Roundup 189

New Essays

Factors affecting the choice to go long-term: this essay presents the summary of data from a survey of 250 field workers I did in November, in which I asked them to rank the impact of 13 distinct factors on their decision, from 1 (unimportant) to 9 (critical). There are distinct differences between ‘older’ and ‘newer’ workers on the field. PDF

Two small occasional posts with maps and graphs:
Church growth, 1910 to 2010
Church growth vs. population sizes

New Events

North-West Africa

Algeria: Oran church ordered closed – Morning Star

Tunisia gets ready for refugee influx from Libya – Al-Monitor

North Africa / Warring States

Libya: International powers call for cease fire, arms embargo – NYT
… Russia, Turkey, others ‘commit’ to end their own interference

But … – Economist
… ‘days later, foreign cargo planes again bringing military supplies in’
… ‘Haftar uninterested in compromise…’

Western Africa / Lake Chad

Benin celebrates West African voodoo – in pictures – Guardian

Burkina Faso to arm civilians in fight against extremists – WPost
… ‘underscores how outnumbered soldiers are’

Two days of morning after terrorist attack kills 36 – Al Jazeera

12/20: West Africa “shaken by unprecedented violence” – UN
… Burkina Faso, an epicenter for terrorism – Jamestown


Martyr: Kidnapped Christian student executed – Morning Star

Boko Haram executes Brethren pastor – WPost
… ‘extremists attacked his hometown the same day’

Ethiopia / Horn / East Africa

The Horn of Africa is facing the worst Desert Locust crisis in 25 years – FAO
… 70k hectares in Kenya infested. 150m locusts per swarm.
… 1km swarm will eat the same amount of food in 1 day as 35,000 people

AP: ‘How climate change feeds African locust storm’ – AP
… goes further into detail on the spread and impact of the locusts

Kenya: Three Christian teachers killed by Al Shabaab in Garissa – Morning Star

Somalia has 5.2 million people in need of aid – ReliefWeb

Middle Africa / Lakes

How to get beer around Congo, a country with hardly any roads – Economist
… great exploration of the implications of lack of infrastructure: “China has 3 meters of road per citizen, Congo has three centimeters. Only 4 out of 26 provincial capitals have roads that reach Kinshasa. Some villages are so isolated that they still use a currency that was abolished in 1997. No surprise the government has little control and the people in power are those with guns.” (We often hear the distribution of the Gospel compared to the distribution of Coca-Cola. Some similar parallels in the challenges and solutions can be seen here.)

Central Asia / Caucasus

China is touting the success of its social credit system: in 2018, 14.6m were banned from buying plane tickets; three months later, 3.5m had reversed this status through community service. “This new way of discipline works,” China says. Now it’s handing the system to its neighbors. Diplomat

Why a population estimate of 6.x million for Turkmenistan is hard to believe (this reminds me of the long-standing unrealistic population estimate for Bhutan) – RFE/RL

Saudi / Israel / Lebanon / Syria / Gulf

Saudi society is changing: businesses are no longer required to segregate customers. “Just look at these coffeehouses” – NYT

Clashes shook Beirut as anti-government protests explode in violence – NYT
… sources tell me rest of country is relatively quiet
… more than 100 detained after protests – CSM

76 killed in attack on Yemen military base – “could set back peace efforts” – NYT


How fragile is Iran’s regime? This is an interesting analysis of just how far monthly salary goes, demographic changes, and the impact of the mismanagement of water resources and international sanctions. I note, however, Iran has somehow successfully endured these conditions now for many years. My general estimate: without the support of the Republican Guards, protest movements—at least at this time—will not successfully unseat the government. Asia Times

Afghanistan / Pakistan / Pashto

Taliban hope for peace deal with US by end of January. I have my doubts. The US has said there must be a “significant reduction in violence” across Afghanistan before the US would support a ceasefire. RFE/RL

Ending the war won’t solve Afghanistan’s governance problem: without a well-functioning government at the helm, all those gains risk being lost. Diplomat

Poverty conditions forcing men into armed groups – Al Jazeera, 3:20
… “Herat is doing better, making it a destination for others trying to escape the war… but living conditions are basic, with many shortages, even in Herat.”

12/20: 4.4 million Afghanis live outside country. Al Jazeera
… 2.7m refugees, in 80 countries (90% in Iran/Pak)

From September 2019: Jacobabad, Pakistan may well be the hottest city, and may soon be uninhabitable – TIME


‘Intolerant India’ – major leader in Economist
… ‘200m Muslims fear … building a Hindu state… scheme looks like the most ambitious step in a decades-long project of incitement… ‘BJP likely to benefit … by creating divisions over religion and national identity… keep party’s activists energized… distract attention from economy…’

‘Indian prime minister has united a broad coalition against him’ (maybe) – Economist

Op/Ed: Modi’s thought control firewall in Kashmir may be the Internet’s future in India – ‘the government wants to keep blocking full access to the Internet … for fear of civil disobedience… Internet restrictions becoming more common by the day’ – The Wire

“Is India’s BJP government set to create a ‘Hindu Pakistan’?” The Diplomat

Nepal / Bhutan / Tibet / Mongolia

From 12/2019: “Christmas season a challenge in majority-Buddhist Bhutan” – Crux

A Christian nomadic art: a new generation of evangelical Mongolian artists – Link

“The Merchants of Thirst”: in Nepal and many other countries, private tanker operators profit from growing water scarcity – NYT

Bengali / Bangladesh

730k Rohingya mired in hopelessness – NYT
… ‘Massacred at home, in misery abroad’


U of MN student jailed in China over tweets – Axios
… Chinese student at U of MN arrested in China for tweets he posted while in the USA

Persecution: a dangerous opportunity for the church in China? ChinaSource

Coronavirus: 17 dead, 600+ sick

China bans travel from 5 cities in Wuhan – NYT
… Wuhan is a major port city of 11+ million
… Also: Huanggang, Ezhou, Chibi, Zhijiang
… ‘hub of industry and commerce in central China’

Sounds awful, but ‘World is better prepared than ever to stop the coronavirus’ – Economist
… ‘close relative of SARS’: 8,000 sick, 800 dead, $100bn in damage
… Coronavirus: so far, 3% mortality rate = Spanish influenza of 1918
… but mortality rate may be off because total cases may be underestimated
… (due to mild symptoms in many)

How virus could threaten the global economy – NYT
… Scale of shutdown without precedent – NYT

Confirmed: virus spreads from humans to humans – NYT
… Maps: Where the Coronavirus has spread – NYT
… Some wonder if China virus count is too low – WPost

The Uighurs: Battered but resilient after China’s crackdown – NYT

Hong Kong: Protesters finally have (some) power from newly elected representatives – Atlantic

China’s birthrate sank to lowest level on record last year – TIME


The rise of Japan’s “super solo” culture – BBC
… what’s causing the huge change in the traditionally group oriented country?

New Data

USA: more non-Evangelicals are calling themselves Born Again – more people today say they are “born again” than at any point in the past three decades – Christianity Today

Open Doors releases the 2020 WorldWatch List – Link
… The ten most dangerous places for Christians – Link
… The #1 spot: differences in North Korea vs Afghanistan – Link

The problem of an aging global population, by country: in many countries, the old-age to working-age ratio will almost double in the next 40 years. Visual Capitalist

Put another way: “too many Americans will never be able to retire” – Bloomberg

China will rack up 3 billion trips during CNY – Bloomberg

China has overtaken the US as the world’s major trading partner – Visual Capitalist

Longer reads

I found “The PARA method: a universal system for organizing digital information” to be extremely helpful; I’ve reorganized Dropbox and Evernote along these lines. Link

On Pioneers, Settlers, Town Planners and Theft – this excellent “short-ish” long read describes how things are built. For most of you this probably won’t be new, but it is a very good summary of the principles and types of people, and there are applications to movements. What kind of person gets over the cross-cultural barrier? What kind of person scales a movement to millions? When should things be done experimentally, and when are we trying to scale? Which of these people best represents the ‘outside catalyst,’ and which the ‘inside catalyst’? Link

“20 online courses that will make you more successful in 2020” – several of these may be useful to you, and many are free. Link

McKinsey long-read report on “What can we expect in China in 2020?” – Link

Want to feel happier today? Try talking to a stranger – NPR

Feeling uncertain? How to move forward without a plan – Trello
… baby steps, worst case scenarios, and naming your feelings.

“Your church needs Boomers”: a piece on perceived or actual age discrimination in US churches – CT

Why micro goals are better than resolutions – Daniel Im


What they’re not saying: 

‘Building Smart, Safer Cities’ is an interesting piece. The promo video by NEC ‘sounds’ good but the underlying implications are somewhat chilling. The surveillance is obvious, but ‘what gets measured gets changed’ is another consideration. Economist

USA: The secretive company that might end privacy as we know it – a little-known startup helps law enforcement match photos of unknown people to their online images – NYT
… ‘[The US is] banning facial recognition. We’re missing the point.’ 
… ‘ubiquitous mass surveillance is increasingly the norm… in China, built by the government for social control… in the United States, built in order to influence our buying behavior, and incidentally used by the government…’ 

Three broad components: identification, correlation, discrimination. This piece is mostly about the multiple ways that you can be identified. NYT

Hartsfield-Jackson Airport: America’s first all-biometric airline terminal. Defense One

38 ways drones will impact society. Also, free downloadable report on drones. CB Insights

Jeff Bezos’ phone hacked by Saudi crown prince – Guardian

The Bezos hack is an important example of the need for strong encryption that includes files and cloud backups – Defense One

But instead of strong encryption, we see frequent attempts to weaken it:

Apple dropped plan for encrypting iCloud backups after FBI complained. Under its plan, Apple wouldn’t have had a key to unlock encrypted data. Instead, iCloud can be searched in secret. This includes backed-up contacts, iMessage and WhatsApp texts, and other encrypted services. – Reuters
… note iCloud backups for Chinese-based iPhones are stored in China, and can be searched there: ‘iCloud services and all the data you store… including photos, videos, documents, backups… if you are not a Chinese citizen residing in China mainland, you can edit the country or region setting…’ Apple
… Further, from 2018: “Apple moves to store iCloud keys in China, raising human rights fears” – Reuters
… and, “Apple hands Chinese iCloud to Guizhou-Cloud Big Data industry” – Register, 2018


“Autobiography is only to be trusted when it reveals something disgraceful. A man who gives a good account of himself is probably lying, since any life when viewed from inside is simply a series of defeats.” ~George Orwell

“We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.” ~C. S. Lewis

“No one drifts toward holiness.” ~D. A. Carson

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