Trip Notes from Dan Buttry in Israel

Dan and Sharon Buttry with friends in IsraelDear Friends,

Greetings from Nazareth in Galilee!  Sharon and I flew into Tel Aviv after finishing our time in Lebanon.  We spent a few days in Jerusalem before going up to Nazareth to stay with Bader and Rula Mansour.

Bader is the General Secretary for the Association of Baptists Churches in Israel (ABC in this trip notes edition).  Rula is a professor at Nazareth Evangelical College.  Rula is working on a PhD in conflict transformation at Oxford University, so she’s very interested in our work.  She’s also working on developing peace studies programs at NEC and their sister institution Bethlehem Bible College.

Before we got to Nazareth Sharon and I had a few days in Jerusalem.  Of course, we enjoyed the Holy Land sights, especially where Jesus wept over Jerusalem because they did not “know the things that make for peace” (Luke 191.41,42).  We also did some work.  We visited Bethlehem Bible College (where we’ll be next week) to hear Alex Awad speak on a Palestinian Christian perspective on the Arab/Israeli conflict.  Then that Sunday we preached at the East Jerusalem Baptist Church where Alex has been pastor for some 20 years.  Our topic was on being prisoners of hope, from Zechariah 9.  (Pop me an e-mail if you want a copy of the sermon.)  Back in the early 1990s I was part of an advocacy effort with our government and the government of Israel to allow Alex back to Jerusalem after his seminary studies in the U.S., something he was denied for 8 or 9 years despite the call of the East Jerusalem Baptist Church.  We also got an amazing 4-hour tour of East Jerusalem related to the politics of the Separation Barrier, the expansion of Jewish settlement, and the social and legal pressures to push Palestinians out.  The tour was led by a former Israeli tank commander working with Ir Amin, an Israeli NGO doing educational work about Jerusalem for a sustainable peace.

In Nazareth Rula and Bader lined up a series of trainings for us to do:  in the local Baptist church, for the Nazareth Baptists School staff, and for women in Musalaha (Christian Palestinians and Messianic Jews working on reconciliation in Christ).  We also met with Baptist pastors, sharing with them the resource of my “Bible Study Manual on Conflict Transformation” which we have in Arabic.  The centerpiece was a two day conference sponsored by the Nazareth Evangelical College for therapists and counselors from the Arab evangelical churches.  We had an outstanding group from across Galilee including pastors, professional counselors, and many people involved in family ministries.  We were also struck by how many were involved in grassroots reconciliation work in Israel and in Palestine.  We focused on the dynamics of mainstreams & margins as well as trauma healing.

One thing I’ve loved is the music.  Here and in Lebanon we’ve heard some great Christian music in Arabic forms.  In the times when there has been an English translation I’ve been moved by the depth of the lyrics, especially for people who face deep struggles in faith.  It’s great to worship in music that isn’t just translated from the English praise songs but is an expression of people’s heart language.  If U.S. American Christians could hear God’s praises in some of the fires of suffering these sisters and brothers have been through it might shift our way of thinking about what God is doing in the Middle East.

From Nazareth to Bethlehem–that will be our journey in the coming week.  Of course, we plan to see the holy sites, but our main task will be teaching in Bethlehem Bible College as we’ve been teaching in Nazareth.  We won’t be taking a donkey or foot, but rather car.  Still we will be crossing the border between Israel and Palestine, a tightly controlled crossing.  Our hearts are heavy to be amid such intense lingering conflict in a place where the message of peace was brought so powerfully by so many.  Join us in prayer!







Blessing for Conflict Transformation Leaders

Dan and Sharon ButtryFrom Sharon Buttry who, along with her husband, Dan, has been leading training in Conflict Resolution in Beirut for the month of January.

This blessing was written as the closing for our class at Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Lebanon.  The blessing follows the outline of the training design we used with our students.

Blessing for Conflict Transformation Leaders

“But let justice roll down like rivers and righteousness like an ever flowing stream..”  

Amos 5:24  

Wherever you find yourself, may you have compassion for the clueless and also for those who think they have no voice.

May you have the wisdom of the apostles in Acts chapter 6 in all the conflicts you will have in the church.

When you need power, may you receive the power of the Holy Spirit and may God guard you against any presence or use of ungodly power.

May those who oppose you find you to be a listener and willing to learn from the margins.

May you be a person who is known for the love of your enemies.

May God reveal your self-limiting beliefs and may you sing songs of hope and transformation.

May your wounds and grieving make you an effective healer of the wounds of others.

May you have compassion for the traumatized and make safe places for their stories.

May you be blessed with the power to do the unexpected, to refuse to be a victim, to love beyond borders.

May you teach what you know.

May you be a bridge-builder.

May rivers of justice flow down through you and me. Amen.

October Mission Offering Update (10/22)

World Mission OfferingOctober’s Special Mission Offering is our annual WORLD MISSION OFFERING

American Baptist International Ministries is supported solely through the generosity of churches and individuals. Their primary fundraising vehicle is the annual World Mission Offering. Churches may also give through their budget to a missionary of their choice (Targeted Giving). Since 2008, FBC PA has joined the Missionary Partnership Network of Dan and Sarah Chetti who serve at the Baptist Theological Seminary in Beirut, Lebanon. In 2012, we added Dan Buttry, Global Consultant for Peace and Justice.  

To date we have received $570 toward our goal of $850.

October Mission Offering: World Mission Offering

World Mission OfferingAmerican Baptist International Ministries is supported solely through the generosity of churches and individuals. Their primary fundraising vehicle is the annual World Mission Offering. Currently about 100 full-time missionaries, along with short-term missionaries and mission partners, serve in more than 70 countries. Their central mission is to help people come to faith in Jesus, grow in their relationship with God and change their worlds through the power of the Spirit. Churches may also give through their budget to a missionary of their choice (Targeted Giving).

Since 2008, FBC PA has joined the Missionary Partnership Network of Dan and Sarah Chetti who serve at the Baptist Theological Seminary in Beirut, Lebanon. In 2012, we added Dan Buttry, Global Consultant for Peace and Justice.

American Baptist International Ministries is celebrating 200 years of ministry in 2014. Organized in 1814 as the first Baptist international mission agency in America, it began its pioneer mission work in Burma and today works in Asia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East and the Americas serving more than 1,800 long-term and short-term missionaries. Its central mission is to help people come to faith in Jesus, grow in their relationship with God, and change their worlds through the power of the Spirit. It works with respected partners in over 70 countries in ministries that meet human need.

We have received $320 toward our goal of $850.

Dan Buttry – Trip Notes from South Africa #2

Mission NewsGreetings again from South Africa. After some days with Rick and Anita Gutierrez in Durban, I flew back to the Johannesburg area, staying with an amazing couple, Zack and Yvonne Best-Motaung.

Yvonne Best-Motaung is the Principal of the Baptist Convention College in Soweto. The Baptist Convention of South Africa is a primarily black body broke off from the Baptist Union which was dominated by whites during the apartheid days. There was a lot of reconciliation work, but the convention and the union never came fully back together. The Baptist Convention College is in the heart of Soweto, right next to the high school where the 1976 Soweto Uprising began. But it is in quite a deteriorated condition. Dr. Best-Motaung is working to rehab the buildings in the college compound, build up the student enrollment, and strengthen the academic program. We talked a lot about the situation and how I might be able to come to teach a course on conflict transformation in the future.

Zack and I met back in 2001 at a peace and development conference run by the All-Africa Baptist Fellowship held in Cameroon. He’s pastor of a big church in Soweto. Yvonne and Zack took me to various historic places in Soweto, especially the house Nelson Mandela lived in before his imprisonment and then 11 days after his release. Then he needed a much larger place to handle the much larger demands of being such a national and even global figure. The house is a museum now, and it was very moving to be there. We also visited the memorials and museum related to the 1976 Soweto Uprising which was one of the major chapters in the anti-apartheid struggle.

On Saturday I facilitated a training for pastors and church leaders of the Baptist Convention. It was a delightful day with spirited interaction. Then in the evening Zack and Yvonne took me to meet the Mayor of the South African Mayors (not sure exactly what’s entailed in that position, but it’s a high placement in both the ANC and the government). We spoke briefly about some of the challenges to achieve the hopes people had in the freedom struggle. South Africa has made great progress, but there is a lot of smoldering anger among those who are most poor and still waiting to see some benefit from the achievement of majority rule. Crime is a huge issue reflecting that anger and despair. I also had a great discussion with a Baptist church member who has been involved in human rights legal work for a long time as well as labor and community mediation–great meeting such a peacemaker.

I closed out my time in South Africa preaching about conflict transformation in family life in the city of Tempisa, just outside Johannesburg. There were lots of young people in the church, and afterward I had some great conversations with the generation that has grown up after the collapse of apartheid. They honor the struggle but are pressing hard questions to the ANC now that leadership has passed from Mandela. They see some of the cronyism and corruption in the old guard and are rising in various forms of discontent. It will be interesting to see how these dynamics develop and how South Africans will develop the health of their democracy and address the lingering legacies of the staggering injustice of apartheid. But there are so many impressive Baptist folks taking their faith to the places of brokenness, need, and developing hope.

A New Familiar Partner- Dan Buttry

Dan and Sharon Buttry in Ugands
Dan and Sharon Buttry in Uganda

It’s Monday October 7th, and I’m home alone.  My wife Sharon is away in Valley Forge at the Mission Center where she is going through new missionary orientation for International Ministries.  She’s been endorsed to be a missionary partner with me, coming onto missionary staff part-time as the new Global Consultant for Community Transformation!  So though she’s gone right now, her absence is a step forward in a deeper work partnership.  Instead of accompanying me for two to three weeks a year as a volunteer, she will journey with me for two to three months a year as a regular missionary colleague.

For ten years Sharon has prayerfully selected one of my trips to teach alongside me.  She is an ordained American Baptist clergy person.  She’s been trained and has a lot of experience in experiential and participatory education.  She knows peacemaking and nonviolence from the local to the global level.  So she and I have made a great mission team whether co-facilitating in trainings or doing dialog sermons in a pulpit.  We’ve done great work together in places like Kenya, Ethiopia, Poland, Thailand, Burma, India, and the Philippines.  The international encounters aren’t a problem for Sharon as she daily encounters people from Poland, Bangladesh, Yemen, and Bosnia in her ministries here at home.  She has been capable and comfortable in cross-cultural and multi-cultural contexts.

Read more at ABC International Ministries

We’ve a Story to Tell (October 6, 2013)


A sermon preached by Randle R. (Rick) Mixon
First Baptist Church, Palo Alto, CA
Sunday, October 6, 2013

Text:  2 Timothy 1:1-14

“We’ve a story to tell to the nations.”  We used to sing this song with some frequency whenever the missionary enterprise was considered.  It has a good marching tune, a positive, up-lifting tone, a sense of confidence that we might, indeed, win the world for Christ.  Of course, the text, and even the tune, are heavy with the threat of the colonialism that too often infected the Christian missionary enterprise in the 19th and early 20th centuries.  “We’ve a story to tell to the nations that shall turn their hearts to the right.”

We may ask, “Just what is the right?”  There have been times and places in which the right has been overly-identified with the values of the West.  A Euro-American way of life was closely linked with the gospel that was carried to the “uncivilized pagans” in foreign fields.  In the process, rich and ancient cultures were trampled, people exploited, traditions lost, in the name of a particular kind of progress linking Western culture to the Christian message.  Of course, there were notable exceptions and, indeed, the truly good news of Jesus Christ and the commonwealth of God was spread to the ends of the earth.

Two of the great figures in the American missionary movement were Ann and Adoniram Judson.  In very significant ways the Judsons were the parents of all Baptist missions in the USA today.  I mention them because 2013 marks the 200th anniversary of their arrival in Burma to begin their missionary work.  The Judsons sailed from Massachusetts in February of 1812 as Congregationalist missionaries headed toward the Far East.  The modern missionary movement among Protestants was only 20 years old at the time, begun by a group of Baptists in England who had sent William Carey and John Thomas to serve in India.

On the voyage east, Adoniram made a concentrated study of baptism and became convinced that “believer’s baptism” was what the gospel demanded.  He and Ann were Baptists by the time they reached India where they themselves were re-baptized.  As a result, the need for Baptist support for these new missionaries led to the formation of the first national Baptist bodies in the USA – the Triennial Convention and the American Baptist Missionary Union. These are the ancestors of the American Baptist Churches–USA and our mission boards, among others.

On arrival in India, the Judsons found no welcome from the controlling British East India Company.  So they found themselves sailing to Buddhist Burma where they were warned their efforts would be futile.  I won’t go into any great detail here but if you’re interested in more of the Judsons’ story, we have a six part DVD you’re welcome to borrow.

It took the Judsons six years to reach their first convert.  After almost ten years, they had 18 converts.  It was not until they began to concentrate their work among the animist hill tribes, the Karens and Kachins, who were Burmese minorities, that the mission work took root and grew.  Today Burma has the largest number of Baptists in the world only after the USA and India.

Adoniram Judson graduated at age 19 as the valedictorian of the predecessor of Brown University.  Judson’s work with the Burmese language, including his translation of the Bible, is still in use today.  One source says that “The essence of Judson’s preaching was a combination of conviction of the truth with the rationality of the Christian faith, a firm belief in the authority of the Bible, and a determination to make Christianity relevant to the Burmese mind without violating the integrity of Christian truth, or as he put it, ‘to preach the gospel, not anti-Buddhism.’”[7]  (wikipedia, Maung Shwe Wa, Burma Baptist Chronicle, page 9–10

Judson had a deep calling to which he felt compelled to respond.  He had a story to tell.  But, if this account is correct, he also had a deep respect for the people and culture of those among whom he ministered.  His task was not to demonize Buddhism but to tell his own story of how he experienced Christ and the living God. This sounds very much like modern missionary belief and practice.

In much the same way, the Apostle Paul was the progenitor of a mission movement.  He had a dramatic encounter with Christ that had changed his life forever.  With all the zeal of a convert, he tackled spreading the gospel with the same fervor with which he had persecuted Christians before his conversion.  He had a story to tell to the nations and he gave his life to sharing that good word.  Today’s text, from the second letter to Timothy was likely not written by Paul himself.  Still, it reads very much like what we know Paul wrote.  It speaks as a valedictory, the last testament of the great missionary before his death.

The letter is addressed to Paul’s young protégé, Timothy, urging him to continue the Apostle’s work, faithfully and courageously.  “We’ve a story to tell, Timothy.  Don’t forget it.  Don’t lose sight of the need to spread this good news.”  It’s not simple to summarize Paul’s story, his witness to the world, but he says a couple of things here to Timothy that I think are worth noting.

First, he reminds Timothy where he came from.  Faith is not something we achieve.  It is pure gift and most often it is passed to us by people who have walked the way of faith before us.  In Timothy’s case it is not only his mentor, Paul, but it is his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice who have given him the gift of faith.  I think I am particularly drawn to this because I had my own grandmother named Lois who was a woman of great faith as were my own mother and father.

Second, Paul reminds Timothy to rely “on the power of God,who save[s] us and call[s] us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to [God’s] own purpose and grace.”  It is God in whom we live and move and have our being.  It is God who made us and loves and desires that we live together in holy communion.  Our salvation is in this very relationship.

Third, he affirms for Timothy that “This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”  Christ conquers death on our behalf so that we may see and understand that death has no meaning or consequence in the reign of God.  God is about life and abundant living.  Through Christ, God freely and generously gives us this gift of life abundant and eternal.  It is ours to have and it is ours to share.

Finally Paul utters words that have found their way into another old hymn we don’t sing much anymore.  It is, in essence, the story that Paul wants to tell to the world, “For I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto him against that day.”  Or as the NRSV puts it, Paul the intrepid old missionary shares his anchoring faith with his young friend, “But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him.

When you get past the potentially overweening, culturally-based righteousness of the opening lines, the first hymn goes on to share helpful insight into what that old and still enlivening story is.  It’s a story of “truth and mercy, of peace and light.”  It’s a story that “shall conquer evil and shatter the spear and sword.”  It’s a story that “shows us that God is love.”

The missionary enterprise that we celebrate and support this month is very much grounded these days in the best of stories of Paul and Timothy, Ann and Adoniram Judson, Lynn and Marilyn Hunwick, Dan and Sarah Chetti, Dan and Sharon Buttry, Nzunga Mabudiga and Kihome Ngwemi, people who are willing to go among others all over the world.  They share the good news; they don’t impose it or use it to pick fights or devalue and denigrate others.  They share it because it is good news and is very much worth sharing.  And they share it, not only in word, but in deed – studying language, teaching farming and other skills, lifting folk from poverty and abuse, educating, healing, bringing new and abundant life in oh so many ways.  We, and these good and valiant folk as our representatives, have a story to tell.  It’s a good one.  In fact, it may just be life-saving and world-transforming.   Amen.