Thursday, July 30, 2015

West African Baptists Teach Congress about Ebola

The Baptist World Congress in Durban, South Africa, wrapped up on Sunday. It was a great time of fellowship, dialogue, and worship (and sightseeing). I'm glad we went to Africa for the Congress and appreciated the focus on African issues.

One session featured stories about how Ebola impacted west Africa (far from South Africa). I wrote about the session in my sixth article on the Congress. The piece, West African Baptists Teach Congress about Ebola, features comments by Baptists from Liberia, Nigeria, and Ghana. They offered some important perspectives, especially for Baptists elsewhere to consider. A photo I took of Charles Jones (originally from Liberia) ran with the article.

As I unpack, work on laundry, and get caught up on things, I am still reflecting on the trip. It was a great experience and I'm thankful for organizations like and Churchnet that made it possible for me to attend. You can see my photos from day 5 (Sunday) of the Congress here.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Baptists from Nazareth Appeal to Global Baptists at Congress

Saturday at the Baptist World Congress in Durban, South Africa, brought a change in pace. The day started with a special breakfast to hear from Baptists in Nazareth. I wrote about their comments in an article, Baptists from Nazareth Appeal to Global Baptists at Congress. The two main speakers were Azar Ajaj, who I met last year in Turkey, and Yohanna Katanacho. Baptists in the U.S. and elsewhere should listen to the stories and perspectives of those in Nazareth.  

Much of Saturday was open for sightseeing in Durban. I worked with a tour agency to get a tour opened up to see two important historical sights. First, we went to where Mahatma Gandhi lived for 21 years. It was in Durban that he got his start in political activism (fighting as a lawyer for equal rights, publishing a newspaper, and starting a political party) before returning to India.

Then we went to see Ohlange High School, which was founded by John Dube. He founded the school after studying under Booker T. Washington in the United States. Dube also published a newspaper and fought for rights of his fellow blacks. A contemporary of Gandhi, he started (at Gandhi's suggestion) the political party that eventually became the African National Congress (ANC). Nelson Mandala was a member of the ANC and so cast his historic vote in the 1994 elections at this school founded by Dube. Mandela then went outside to pay his respects at Dube's grave (and then went to where Gandhi had lived and laid a wreath in front of a statue of Gandhi).

Visiting those two places felt like walking on holy ground. I learned a lot about the three figures, including their political and religious views. You can see more photos from day 4 (Saturday) of the Congress here.

Monday, July 27, 2015

South Africans Teach Global Baptists about Truth, Reconciliation

With Baptists from around the world gathering in South Africa for the Baptist World Congress, part of the programming focus was on the nation's historic transition from a apartheid regime to a freer and more open society. During breakout sessions, several South Africans talked about the nation's Truth & Reconciliation Commission that Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu led. 

I wrote about the sessions on the TRC for The article, South Africans Teach Global Baptists about Truth, Reconciliation, includes comments from Frank Chikane, who as an anti-apartheid activist had been poisoned in an assassination attempt; Ruben Richards, who served as executive secretary of the TRC; Louis Kretzschmar, a Baptist who teaches theological ethics at the University of South Africa in Pretoria; and Kevin Roy, who teaches at the Baptist Theological College in Cape Town. 

It was particularly moving to hear from Chikane and his story of grappling with forgiveness, justice, and peace. A picture I took of Chikane ran with the article. You can see more photos from day 3 (Friday) here, which included a walk to check out the Indian Ocean.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Church and Technology

On Thursday, I joined my colleagues Robert Parham and Cliff Vaughn in leading a session at the Baptist World Congress in Durban, South Africa. Our session on "Church and Technology" brought in a nice crowd, and we had a lot of fun.

We made the presentation interactive, with lots of time for questions and dialogue with the Baptists who attended from around the world. We also showed how technology can work. For instance, I took some photos during the session and tweeted them. Moments later, the tweets appeared on the large screen behind us as we showed off the Twitter feed for the Congress.

During my part of the presentation, I focused on differences between news articles and opinion columns, the importance of images in communication, and some thoughts on using technology appropriately and in moderation (since it is not inherently good or bad). Hopefully the session will help Baptists head home and engage in technology more effectively as their churches and conventions seeks to share the good news.