By Lon Fendal
IT WAS ONE OF THOSE “by the way” expressions. It was only a few days before a group of college students would be departing for a ministry and learning trip to Kenya. The orientation and training meetings had covered the basics of preparing for the time in a culture much different from our own. The “by the way” preceded the student’s comment to me that he was well along toward completing a 40-day fast but had decided that he should probably end the fast before our departure. I thanked him for telling me about this and assured him he was making the right decision. Truthfully, I had no idea what a major period of fasting would do to a person’s body, especially while adjust to the many differences between life in Africa and the U.S. This experience had a reasonably happy outcome, if you don’t count that the student and I almost missed our outbound flight while his body staged a major revolt for his over-indulgence at an all-you-can-eat restaurant in Nairobi. Continue reading
While it is not our usual SEEDS practice to reprint speeches or articles, we in the Good News Associates community have been in deep pain as we have watched many in the evangelical branch of our Christian family move away from the teachings and heart of Jesus. In a recent gathering at Wheaton College, Dr. Mark Labberton, President of Fuller Seminary, delivered a powerful speech that is both thoughtful and encouraging for both those who would consider themselves Evangelical—and those who do not. It seems useful to share it with our SEEDS family.
This speech was given by Fuller Seminary President Dr. Mark Labberton at a private meeting of evangelical leaders held at Wheaton College in Chicago, Illinois, on April 16, 2018. The following has been edited from his notes for clarity and to give context to excerpts that have been disseminated elsewhere.
What draws us together here—and in hope—is the gospel of Jesus Christ. God’s great love and mercy poured out for the sake of the world is deeper, wider, stronger, and wiser than any possible threat or danger, competition or distraction. Our common confession that “Jesus is Lord” names the central testimony of our faith, even as it also names that to which no one and nothing else compares: one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all. Continue reading
By Lon Fendall
About ten years ago I completed a book about the spiritual and political values of the public official on whose staff I had served for a number of years, Senator Mark Hatfield. The title of the book is, Stand Alone or Come Home. That unusual title came from the stern advice the Senator had received from his father when their family lived in Dallas, Oregon. The context of this advice was a discussion the two of them had when Hatfield was young and his father realized that some of his friends might try to get him to participate in inappropriate “fun” when they were bored. This probably referred to such things as throwing rocks at the windows of abandoned buildings. Just because it sounded cool. With the sternness of a railroad blacksmith, which was his father’s career, the elder Hatfield made it clear to his son that he only had two appropriate choices when his friends were urging him to take part in something that was clearly wrong and inappropriate: stand alone against what they were setting about to do in the hope that they wouldn’t go ahead, and if that failed to turn them away from their plans, he was to walk away and come home. Continue reading
by Lon Fendall
The first time I heard this phrase was in a Good News Associates meeting recently. The GNA director, Jan Wood, used the phrase in response to my report about being involved with some projects in rural Haiti. Jan said something to the effect of, “Whatever you help with in Haiti, make sure it results in “assertive and visible goodness.” I said I agreed with that goal, but then later wondered if I even understood what the phrase meant in that context.
The next day while the GNA Associates were talking about something entirely different, Jan said we needed to be sure we as followers of Christ set our eyes on assertive and visible goodness. Again, that seemed like a good outcome, but I still wondered what Jan might have meant by it. So I asked her later if she had gotten the phrase from someone else or if she coined it herself. It was the latter, she said. She is a person who prays a lot and in the process hears a lot back from God, so I set about to think about the phrase as an important outcome of a proposed project in Southern Haiti. Continue reading
by Lon Fendall
A major part of my ministry is to support the Friends theological colleges in Kenya and Rwanda. I just returned from another visit to Friends Theological College (FTC) in Kaimosi, Kenya where I have been an academic consultant for them in their accreditation process. The process is not fun’ it is a lot of work, especially when it is the first time around. My work is to clarify what needs to be done and when those tasks need to be completed. Then I will help with the final editing.
During this last stay, I began thinking about the parallels between accreditation in colleges and universities and the accountability each of us needs to take seriously in our personal spiritual development. Although there are 30 standards established by the Association for Christian Theological Education in Africa (ACTEA), I was drawn to the five under “administration.”
Imagine that we were being evaluated by a group of visiting angels and their only question was, “Are you meeting each of these five standards?” Continue reading
Before accepting the role of dean of Earlham School of Religion (ESR), I served as a Friends pastor for fifteen years. Someone once asked me if I ever regretted leaving the ministry. I responded that I never once thought that I had. The form may have changed, but the call endures. That comment lingers with me as a reminder that a narrow view of ministry persists in the minds of some.
There are a multitude of ways to serve God in this world. One of the delights of position as dean at a Quaker seminary is the opportunity to explore new possibilities when traditional categories are clearly not sufficient. Ours is a very inclusive definition of ministry and I hope this welcoming spirit will continue as new students join us. Anything to which God calls an individual and for which the Spirit equips the individual should aptly be described as one’s ministry. When such leadings are followed, the path frequently leads to non-traditional, or even entrepreneurial, forms of ministries. It is a wonderful strategy by which God’s work permeates the neighborhood, far wider than traditional meeting or church ministries are prone to reach. And, in an era when the so called NONES, DONES, and others seek meaningful engagement and spiritual fulfillment in unusual places, we should expect and even hope this trend continues. For ESR graduates, it happens with some frequency.
Mark Oppenlander is a multi-talented and versatile individual , whom I consider to be a special friend. His recent SEEDS article reflected on seventeen years of involvement with Good News Associates (GNA), starting with the discussion at Jan Wood’s dining room table about the shape this ministry would take. Mark reviewed his various roles with GNA during those years, including Secretary, Treasurer, and President of the Board (not all at once). He made it clear that he is still a strong supporter of GNA and would continue to follow its work closely. Since he is the son-in-law of the GNA Director, Jan Wood, it won’t be hard for him to stay in touch.
During the last ten years of Mark’s volunteer work with GNA (his “day job” is at Seattle Pacific University), he has been the first and only editor of SEEDS, a monthly publication posted on the GNA web site (Goodnewsassoc.org). In his article, Mark spoke about taking a break from GNA work and made it clear that he also wanted a break from editing SEEDS. Linked to the board decision accepting Mark’s request was its action inviting me to be the next editor of SEEDS. More about that in a minute. Continue reading
by Lon Fendall
My awareness of an alien taking up residence inside my body didn’t happen all at once, which was probably a good thing. No, I’m not talking about the plot of a science fiction story. This alien is the real thing. And coming to the point of accepting and dealing with the uninvited and completely unwelcome presence in my body was a gradual process and not at all as dramatic as a science fiction movie or novel.
The first hint of the alien’s presence was the troubled look on the face of the Physician Assistant who had treated me several times for a UTI (urinary tract infection). He wanted to know if the most recent antibiotic he had prescribed had helped get rid of the symptoms. “Not particularly, they’re still there,” I said, not realizing what this might mean. The PA went on to explain why he was troubled. “That antibiotic you have been taking is one of the strongest there is and if this were only an infection, the symptoms would be gone by now. We have to get you scheduled for some tests and you need to be seen by a urologist. This is beyond my capacity to treat.” Continue reading