2010 was quite an eventful year for the Reeses, and 2011 also promises to be full of new experiences.
Here’s a little bit about our 2010.
Our family: We said goodbye to family and friends and moved to a new country. We went from barely being able to construct simple sentences in Portuguese to being functional in some contexts.
Katie set up house in a foreign country and learned how to shop; Danny figured out how to get all of our utilities running smoothly.
Our team restructured how we work and envisioned our first year in Angola.
Eliana: I learned how to run and go down slides! I moved out of my crib and into a big bed. I go in the potty during the day. And I began going to school in Portuguese. I know most of my numbers and colors in two languages!
Sophia: I was born! I learned how to play with toys, smile, suck my thumb, and laugh.
And here’s our ‘goals’ for 2011.
Our family: We will say goodbye to friends here in Portugal and move to a new country. We will begin to learn a new culture, in a new language, and develop relationships with people who are hungry for God’s word.
Katie will set up house and learn how to shop; Danny will figure out how to get running water, electricity, and internet (some of the time).
Our team will implement tools and strategies to learn about Angola and how best to begin mentoring Angolans and planting churches.
Eliana: I want to wear my big girl panties all night. I will say “Olá” to everyone to make some new Angolan friends. I’ll also try to be very good on the airplane.
Sophia: I’ve already learned to roll over and eat ‘real’ food! But I also want to sit up and crawl and walk and run! I want to do everything my big sister does. By the end of the year I will be able to eat my dinner with everyone else and maybe even say ‘please’ and ‘obrigada!’
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Danny reminded me recently of the first time we walked into a doctor’s office here and I couldn’t understand or ask anything. But especially since Sophia was born, taking her to the doctor has been a very rewarding language experience. The nurse, Carla, is very nice and speaks slowly and clearly. Since the setting is familiar to me, having done everything with Eliana, I have a good idea of what kind of things they might be saying. These two things combined have allowed me to get by very well.
Last visit, when I had both girls, I was surprised at how able I was to answer questions and ask my own. No, I still didn’t understand everything, but I easily clarified most of it. With a little bit of miming and context I even figured out the word for “teether.” I thank God that taking my girls to the doctor has been such a positive experience in many ways.
I feel like I am approaching functional in some contexts, but it’s still hard to imagine being ready to go to Angola in a few short weeks (depending on visas).
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I said that I would try to write a bit about each book that I read. Well, I haven’t written anything since then, and it’s not because I haven’t been reading. It has more to do with my lack of discipline…
Almost everything Piper has to say in this volume, I add an “Amen.” I always tend toward the critical side, and I’ve got plenty of critique here too, but I’m also not too proud to admit when someone has got it right. Piper’s main thesis, when distilled, is basically that the end goal of missions, biblically understood, is to glorify God. He is right when he labels that as God’s goal too – to bring glory to Himself. His perspective on suffering as an essential aspect of the task of bringing glory to God; many of his perspectives on prayer; the mutually cohesive relationship between a desire to glorify God and compassion for human souls; all of these and more I would label healthy exegesis and healthy theology. Okay, at times I think his exegesis is a bit forced, but he’s chosen such central biblical themes to argue that, even when he errs a bit on his exegesis, he still hits the overall mark.
The chapter which argues for the essentiality of proclaiming Christ (in the face of those who would deny a real hell or posit “anonymous Christianity” or such) is not particularly to my liking, but I agree with him. That just might not be the way I’d approach the topic, I don’t know.
The one ugly blemish on what would otherwise be a very helpful and important book is his chapter on “the nations.” He feels the need to argue for a “reach unreached people groups” approach as opposed to a “save as many individuals as possible” approach based on exegesis which is fatally flawed from the beginning due to what appears to me as a simple logical fallacy. A logical fallacy that would only be overlooked by someone who has already decided what the text should say – and then has the task of making the text say it. He starts with the categorical distinction between “Gentile individuals” and “Gentile people groups,” categorizes texts based on which meaning they employ, and then analyzes the groupings to argue that the basic biblical perspective is that the task of missions is to count people groups and find new people groups to reach, until Christ comes, presumably after all people groups have been reached (see Mt 24:14). But the entire edifice falls if we start, instead, with the basic biblical contrast not between “Gentile people groups” and “Gentile individuals,” but rather “Gentile people groups” and “the people group of God, i.e., Israel.” I would argue that this is the clear connotation of the vast majority of uses of goyim in the OT and ethne in the NT, along with several related words and concepts. With that contrast in mind, the vast majority of texts he cites in this chapter end up with very different interpretations, and he has no foot to stand on in trying to count people groups. Yes, the biblical authors (and cultures) thought more in terms of people groups and less in terms of individuals in topics of worldwide scope – but they weren’t trying to delineate and count people groups as an eschatological goal, like so many today try to do. At last now I understand a bit of where these ideas come from…
One more linchpin in that missiological misdirection: it requires us to understand the world “all” in absolute terms in some passages but completely ignore it in related passages. So the “gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Mt 24:14) – meaning we have to do our arithmetic with nations, and hope we’re using the same arithmetic that Jesus is using. But when that same gospel is said already in Paul’s day to be “constantly bearing fruit and increasing in all the world” (Col 1:6) and “which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven” (Col 1:23), we are expected to take the “all” as an exercise of literary license. Piper and his followers can keep this type of exegesis – I prefer to take both sets of Scriptures in context; neither are meant to be absolutes in arithmetic terms.
Okay, enough rant there. Like I said, that’s the one blemish in an otherwise magnificent work that I believe is very healthy theology of missions – worthy reading for anyone who cares about such things as the mission of God! Just skip chapter 5.
I suppose in commenting on Piper I have to make reference to his Calvinism. Several of my friends seem to have been scared off of his books just for knowing how staunchly he advocates his doctrine of election. I see no need. In this volume, he sticks pretty close to the text. Yes, I know that he understands election texts in highly Calvinistic ways, but he doesn’t argue that here. The things he affirms about the sovereignty of God, God’s election of humans, etc. I too can affirm wholeheartedly, and there is not a Calvinist bone in my body. He says what the Bible says, and if any Arminians are uncomfortable saying the same things, they need to reconsider their position. (Having said that, I do wish he would lean a little less on Jonathan Edwards, not take his key wording from the Westminster Catechism, etc… but that doesn’t change his overall dependence on the biblical texts, which is noteworthy.)
Summary: Read it. Or at least the first three chapters and the last bit where he explains what he means by “worship.” You will be blessed by it, and hopefully God will be a little bit more glorified.
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