia (700m)

Malaysia: no more arrival tests for fully vaccinated. CNA
… traveler’s insurance no longer required to enter
… “unvaccinated must still undergo tests, 5-day quarantine”

Indonesia bans exports of palm oil around domestic price rises. Diplomat
… Ukraine war choked sunflower oil exports > price rises for Indonesians
… will press up cooking oil prices in other parts of the world

Soaring unemployment in Myanmar follows junta rollback of labor rights. RFA
… “nearly 3% of Myanmar lost their jobs last year due to Covid, political upheaval”
Internet blackouts are hiding an ongoing human rights catastrophe. Rest of World
… “the level of atrocities that have gone unspoken… have been quite shocking.”

Americas+Europe+Pacific

USA colleges are trying to make campus life more Ramadan-friendly. NPR

Russia’s ‘special military operation’
What is Transnistria (Moldova), and why does it matter to Russia? Economist $
… disturbing possibility of an expansion of the war …
Europe decries ‘blackmail’ as Russia cuts gas to Poland, Bulgaria. Reuters
… “for refusing to pay in roubles”
How the Russia-Ukraine war is impacting Vietnam’s economy. Diplomat
… ripple effects: Russian exclusion from SWIFT = worries about collecting $
As diplomacy hopes dim, US marshals allies to furnish long-term aid. NYT $
… Germany shifts policy, says it will send armored antiaircraft vehicles
UNHCR estimates refugees in neighboring countries will top 8 million. Link
Ukraine refugee crisis ‘woke up’ networks of Roma evangelicals. CT
Staggering refugee burden evokes haunting history in Polish capital. LAT
… “how long Polish hospitality lasts before there’s a backlash”

New Data

Covid global case data

4/22: 507.8m cases, 6.2m deaths (trackers: Johns HopkinsNYT)

Other data

The state of relationships, marriages, divorces, and living alone in America. Link
How the American middle class has changed in the past five decades. Pew
… lots of data on middle class income, has impacted church/mission finances …

Longer Articles

Air travel is back, but airlines struggle to handle the surge. WSJ

Book Notes

The books I’ve read in 2022 (updated this week). Also, the books I read in 2021.

Tech & Futures

On biometric IDs, India is a “laboratory for the rest of the world.” CSM
… “may offer lessons about balancing efficiency, privacy and personal freedom.”
Drones have come of age in Russia-Ukraine war. Foreign Policy
… “A child can operate these drones.”
… Effective, cheap drones should (will?) force tank evolution. NextBigFuture
These fast, cheap tests could help us coexist with Covid. MIT

“The world is running out of sand, scientists lament.” Futurism
… “second most used resource worldwide after water” – glass, concretee

Quotable

“Discipleship is personal. Jesus preached to thousands, but he discipled a few. You may preach to thousands, but if you’re not discipling a few your Ministry isn’t like Jesus.” ~Rick Dugan

“Christians, especially ministers, so often think they must always contribute something when they are in the company of others, that this is the one service they have to render. They forget that listening can be a greater service than speaking.” ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Anything that is mentionable is manageable. It is the things we won’t talk about that destroy us.” ~Charles Siburt

“It is not your business to succeed but to do what is right. When you have done so, the rest is up to God.” ~C.S. Lewis

“The sure conviction that we could if we wanted to is the reason so many good minds are idle.” ~Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (German physicist and satirist)

“The number one difference between a Nobel Prize winner and others is not an IQ or work ethic, but that they ask bigger questions.” ~Peter Drucker

“We judge others by their doings, but ourselves by our intentions.” ~Edward Wigglesworth

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