<![CDATA[bobandjackie.org - Blog]]>Fri, 04 Mar 2016 01:36:08 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Temporarily Stateside´╗┐]]>Thu, 03 Mar 2016 21:52:12 GMThttp://www.bobandjackie.org/blog/temporarily-statesideSince our last post, several things have happened worth mentioning.  Graduation at the Bible school in Cape Town was held Nov. 21, 2015. There were 5 MA graduates and 5 BA graduates. One BA graduate is doing assemblies weekly in the public schools in his area. Other graduates are in active ministry in their churches, either as youth pastors or associate pastors. The MA graduates were already in places of ministry. One is the academic dean of our Bible college :­).

We are in the States right now for a brief time. We had to come home for two reasons: our visa to stay in South Africa was expiring, and Bob had some meetings he needed to attend. We are currently in the process of visa renewal for South Africa. It has taken longer than it should because Jackie's fingerprints are too worn down for a quick FBI background check. That means we had to try more than once. Older women tend to have that problem (smile). She is FBI­ checked now, and this week we traveled to Chicago to turn in our paperwork in person at the South African Consulate there as required. Now we just have to wait for them to issue our visa, which could take up to 2 weeks.

While we are in the States, Bob is continuing to read dissertation proposals submitted by African doctoral students. The graduate school is in Togo, and Bob had been invited to teach part of the research course last year. He is now part of the team helping those students successfully navigate the dissertation journey. As is often the case in missionary work, taking on the new responsibility has not mean letting go of old responsibility, so until further notice this function will follow us to South Africa.

Jackie is preparing to teach an MA class that introduces students to the Hebrew and Greek languages. She is also helping the school back in Cape Town by grading papers that are sent to her.

The Bible school in Cape Town opened for this school year on 13 January. The school is using block sessions now instead of the semester system, so once a month we offer one or two courses students can attend. By offering courses in block session format, we hope to help many who work but would like to study Bible and theology. Each block session lasts 7 class days, 8 am to 1 pm, so a student can get time off of work and attend class. Often that is enough to help someone over that hump of “I don't understand this” or “I cannot do this”. We also offer evening classes, and are conducting classes off ­campus in local churches.

Prayer requests

Please pray with us about our visa situation.

Also, the school is facing a huge challenge this year. Last year we went through the re­accreditation process. The Bible school has been accredited with the South African government since 2005. However, South African accreditation requirements have changed and there are some big decisions the church and school leadership have to make regarding major changes that are now required in the school.

Please pray also for our family here in the States. One of our daughters has been having daily migraines. We would appreciate your prayers for her and her family (she has 3 children).

We thank God for you. Thank you so much for making it possible for so many in Africa (not just South Africa) to receive the training they need to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ to their nations and communities.

​-- Jackie Braswell
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<![CDATA[Catching Up´╗┐]]>Thu, 03 Mar 2016 21:38:56 GMThttp://www.bobandjackie.org/blog/catching-upA transfer from GoDaddy to Domains.com did not go smoothly, knocking our web page offline for several months (it was still there at the Weebly.com host account, but nobody could find it at its usual address).

On September 15, 2015, we sent out the following by email and hard copy. I am belatedly putting it here for those who follow us via RSS and this web page.

Dear friends, family, and supporting churches,

Greetings from Cape Town, South Africa!  

This past Sunday we accompanied three of our students as they represented our Bible school, Global School of Theology Western Cape, in ministering in one of the Assemblies of God churches in another part of Cape Town. Our students made us proud. Perhaps miraculously, in a setting that was to some extent about promoting the school, God used the occasion to make an impact on peoples' lives. Our student, Bongani Tshwili, preached a very biblical message about eternal life, and several people came forward for salvation (not sure of the exact number because altar workers also came forward, but I think there were four who made new commitments to follow Christ).

Two weeks ago at a different church, I had the joy of praying with a young man who gave his heart to Jesus in a similar service. Our student speaker, Gwilym Hesselmann, preached an excellent message from Hebrews 12. He also shared what God brought him from, and the young man I prayed with came forward with tears in his eyes and asked for prayer as he was in the same kind of situation with gangs, drugs, home conflict, and money problems. Gwilym said many nice things about how I had been a father to him while at school, but even better than that, at numerous points in the sermon we both heard him echoing things he learned in our classes. We felt that the fruit we saw that day was in itself worth coming to Africa for.

Jackie is right now grading papers to finish teaching a block course at school in New Testament. She is also teaching NT on Friday evenings at one of our connected churches (pastored by one of our MA students), and she just finished a month of teaching a series on Genesis at yet another church on Wednesday nights.

I am currently playing catch-up with administrative issues that were deferred during a recent season of saying yes to several teaching opportunities at BA, MA, and doctoral levels. I'm also trying to catch up with grading all the papers produced in these classes (involving over 2,500 pages of grading and editing).

The first eight months of 2015 have been full of circumstantial challenges, both personally and together with our colleagues at the school. Here is a partial list:
  • Four break-ins at the school, including the last one where my computer, the MA department computer, and two other academic office computers were stolen.
  • Other computer issues: I gave one computer away, since I had three, but after my main one was stolen, I had a hard drive crash on the backup machine. I finally had to buy a new laptop at South African prices. In the process I changed from Windows to Linux, from Linux to Mac, and now back to a Windows laptop. The last time I was able to use our newsletter template was four machines and three operating systems ago. 
  • We are all learning to work around ongoing power outages throughout the country as demand outstrips capacity.
  • The phone line running to the school, which provides phone and internet, was stolen, whether for its copper content or just to add to the vandalism from the break-ins.
  • It took weeks to get the phones working again, then the city started working on the street in front of the school and cut the new lines with a backhoe.
  • Jackie had a six-week bout with the shingles, beginning while I was gone to Kenya to teach and continuing through my trip to Togo.
  • I (Bob) had a period of pain due to toothaches and had to have two root canals in the same tooth trying to get it sorted. Finally they extracted that tooth, then while chewing on the other side to let that heal, I broke a tooth on an unexpected peach pit while eating toast and jam at a guest house. Trying to save that tooth, I had two more root canals, for a total of four in as many months.
  • Missionary colleagues: Two couples have retired and moved back to the USA. Another (Beverly) broke a wrist on one side and a shoulder on the other due to a bad fall--she and her husband have been home while she recuperates and he takes care of her. Others have gone back to the USA to raise funds. There aren't enough of us left to get the work done.
  • The school has had a trend of declining enrollments at BA level, so there is no money for hiring replacement help when people leave or for paying cost of living increases.
  • The regulatory environment has been getting more difficult and expensive to comply with, and dealing with regulators has taken much time, energy, money, and patience.

We are grateful and amazed that none of these things has really touched us in terms of attitude and sense of well being. The most emotionally challenging thing I have faced is not on the above list, but is related to the last item, and that is letting go of aspects of the accreditation struggle that have not been entrusted to me. As usual, if I'm along for the ride, I want to drive, and that is not always appropriate. 

One of the things that sustains us is gratitude, both to God and to you. Amazingly, even though we have allowed ourselves to be preoccupied with the relationships on this side and have done little to encourage continued support in recent months, we have not been abandoned by our partners. 

One strategy I've used to make it easier to let go of control as mentioned above is to do more teaching and less (in theory) administration. God has given many opportunities and blessed our teaching ministry. Please rejoice with us that there is an impact. A selection of student feedback: 
"Dear. Dr. Braswell, With heartfelt thankfulness, I write to express my respect for you as a person. I was beaten hands down in class today by your sincerity, transparency and life of integrity. You sure calm the nerves of many people in the class. Thanks for being a great father, mentor and encourager. Your approach to the subject has put more fire in my bones and with each class, I gain new insights and perspectives. I am overhauling the entire pre-session work and I can promise that what you will be proud of what you will receive from me at the post session."
"I want to thank you for your prayers for me at the chapel this evening . . . If this is the only reason you came from South Africa, it is not a waste."
"May God bless you and continue to sustain you. Thank you again for your teachings, that have transformed my life."
 -- students in Doctoral Research Methods in Lome, Togo

"I have to admit that the Nairobi session was phenomenal. Thank you for the insights and your encouragement. "
"Dear Dr. Braswell, I greatly appreciate your help in making sure that me and my colleagues know the steps to follow in our research work. I cannot thank you enough."
 -- students in Doctoral Research Methods, Nairobi, Kenya

"Dr. Bob, Thank you so much for mentoring us. Your way of teaching was the best lesson of educational psychology for me."
"Thank you so much for being so honest and true. You really transformed my mind regarding teaching."
"It has been a privilege to learn from you. I have been inspired, challenged, and all I can say is thank you!"
 -- students in Educational Psychology, MA level, Cape Town

"This is an excellent course. It is very well structured and Uncle Bob is just excellent. He should always be teaching this course. Uncle Bob is the best."
"The manner in which the lecturer taught the course made it alive, steered a desire to teach one day."
"I appreciated Uncle Bob most. He brought another dynamic to the class. His experience and knowledge made classes excellent, fresh, exciting, worth every second."
 -- students in Principles of Teaching, BA level, Cape Town
​Of course, Jackie has taught more than I have and is in even greater demand as a teacher--these are just the classes for which I have the feedback close to hand. We are both grateful to God for the opportunity to teach students who are motivated to learn and who put what they are taught into practice. It is a great blessing to have had these opportunities, and we are grateful for the people God has used to make it financially possible for us to be here.

Thanks for standing with us. 

Bob and Jackie Braswell
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<![CDATA[Meditation on Psalm 1]]>Tue, 06 Jan 2015 12:36:01 GMThttp://www.bobandjackie.org/blog/meditation-on-psalm-1This morning I re-memorized Psalm 1 using a memory palace approach. But there were two value-added ideas or truths that I had never enjoyed before that made this a powerful word to me this morning (and, I hope, for the year to come and for my life from now on).

First, I was just reading over Jackie's shoulder as she was looking at a web page about missionary re-entry, things some former missionary had written about what she wished someone had told her when she came back to the USA. I guess I should look up the page and read it, but I only saw one bit of advice to returning missionaries flash by on the screen: "Give yourself permission to just be." I recognized it as good advice in that context, and if then, why not now? 

In reaction to this calming word, I recognize in myself the need to always be doing, and not just to do, but to do significantly. I find myself planning, even during days "off", what to do next. Especially around Christmas I begin to contemplate what I can do in the coming year that will make my life and my contribution more significant. All this doing, and planning to do, can be extremely tiring and even hopeless when it seems that my doing is not significant enough. May God give me wisdom and grace to give myself permission, whenever appropriate, to just be.

In reading the previous paragraph, I can't help but notice the self-absorption in the search for personal significance. What about bringing glory to God? And if that is the real goal, is it not possible that can happen better through being available for quiet times than always in a rush to do the next thing? May God help me to fully process this insight and make new habits that will help me conform to it.

There is a fear of not doing enough that gets immediately aroused by the impulse to rest. I have a to-do list with over 100 items on it that I tend to revisit daily, hoping to knock something off even during holidays. But I also know, from lying in several mornings during the holidays, that the fully rested cannot stay still. There is still motion and accomplishment ahead. May God help me, when I inevitably go beyond just being to doing, to do the right things in the right way to fulfill His purpose in me. 

So how does this tie to Psalm 1? This is the second value-added insight of the morning. The Waltke translation footnotes on the first verse (I was reading from _The Psalms as Christian Worship: A Historical Commentary_) show that "how blessed" in the Hebrew language and cultural setting would have meant "how rewarding is the life of" -- not just blessed as in happy or materially prosperous. A rewarding life is the very thing that has driven me to consider and reject quantities of possible New Year's resolutions. It is what I (maybe all of us?) seem to be hardwired to want. If I have been clever enough in my life to see that the money, sex, and power that many chase after are really means to this end and not ends in themselves, that hasn't helped much if I reach for the end without any means to achieve it. And I'm afraid I've made God, or at least religious endeavor, the means. Whenever God is the means rather than the end, idolatry is present. 

True as that may be, it is a bit of a false trail for today's meditation. I am hardwired to desire a rewarding life, and I believe also hardwired to find it in relationship with God. It is not, after all, idolatry to desire it, since He himself has given me the desire and He reveals the path to fulfilling it. The path is revealed in Psalm 1 as meditating on the law of I AM as a way of connecting to Him and getting in sync with Him, and rejecting the walking, standing, and sitting according to all the ways we try to substitute our own inner rules and urges for His.  The rewarding life I want is on offer, and He has provided the means.

Giving myself permission to "just be" has in it an echo of "I AM," not that I can become self-sufficient as He is but that my being is to be connected to His Being (and is not all about my doing). Giving myself permission to just be is an obedience to the first verse of Psalm 1. It forgoes the walking in bad counsel, standing in bad paths, and sitting with a bad attitude that marks the unrighteous. In verse 2, it is the connection to I AM, and not all my doing, that leads to the rewarding life.

What follows is Psalm 1, consciously not word-for-word but closely paraphrased from my memorization of the ESV, as shaped by the commentary mentioned above:
  1. How rewarding is the life of the man (or woman) who does not walk according to the counsel of the ungodly, or stand in the paths that sinners take, or sit and mock,
  2. But who delights in the law of I AM. He meditates on His law day and night.
  3. He will be like a tree planted by streams of water, which brings forth its fruit in season, and its leaf does not wither. Everything he does [has a fruit-from-the-root quality that] causes itself to prosper.
  4. Not so the wicked, who are like the chaff that the wind blows away.
  5. Therefore the wicked will not stand on the day of judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
  6. For I AM knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will end in destruction.

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<![CDATA[Thanks, and Declaration of Independence]]>Thu, 01 Jan 2015 13:07:19 GMThttp://www.bobandjackie.org/blog/thanks-and-declaration-of-independenceLet my first words of 2015 be, "Thank you!" Thank you for reading this, thank you for being a supporter, thank you for your prayers. 

I need to write this often, but it feels to me as if it wears thin. How many times can I expect anyone to come back to my web page to read it?

Beyond expressions of gratitude, which too easily become trite, it seems to me that many of the things I feel expected to write as a missionary are trite to start with. Frankly, although I love missions enough to become a missionary myself, I can't work up much interest in the kinds of reports most of us write. Do you really want to know how my Christmas in South Africa was different from the ones in the USA when our children were young? Do you want a report of the courses I taught since the last update, or how many times I preached in November and December? 

Actually, there may be a bit of interest in my preaching from a glowing smart phone in a darkened building two(?) weeks ago because the electric utility was rationing power, and that in spite of potential distractions someone (George) gave his heart to the Lord that morning. I myself love the story, but it seems quite comfortable in a single sentence and I don't know how to expand it into a blog post without doing it harm.

Writing about the daily flow of things is hard work for me, because I myself am not interested in reviewing my life at that level. And because it's hard work, I put it off and do something else. And that's why this website has not been updated in several months. I acknowledge that that needs to change.

When I write, I tend to be introspective and devotional. I write as if writing a sermon (usually to myself), or a love letter.  I don't put comments about the weather in a love letter. I have more pressing issues to discuss. And I feel the same way about writing missionary newsletters: can we skip to what matters?  

I know you have sent me here to do a work, and you need a report about the work, but the visible things I can report on are frankly of not much inherent interest. I am more concerned with things I don't know and can't see. I'm concerned about whether a beloved student (Lucien) who has graduated from our Bible school and is doing a great work is getting discouraged because of all the apathy he faces from those who should be his biggest supporters. I'm concerned about the students who have started, found studying to be hard work, and are asking themselves whether it is worthwhile to continue. I'm concerned about whether students who came to get a piece of paper making them graduates and socially more respectable can be caught by the transformative power of what they are currently letting themselves drift past. 

I'm preparing to teach a class in January that covers the Wisdom Literature, a section of the Old Testament that most students will have had relatively less exposure to and understanding of than other parts of the Bible. It is a great opportunity, but the textbooks have a tendency to emphasize facts about these books (authorship, date, similarity to other semitic writings, and so on) that could squeeze the very life out of it. There is enough truth and power in just one chapter to change everything, but if we all just do what is expected, nothing will change. Unless the Holy Spirit overturns our classroom and makes it His classroom, students will leave believing they know these books without ever knowing the power of these books. 

This is the reality: I don't know whether I'm succeeding. I can't write to you about all the good you have done by sending us here, because the verdict isn't in yet.  I admit defeat as a social media brand-building self-marketer because I can't be an upbeat reporter of nonessentials while keeping my focus on what I believe to be the essentials. I have come to the conclusion that it is enough for me to be myself, and to be that HERE for this season, and to hope and pray that God will make use of this in the lives of our students. 

So, I'm declaring independence from my self-inflicted rules about what goes in a missionary blog or newsletter. I resolve to be myself, with a little less filtering and a little more living out loud (this means you won't be getting much "news" unless Jackie writes it, but you might get to listen in when I'm preaching myself a sermon). I resolve to be more regular in expressing gratitude, and in asking for prayer.

Please pray for George and Lucien as mentioned above, and for Jackie and me right now as we are preparing lessons for the first semester of 2015. 

Thank you!

Bob

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<![CDATA[We Made It!]]>Tue, 12 Aug 2014 14:29:15 GMThttp://www.bobandjackie.org/blog/we-made-itAlthough we had not raised our full budget by the end of June, we were close enough that we were given permission to buy plane tickets for end of July. As the time approached, we fell into a whirlwind of activity that included continuing itineration travel on weekends, moving out of our house, preparing it to be rented out in our absence, packing the portion to be taken with us to Cape Town, and saying goodbye to family.

When end of July came, we got on the plane and made the trip. We left Springfield on a Tuesday afternoon and arrived in Cape Town on Thursday morning. Getting settled in our house on this side while battling jet lag kept us distracted for the first several days, but now we are almost in a workable routine -- and just in time for the new semester, which started yesterday.

After arriving here, we got a reminder from the home office that we are still $61 per month short of our budget.  We have come so far that this amount seems insignificant, but it is still a need. By policy, we may not be eligible to get our ordinary work expenses reimbursed until this detail is taken care of and we are eligible for "final budget clearance." If anyone feels God directing them to help us with this amount, or part of it, please let us know. 

The fourteen months in the USA seemed longer to us. At times it seemed impossible that we would make it back in time for this semester. We are grateful to God and to all those He used to help us get back where we know we belong for this season. Please join us in thanking God for his faithfulness as we celebrate another major milestone in our lives. We made it back for the beginning of another term of ministry!]]>
<![CDATA[Beyond the Myopic Imperative]]>Sat, 24 May 2014 05:55:30 GMThttp://www.bobandjackie.org/blog/beyond-the-myopic-imperativeThere is a constant pull on us, like gravity, to make us want to question whether there is a God, whether it makes sense to struggle to be good or to try to make a difference. Maybe we should just kick back and relax and enjoy life?

But in trying to enjoy ourselves we find ourselves in slavery to the most demanding slave-driver ever: our own appetites.

As Bob Dylan sang, "It may be the devil, or it may be the Lord, but you're gonna have to serve somebody."
When we set ourselves up as judge over pretty much everything (including whether there's a god who measures up to our standards), when we seek our own pleasure and happiness and fulfillment as the basic rule of our lives, we set ourselves up as our own little gods. If we ever take a break from frantically pursuing whatever it is we think we want and have a moment of clarity, we may well find that we have been serving the devil after all.

For all beat-up, worn out veterans of this war, weary of fighting to get free only to find ourselves slaves to our own selfishness, the Gospel of Jesus comes as shockingly good news:

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me--watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly. 
(Mat 11:28-30 MSG)


As Eugene Peterson sums it up, "The Christian is a person who recognizes that our real problem is not in achieving freedom but in learning service under a better master." (A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, p. 61)

Christians ought to be exemplary in demonstrating this principle of getting free by serving the right master, but there are two issues that obscure the Christians' advantage in the eyes of the world. 

First, at least in this life, we are not the only ones who have discovered the secret of living life well. I have known some very admirable atheists and agnostics who lived very attractive lives. These friends seem in retrospect to have had two things in common: they had disciplined habits (even if their philosophies didn't always seem to make self-control a virtue), and they were trying to save the whales or save the planet or save something (sometimes they were trying to save me). Even for those whose philosophy excludes purpose in the universe, who accept it all as just a big physics experiment with no experimenter to start it up, people can manage to find a personal sense of purpose by investing themselves in something bigger than themselves.

So the first problem in having Christians shine as examples of this principle is that some non-Christians are pretty shiny, and the second problem is that a lot of Christians aren't. There's a difference between knowing how this is supposed to work in the Christian life and actually making it work for ourselves. To quote Morpheus (The Matrix, 1999), "there is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path."
There are an awful lot of people who think of themselves as Christians who have been pulled off the path by the distractions along the way. They are meant to be people of the Book but have become people of the prevailing consumer culture. They are more influenced by media and advertising than by the life of Jesus. 

Though the mechanisms may be new, the problem is not -- Paul wrote about it:

There are many out there taking other paths, choosing other goals, and trying to get you to go along with them. I've warned you of them many times; sadly, I'm having to do it again. All they want is easy street. They hate Christ's Cross. But easy street is a dead-end street. Those who live there make their bellies their gods; belches are their praise; all they can think of is their appetites. But there's far more to life for us. We're citizens of high heaven! We're waiting the arrival of the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ, who will transform our earthy bodies into glorious bodies like his own. He'll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which he is putting everything as it should be, under and around him. 
(Php 3:18-21)

Joy and purpose and hope are found in waiting for, working for, and cooperating with the right Master. But they are found as side effects, not as objects of our primary focus. Even pursuit of joy and purpose can lead us astray if we are seeking them to satisfy some inner urge, some psychic appetite -- just another flavor of the myopic imperative that insists on serving me.  ]]>
<![CDATA[Latest Newsletter]]>Fri, 16 May 2014 20:32:36 GMThttp://www.bobandjackie.org/blog/latest-newsletterOur latest newsletter was just announced to our email mailing list today and will go to our hard copy list on Monday. If you didn't get the email, you can catch up by viewing it here. Please sign up here to get future emails as they come out.

The first link above takes you to the PDF version of the newsletter, which can be viewed online or downloaded and printed.  You can always find our archived newsletters on our Newsletters page

If you want hard copies of our newsletters routinely mailed to you, please let us know via the Contact page.]]>
<![CDATA[10 Ideas from Wise Leaders]]>Fri, 16 May 2014 20:15:41 GMThttp://www.bobandjackie.org/blog/10-ideas-from-wise-leadersHow about stealing some ideas from a guy who stole them from a FB post who stole them from a blog by a guy who stole them from some really smart leaders?  Yeah, I thought so.

 http://thomrainer.com/2014/04/08/10-ideas-wise-leaders/
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<![CDATA[Waiting]]>Sun, 13 Apr 2014 02:50:37 GMThttp://www.bobandjackie.org/blog/waitingWe arrived back in the USA in May, 2013. We had to find funds to replace some attrition, plus new support for additional cost of living and growth in the ministry obligations. For some months after we got back, our efforts didn't seem to be generating support, to the point that we began to question if God was trying to tell us something.

We struggled through and somewhere around the beginning of Feb. felt we got a word from the Lord that we were still on the right track to be itinerating for our return to Cape Town. But we didn't get any clear answer about God's timing, which remains a mystery. 

After the answer from God, funds started coming in, but we still haven't reached our budget and we are running out of time, given our school schedule in Cape Town. God's timing is still a mystery: I know He is never late but seldom early. I just wish I knew which deadline to apply that to.  

An excerpt of what I journaled during devotions the other morning:

Right now our return to Africa has something akin to the Rapture about it. We believe it will happen, but feel compelled by daily realities to live as if it probably won't happen right away. This feels wrong to me.

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<![CDATA[We need to get back]]>Sat, 12 Apr 2014 04:54:10 GMThttp://www.bobandjackie.org/blog/we-need-to-get-backJackie's comments, in reply to an email asking her to teach three courses in South Africa beginning in July:

God knows when we will be back. We are praying and expecting that it will be in time for the [June] MA session, but it looks pretty much impossible--but God does work miracles, and he can do it! Our next mental deadline is by the middle of July so we can start teaching/etc. again. Right now I want you to plan for us to be back in time to teach next semester. Is that the wisest thing for you to do? I think so, because I really believe God will help us get back. Why would he ask us to go to South Africa and then not open up the way financially in the timeframe in which we are needed?
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