Living Behind the Veil

I'm often asked what I wear in Afghanistan and what it's like to wear a veil. It's freedom. Freedom to have a bad hair day, freedom to arrange my chadar to conceal the curve of my breasts and backside, freedom to not be an expatriate for a little while. It means freedom to hide even on the street from the Afghan men's eyes which seem to strip me naked.
When I relax my shoulders and walk less purposefully, less confidently, my eyes downcast and covered by sunglasses, I pass for an Afghan woman. I hear the men whisper in Dari, "Is she a foreigner or local woman?" I chuckle but am silent. On the street, I'm also a free target....freely exposed to groping, sexual innuendos whispered to me as a man bicycles by, free to have stones thrown at me, freely seen as no one's wife, daughter, sister, mother, friend, or boss. I step inside my gate, and remove my chapan and chadar. Now I'm someone's boss, motherhood returns to me as little steps run to greet me, and I receive a kiss from my adoring husband. Now I'm free to his loving and gentle eyes which know and enjoy my curves, free to once again be under the protective umbrella of being a wife, mother, friend, colleague, boss, niece, sister, daughter, woman.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Missiological Risk Myth #4

Risk Myth 4  “You must be building up all kinds of reward because of the risks you are taking.”
When one is immersed in an atmosphere of martyrdom, areas where the “smell” of trauma and death is a constant companion, or in places of extreme poverty or spiritual darkness, this statement always grates. Yes, there will be rewards, but the whole focus of this statement is off-focused.  Few are encouraged in the short-term or find this helpful to increase risk resilience.

Why is this?

It does little to help process and re-focus the emotions, to help in risk analysis, or assuage the very real fear of suffering and potential death here on earth, and gives little motivation for something so hard to picture in the “heat” of the risk moment.

Being faithful in the risk moment is the path to eternal reward (Revelations 2-3), but at those moments of walking in faithfulness, the concept of reward somehow seems to be the lowest priority of the numerous confusing cross-cultural risk issues we need to be facing and working through, often in a very short time and under great duress.

This risk myth requires careful biblical study for clear understanding of eternal reward based on earthly behavior and its application to risk and suffering. We do look forward to the Father’s justice and acknowledgment of what we have done in His name. However, when someone says this myth risk statement, the focus is usually on what I will receive, not on living faithfully and glorifying the Lord.  It smacks of what is described as “quid pro quo” theology.6

This is the Ancient Near East pagan religious philosophy that means “when I give the right thing and the right amount to the idol, I can expect a certain amount in return.”  In reality, this is ancient prosperity Gospel. I put in a certain amount, and can expect certain payment back (we still ask for fertility, money, rain, and food, don’t we?).

By contrast, whenever the Bible speaks of the reward of the believer, it is always in the context of what the life of the believer looks like, both inside (the heart) and outside (the actions of faith).  Jesus makes it clear we are to lay up treasures in heaven “for where our treasure is, there is our heart also” (Matthew 5).

Joseph Ton wrote one of the very few books connecting suffering, martyrdom, and reward and he points out the gravity of Jesus’ words, “Behold I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done” (Rev 22:12).7 The order of these words in the Greek places the emphasis on the suddenness of Christ’s appearing not the reward.

Since he will come in a quick, unexpected way, the time of the coming is always potentially “near.”8 The Hebraic worldview in these verses is on God’s Kairos time, not earthly chronos time. It does not mean he is coming soon (measured by days or years), but his coming will seem sudden. Therefore, there is work to be done, and it is to be done faithfully and urgently – work and faithfulness are always intertwined.

Taking un-assessed or ill-advised risks in the name of Christ does not automatically imply Christ will reward a Christian worker in Heaven. Going against the advice of veteran workers and sharing blatant materials and then getting thrown in jail does not automatically make one spiritual, a hero, or a spiritual hero.

Sometimes being a hero is measured and seen by God only – and it means stepping down and stepping away in humility out of the risk situation. The measure of “success” on the field is awareness of God’s presence, listening to and recognizing His voice (which may come through leadership or the community) and being faithful to obey with joy and no complaining, leaving the results up to God.

According to the Holy fathers, one who performs saving works simply from fear of hell follows the way of bondage, and he who does the same just to be rewarded with the kingdom of heaven follows the same path of a bargainer with God. The one they call a slave, the other a hireling.

But God wants us to come to Him as sons and daughters to their Father; He wants us to behave ourselves honorably from love for Him and zeal for His service; He wants us to find our happiness in uniting ourselves with Him in a saving union of mind and heart.9  
This myth corrected: We will be rewarded for our faithful, joy-filled obedient endurance to our last breath  (Heb 10:35).  

6.    Exploring our Hebraic Heritage, Marvin Wilson
7.    Suffering Martyrdom, and Rewards in Heaven, Joseph Ton, 301-314.
8.    The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text. New International Greek Testament Commentary, Beale, G.K.
9.    Way of the Pilgrim, p. 34, Trans from Russian by R.M. French. Pub: Quality Paperback Book Club, NY, 1998.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Missiological Risk Myth #3

Risk Myth 3 Escape or Deliverance is the Priority

Organizations and individuals who maintain this perspective are characterized as highly risk-adverse.  This view emphasizing the priority of escape or deliverance is not Biblical. Escape or deliverance is not the priority when facing extreme persecution or martyrdom…faithfulness is (Micah 5:8; Hebrews 11:35-38; Rev 2:10).

The logical endpoint of those who maintain this perspective if escape is not possible, or deliverance doesn’t happen, results in either a crisis of faith or a feeling of failure. Escape or deliverance places emphasis on either my own effort or a god I try to control. 

This perspective is really a spiritualized version of Satan’s 3rd temptation to Jesus: “And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written “He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,” and “on their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.” And Jesus answered him, “It is said, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test” Luke 4:9-12.

Why shall we not put God to the test?  Does He not promise throughout Scripture like Ps 91 to deliver us?   However, unlike Greek thought which attempts to find only one “correct” answer, Hebraic thought often holds two opposing spiritual realities in tension: sometimes God delivers us out of evil or danger, and sometimes he does not (Hebrews 11:1-39). 

Like Job, we learn to say, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”5 God is not a genie in a bottle, or a puppet we pull with strings.  He chooses to rain on the righteous and the wicked, to deliver us out of or give us the courage to remain under.   What is more important than escape or deliverance or remaining is discerning His will, and each risk situation must be considered and prayed through uniquely.

Myth 3 Escape or Deliverance is the Priority
Correction:  The Lord’s eyes are on us; he will instruct us in the way we should go. Job 34:21; Ps 32:8

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Missiological Risk Myth #2

PDF Download

Risk Myth 2: The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.

This phrase has been repeated throughout the history of the Church. “In the minds of some, it is paramount to challenging the very words of Scripture.”1   Statements like, “persecution always causes church growth” and “persecution typically causes the Church to be purified and believers to walk more closely with God” historically are not always true. (Albania being a modern example).

There is the truth that persecution as benefits the church. Church Father Tertullian wrote in his book The Apology in 197 AD to the Roman Governor of his area, “…Nor does your cruelty, however exquisite, avail you; it is rather a temptation to us. The oftener we are mown down by you, the more in number we grow; the blood of Christians is seed.”2

According to writer Glenn Penner, Romans 8:28 and 2 Timothy 3:12 are more accurate reflections of what the Bible has to say about persecution. God works all things together for good, and Paul teaches Timothy that all soldiers may expect persecution. While he doesn’t deny Tertullian’s quote, he suggests using a Scriptural-based approach to discussing the reasons for and results of church growth. All the New Testament writers discuss the suffering of believers in the context of following Christ.

It’s common to see John 12:24 used to demonstrate the fruit resulting from martyrdom. However, Jesus was teaching here – using a grain of wheat falling to the ground – as an illustration revealing His impending death. He had to die to defeat death and Satan and redeem us from the kingdom of darkness.  This wasn’t a prescriptive requirement for the growth of the church.  Christ is building his church whether there are martyrs or not.  It was a prescriptive requirement for our salvation.

Otherwise, the danger is not to care about persecuted believers if it is believed to be inherently good for the Body of Christ and the Kingdom of Heaven.  This idea is anathema to what it means to be his disciples.

This myth corrected could be:  “The blood of the saints is precious in His sight and will be avenged by the Lord.”

(2 Sam 4:11; Ps 72:14; 79:3,10; Is 26:21; Joel 3:21; Rev 6:10; 17:6; 18:24)

1. Glenn Penner, “Is the Blood of the Martyrs Really the Seed of the Church?”, ed 26 July 2008, 1.

2. Ibid,.

Used with permission from Facing Danger: A Biblical and Practical Guide Through Risk, by
©2015 Anna E. Hampton

Risk Myth #2 PDF Download

Risk Myth 1: You are never safer than you are at the center of God's will.
Risk Myth 3: Escape or deliverance is the priority.
Risk Myth 4: You must be building up all kinds of reward because of the risks you are taking.
Risk Myth 5: Just keep a positive mental attitude and everything will be okay.
Risk Myth 6: We aren't really risking.
Risk Myth 7: We've already counted the cost.
Risk Myth 8: Faith is proportional to the amount of risk.
Risk Myth 9: If something bad happens, its because I didn't pray, work, or prepare enough. It's my responsibility to be faithful and engage with God.
Risk Myth10: Freedom means security.
Risk Myth 11: Risking is spiritual service. All this practical talk and assessment is unnecessary.
Risk Myth 12: Suffering for Christ while fulfilling my cross-cultural calling always glorifies God.
Risk Myth 13: Risk assessment is un-spiritual.
Risk Myth 14: Disregarding your fear demonstrates true faithfulness.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Missiological Risk Myth #1

"You are never safer then you are at the center of God’s will."

This one was told to us so often!

In this myth, it safety seems to imply free from hardship and danger of every kind.  It seemed to help family and friends to say it, perhaps because by saying this myth enough times loudly enough it would make it true, and they wouldn’t worry about us. But it never made helped me feel better when we were returning to a war zone.

In a world filled with safety standards and insurance coverage, safety in terms of missiological risk needs to be defined. The Bible is full of stories of men and women who died horrible deaths, although they were in the center of God’s will (Hebrews 11: 35b-40). Plenty of God’s people were killed.

Were they not in God’s will?

What is the Biblical truth about safety?  What is a consistent approach to understanding safety in the Bible? If safety means safe from eternal hell, than it can be argued one is safe and in God’s will once one has chosen to follow Christ as Lord (Jn 17:3).
However, I don’t think that is what is meant when this myth is repeated as encouragement. I think most people mean that “If I am in God’s will, nothing bad will happen to me.” The implication seems to be God’s will is a place on earth where we are free from the normal human tragedies.  It also leads a missionary to a very dangerous place when something bad does happen (a robbery, rape, kidnapping), that they weren’t in God’s will. It means that the standard of measuring “success” in following God’s will is safety as defined by a risk-adverse litigious society, when not cashing in on insurance premiums. 

God’s will, by definition, means that there is something God is asking of us, from us.  He accomplishes His kingdom purposes on earth. He does this primarily through our obedience. As we obey Him, His rule is extended in the earth. Micah 6:8 makes it clear God's demands on us. 

He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (NASB).
So the question now is, How do we do live out Micah 6:8 in the risk moment?  As His witnesses (Isa 43:12), we don’t enter the cosmic war with evil without getting in harms way and getting shot at ourselves. This myth simply doesn’t hold up under fire on the mission field.

This myth corrected: “God is always with you” (Josh 1:9; Ps 91; Is 43).

Used with permission, Facing Danger: A Biblical and Practical Guide through Risk, ©2015 Anna E. Hampton

Risk Myth 1 PDF Download 
Risk Myth 2
Risk Myth 3
Risk Myth 4
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Sunday, February 1, 2015

Danger of Jail Under the Taliban

It was our mistake. We were brand new in country, and life under the Taliban for foreigners meant great care in following the rules.  We were so focused on unpacking and settling into our temporary home, acquiring language that first month, adjusting to shopping in the local bazaar, we weren't paying attention to our visa expiration date.

We were well past the thirty date expiration, and Dan T. had already been in jail for weeks for overstaying his visa date. Being a typical American, I snorted inside. "Just let them put a young American woman and her 3-month-old baby in jail. There will be quite the outcry."  My nationalistic pride knew no bounds, and was out of sync with reality.

I was naive.

Neal and I packed up the baby, and took a taxi over to the office in Wazir. There, Harri, Danny V, and Neal and I stood in a circle where Harri prayed with grave concern in this voice that the Taliban wouldn't jail us.

Danny V prayed that the eyes of the Talib visa official would be blinded to the expiration date on our visas, and simply grant us the new ones. 

Their passionate praying overwhelmed me.  The seriousness of the potential reality began to sink in. For the first time I began to get scared.  They continued to pray, and I began to think through logistics: "How many diapers did I pack?  What did I need to survive jail with my baby? I'm so glad there's not time to e-mail or call mom - it's better she not know about this until the outcome."

Prayers finished, and Danny V drove us over to the visa office. We were escorted straight into the visa office, where the Talib, all dressed in black (why is it always black?), greeted the men.  We all sat down. He spoke English and began to read the form:

Neal's job in country: Neal answered "learning language right now." 
Anna's job:  Neal answered "Accompany husband." 
Baby's job: I decided to take courage and answer "eat and sleep."   The Talib chuckled, while not really looking at me, and stamped our visas. 

Danny V believed that the Talib official's eyes were blinded, he never brought up the issue of the expired visa.  It was good.

I wasn't ready to go to jail that day anyway.

Theological Hubris

At a small group Bible study we were visiting, we were asked to comment on a passage of scripture with the role of men and women in mind.  I answered with words straight from the ESV English text of Scripture.

Since the answer was not in the opinion of the leader, I was told, "Sorry to disagree with what you said, but..."   It was an amazing display of hubris. I was shamed in front of the whole group.

Theological Hubris: Using Scripture selectively to build up one view which fits the way "I" want life to work.

But am I that different? Do I take Scripture and bend it to form to my god, my view of how he acts or should act? Is it possible I am getting God and life all mixed up?