A selection of some recent pieces.

From “Tangled and troubled times at Gospel for Asia

If there is any good coming so far out of this complicated mess, says the ex-staff person who left GFA after 14 years, “it is that some Christians are willing to hold other Christians accountable. That is the silver lining. The Church is willing to hold itself accountable.”

From “Gently into the arms of Jesus” in Faith Today.

In one of the final photos taken of Lucetta Howard of Uxbridge, Ont., she perches on a wrought iron chair carried by two hardy-looking grandsons. The shot was taken at her granddaughter’s wedding reception. Lucetta beams, as grandmothers do, clearly revelling in the moment and the attention of her grandsons who carried her – seated on this chair – wherever she wanted to go throughout this great family celebration.

Her life was about to end. She knew that. She died six weeks later, at 92, of bone cancer.

“Clean Water in Cambodia” in Faith Today magazine. 

We pick up two shovels and trudge our way over to where the digging ends – and the densely packed mound of sand and gravel surrounding the water reservoir begins.

We have been told to dig through this hill. It simply needs to be a trench through the hill wide enough for a person to stand in it.

In the history of mission trips all over the world, never have two people been more badly matched to a task. She starts to dig up high. I dig down low.

We have no idea what we are doing. We both know this.

“Canada’s Mean Streets” in Faith Today magazine.

Cindy’s face crumbles as Jan asks her gentle questions. “How are you? Are you okay? What’s going on?” Cindy’s voice is soft, whispery in response. She cries and pleads with Jan to call her boyfriend to come down quickly. Her pain floats through the open window and begins to replace the oxygen in the car.

There is something very bad happening here.

Cindy’s boyfriend, who Jan thinks might be a good guy, shows up. Jan invites Cindy to a Prayer Day coming up at church, which meets at Yonge Street Mission.

“You want to save her from hell? This is hell right here,” says her boyfriend, pointing to the concrete sidewalk. “She’s in hell now….”

 “A Visit to the World’s Newest Country” in Faith Today magazine

Our journey to Yida was a two-and-a-half-hour flight from the tiny dim airport in Juba, the capital city of South Sudan, the world’s newest nation. But for the refugees who make their way to Yida, it is usually a trek from two to 10 days, almost always on foot, carrying children and whatever possessions, food and water they can manage to bring. This is in landlocked Africa in May. The day before we landed in Yida it was 48.9 degrees Celsius.

In and around the Juba airport, signs still hang that say, “Countdown to Southern Sudan Referendum.” They feature a sketch of a hand ramrod straight above a large inked thumbprint in a circle and the word “Separation.” Heat, time and dust have made the posters look older than they must actually be, because the vote took place just over a year ago in January 2011, and the dream of independence became reality on July 9, 2011….

“Toronto School of Theology” in InTrust magazine

THE OFFICE OF ALAN HAYES, director of the Toronto School of Theology, boasts a beautiful, leafy view over Queen’s Park, an urban forest in the heart of downtown Toronto. Silver maple, northern red oak, and an equestrian statue of King Edward VII dominate the park, a green enclave within the University of Toronto. Worn paths connect one corner of the campus to another.

In fact, you can walk from Wycliffe College, an evangelical Anglican graduate school on one side of Queen’s Park, to the Toronto School of Theology offices on the other, in about seven minutes.

Theological colleges pepper this sprawling, downtown campus…

“The Advocate” in The United Church Observer

Pin-drop silence. That was the atmosphere on a sleepy summer Sunday when Aruna Papp, a lay member of Greenbank (Ont.) United, took the pulpit.

Greenbank United describes itself as “a friendly, country church,” and the town is a go-to destination for butter tarts and country drives. It feels about as far away from the horrible reality of honour-based violence as you can get. But that was the topic of Aruna Papp’s sermon as she preached a hard message to the congregation that has embraced her.

Forty-nine years ago, as a young teenager growing up in India, she witnessed a beautiful girl in her community being burned alive outside her home. Papp’s young neighbour was killed by her brothers for refusing to marry a man twice her age, who was going to help the brothers with a business venture. Refusal was not an option.

It was the first honour killing Papp would experience. It would not be the last…

 “Seven Innovations for a Better World” in The United Church Observer

Cellphones are ubiquitous in the developing world, for the rich and the very poor alike. Institutional banks who will do business with the poorest of the poor? Not so much.

The latest statistics, released in January of this year, record 25.3 million mobile phone subscribers in the east African nation of Kenya. “Africa is now the second-largest mobile market in the world, after Asia, and the fastest-growing mobile market in the world,” says Peter Gakure-Mwangi, a blogger who writes about the economy and trends in Kenya. “More people in Kenya have access to a mobile phone than they do to a clean toilet.”

The upward surge of mobile phone users is the same in every continent. But it’s not the cellphone itself that is the innovation here. That would be very old news….

“Giving Till it Hurts” in Prism magazine

God may love a cheerful giver, but cheerful giving might raise eyebrows at the IRS. Susan Brown, 55 of Cincinnati, suspected that the IRS would come knocking at her door sooner or later. Susan is a tither-extrodinaire. “Years ago, when I became a believer, I made a decision that I would give 10 percent in tithe.” Even among Christian circles giving away 10 percent of your income, considered to be a minimum giving goal at least in theory, is very generous. After all, statistics show that most Christians hit closer to the two or three percent mark in their charitable giving…

“Operation Migration”  in Focus magazine

A large autographed poster hangs on the wall of Joe Duff’s office on High Street in Port Perry, an hour’s drive from downtown Toronto. It’s from the movie Fly Away Home, the 1996 Paramount production featuring Jeff Daniels and a young Anna Paquin. The movie, shot in part in Port Perry, was the “inspired by a true story” (loosely) account of a family who lead a flock of geese on their migratory route using an ultralight aircraft.

Most residents of Port Perry know the movie. But what came after the movie — and after the geese — may not be so well-known…

“Why Youth Leave the Church” in Faith Today

Hemorrhaging Faith identifies four major reasons why youth find Church worthwhile and stay in or return to it. These “drivers” to church involvement are: Spiritually Engaged Parents; Experienced God; Vibrant Community and Empowering Teaching and Beliefs. Each driver has an evil twin of course, a “barrier” identified as a factor that keeps youth away. They are: Spiritually Disengaged Parents; Un-experienced God; Stagnant Community and Restrictive Teaching and Beliefs…