Activity here in St. Phillips, Swaziland tends to come as either feast or famine: either there is a chaotic rush of things that need to be done, or there is absolutely nothing going on. That not only applies to the work of the mission, but also to weekends.
My Saturday started at 6:30am (sleeping in for us) so we could get the twins ready to return to their homestead. Then I had about a 45 minute round trip commute to drop them off. Most of the day for Beth Mikayla and I ran was comprised of a trip into town to look at a potential vehicle to purchase. During the day we purchased beds for the hostel, visited a home improvement store (which was a huge find for us!), met a family from the US, test drove a vehicle, stopped for lunch, found our mechanic was gone for the day so the whole trip was a bit fruitless, drove to the entrance of a game park (and saw impalas), returned the vehicle, went shopping at a new grocery store (also a big deal!), and picked up pizza. Reviewing the day’s accomplishments though, we had to admit that all we achieved was purchasing a few things (most notably a hand-held shower head!), eating pizza, and spending 6-7 hours in single cab truck to do it. Eish… even our days off are busy.
To compensate, we have tried to "achieve" a lazy Sunday here on the mission. Sure, I have a few hours of work to do (Annual Progress Report for PEPFAR – US tax dollars at work), but most of the time has been just hanging out, eating, making cookies, playing wii, and a family walk through the bush near our house.
Since busy work does not make for interesting photo ops, I wanted to post a few pictures from our Bush Walk:
Mikayla posing in front of some season flowers along the road.
I have been working with Cabrini for about a month now and have really been in the mix of things since the beginning. One of the things that I have noticed about my work is that nearly everything I do could either be seen as incredibly romantic/heroic or incredibly mundane. I will leave it up to you to decide which it is:
I drove all around the country tracking down medicine so that AIDS patients can live another day -or- I spent all day running errands and getting lost because no buildings are labeled.
I helped secure hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant money. -or- I spent all day rearranging documents so they met the US Government templates.
We nursed two TB-positive twins who were dying of malnutrition back to health. -or- We agreed to change poopy diapers again and clean up messes after meal time.
I oversaw the installation of a multi-site, comprehensive data network. -or- I called our our computer to guy to ask why he hadn’t installed the router yet.
We moved from a comfortable house in the States to the most desolate place in Swaziland. -or- We cut our living expenses by 90% and still live very comfortably.
My salary puts me well below the poverty level in the United States -or- My salary puts me in the top 5% of Swazi earners
I am a missionary in Africa. -or- I spend most of my day doing paperwork for a growing organization.
The longer I am here, the more I realize that even in Swaziland, we still deal with the same issues, struggle with the same questions, and measure ourselves by the same standards. Sure, things are much different than what I experienced on a daily basis in the States, but at the end of the day, it is all how you look at it.
It is early Friday morning here in Swaziland. I am still a bit jetlagged from the trip over here and figured rather than fighting sleep, I would get up and be productive by writing a quick update.
Being back in Swaziland is a unique feeling because even though it is very foreign compared in my daily life in the US (especially here in the bush), it feels very familiar.
My travels over here were thankfully uneventful. My plane got delayed in Nashville, but I had a long layover in DC and it didn’t cause a problem. The flight from DC to Johannesburg (via Dakar) seemed to go by quicker this time, even though we had a backup plane without all the in-flight entertainment systems. I had a reserved a seat with extra leg room, but because of the plane change, it didn’t work out. Luckily, the seat next to me was vacant so I could spread out a bit more.
Once I got to Jo-burg I spent the evening in a guesthouse right near the airport and it worked out great. Unfortunately, even though I had a 13 hour layover, I still was only able to catch a few hours of sleep because of the jetlag and an early morning flight. I was surprised how easy it was to get through customs and airport security in Africa compared to the states. One of the security agents actually got frustrated with me because I was taking off my belt and watch – he insisted I just go on through. The flight from Jo-burg to Manzini was incredibly short (35 minutes in the air) and has me rethinking whether its worth it to drive that last leg when we come in July or if we should just bite the bullet and fly.
When I arrived in Swaziland the customs agent gave me a hard time for bringing in 50 pounds of children’s underwear. They wanted to charge me duty on it, but luckily after I filled out the forms they just waived me through and forgot about the whole thing. I was then met by a nurse who is currently volunteering at Cabrini. Besides just coming into town to pick me up (its a 1.5 hour drive to Manzini and 2 hours to Mbabane), she also had to get her visa renewed. So, we went to one of the government building to see an immigration agent. All I can say is that if you think there is crazy bureaucracy and inefficiencies in American government… you haven’t seen anything. After waiting nearly an hour, the nurse I was with was told she couldn’t have her visa renewed in town, and instead would have to cross the border and return to get it updated.
Because I didn’t want to risk having my luggage go through customs again and because I didn’t want to have more pages in my passport taken up, I asked to be dropped off. Luckily I was able to reconnect with Jon Skinner, one of the guys we met with last trip, and he went out of his way to give me a place to hang out while the nurse crossed the border.
On the way back to St. Phillips we picked up one of the ladies who works in the office and took care of a few errands. Then, on the last stretch of dirt road we ran into Sister Barbara who was heading into town. She is one of the nuns in charge of Cabrini Ministries, and I had actually yet to meet her. Unfortunately she was in a hurry and needed the vehicle we were driving. So, after a few quick greetings, we exchanged the plush SUV we were in for a small truck. Because of space limitations, I ended up riding in the back.
The whole journey from Bowling Green to Cabrini encompassed about 48 hours of travel! Thankfully we had a pretty open schedule when I arrived because jetlag hit me hard. I ended up going about 56 hours straight on less than 4 hours of sleep. The only major thing we had besides a quick orientation was a 2 hour discussion with one of the community elders about the history of Cabrini, Swaziland and local customs. It was very fascinating, but I felt horrible because it was all I could do to not nod off. That night we ate an excellent curry meal and I retired to bed early.
Thursday was my first full day at Cabrini and up until that point I still didn’t have a great idea of what exactly I was doing in Swaziland. It is not because things are disorganized, instead it is that so much is going on, there isn’t always time to explain everything. Turns out my big task here this week is to figure out how we are going to handle the finances of Cabrini once our accountant leaves. Looks like we will have two office workers handling the day-to-day transactions and another professional accountant in Australia who will handle the technical stuff. I will probably end up serving as the liaison and keeping an eye on the big picture – but, we won’t know the specifics until later in the week.
Most of my day on Thursday was actually spent working on an upcoming grant application through Health and Human Services and the Center for Disease Control. Basically we have less than a week to turn around this application for $50,000. The rest of the office staff had a board meeting to attend to, so they left me and the accountant from Australlia to figure out the grant on our own. It was certainly a "baptism by fire" sort of thing as we wrote up a narrative and budget for a program that neither of us fully understand. We will find out today how far off we were. Either was helpful because it forced us to work through many old proposals that gave us a good feel for what was currently going on and for the direction we are trying to expand into.
Today we will heading into the two largest cities (Mbabane and Manzini) to meet with some of our supporters. Should be a good trip. I am looking forward to meeting up with Todd Malone from PACT again. Todd is actually the guy who convinced us to go visit Cabrini and had lots of solid advice on working through our move. Saturday is set aside as more of relaxing day and I am not sure what Sunday has for us. Starting Monday, we will really hit the finances hard and work on a transition plan.
As I am wrapping up this post, I wanted to give you a quick note about communication. Right now I have my swazi cell phone (268 7683 3330), but service has been intermitted. Beth has only been able to reach me on my phone once out of probably 20 attempts and text messages are not going through. I can call out, but it costs me about $1.00 a minute. Also, my plans to limited access to internet have fallen through. The 3G USB modem I have works fine, but I have not been able to get my SIM card approved for data usage. Hopefully that will get worked out soon, but for now I don’t have access to internet. (I am writing this post in advance hoping we find some wireless that I can use and post it).
I will try and keep you posted as things unfold, but realistically, my communication abilities are much more limited than I expected.
It has been a long time since something has really gotten my blood boiling, but at 1:00 in the morning while I waiting on videos to render I came across this video.
Let me give a disclaimer first. I have always approached Mark Driscoll with some hesitancy. Most of the time I don’t disagree with what he is saying, but I do question his delivery. To put it simply, I tend to put the emphasis different things.
That being said, this commentary on gender roles is completely out of line and personally offensive. In case you don’t know, I am currently a stay-at-home dad and this was a decision Beth and I did not take lightly, but are completely happy and at peace with the decision.
Okay, enough with the disclaimers — on to the video:
Lets start with delivery before we dive into the deeper points. I am convinced Mark thinks he is a better pastor if he drives people out of his church. He seems to take an arrogant pleasure in the fact that some of the stuff he is saying will piss people off and cause them to leave (by the way… this seems to be par for the course.) I am sure he would say he is sticking to his guns in the face of a fickle society. Don’t get me wrong, Christians need to be unwavering on some issues and refuse to compromise. However, even on issues that stand at the core of Christian belief, there is no need to enter the conversation by speaking down to those who hold opposing views. There is no room for discussion or clarification. For Driscoll, this is how it is and everyone else can go to hell. It is one thing if he takes this attitude on things like the divinity of Christ, but he is talking about stay-at-home dads here. If I remember correctly (and I too have read the whole Bible) there is no definitive passage addressing the evils of stay-at-home dadding, so we are all forced to interpret secondarily what the witness of scripture is.
Continuing with my critique of Driscoll’s tone, I must call him out for on some of the offensive things he said (and implies). First, I think it is clear that Driscoll thinks all stay-at-home dads are deadbeats. Forget his theological rational, his argument revolves around an assumption that it is not manly to stay at home. Furthermore, he basically says that men suck at nurturing. That may be the case for him, as he clearly admits, but lets not paint with too broad of a brush. His statements about men not being cut out for the job of staying at home relies on stereotypes, is short-sighted and is offensive to those who do a great job (may I point to my man Lee Fowlkes.) Furthermore, he builds his case on the assumption that women cannot adequately provide. These comments are not based on biblical exegesis, but on ignorance. If he wanted to make statements about the topic from a (conservative) biblical viewpoint he could have said something like “The bible outlines certain roles each gender should follow. To deviate from those is a sin.” Saying that would have been more biblically based without conveying arrogance, ignorance or hate. The bible does not give him the right to judge the effectiveness of males parenting/nurturing skills.
Now, on to his arguments. Driscoll bases most of his discussion his interpretation of 1 Timothy 5:8
If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
He has taken the phrase “does not provide for his relatives” to mean the “a man should be the breadwinner.” But be careful here and go back and read the verse. Is it addressed to men? No! The verse says “anyone” who does not provide for his relatives… So a wife not providing is as bad as a husband. This is bolstered when you realize this whole segment of 1 Timothy is addressing how to care for widows. Paul addresses gender roles, but he doesn’t do it here. Even if you take traditional approach to Christian gender roles and insist on the male being the head of the household, you must admit scripture does not say the man must bring home the bacon.
Since Driscoll is a man who values “The Word” lets take a look at the word. In 1 Timothy the word for provide is pronoeoand has nothing to do with providing physically. Instead, it implies thinking ahead (pro=before) and planning. It is used 3 times in the NT and tends to carry an administrative nuance. So even if this did apply to directly and only to men (which it doesn’t), a first year seminary student could tell you the exegesis doesn’t allow for a reading that points primarily to providing physically. Driscoll says “if you are an able bodied man it is your job to provide for the needs of your family” and then he goes on to talk about work and material provision. Where is he getting this, because he sure didn’t get it out 1 Timothy. He is clearly reading what he wants to into the text. Even if we throw the greek (and context) out, we must admit that “providing for a family” is a multi-faceted thing. A father could provide all the money in the world, but if he is not taking his turn changing diapers, he is worse than an unbeliever (sarcasm intended). If anything, American fathers need to know that God calls them to provide holistically for their families. The last thing we need is more distant fathers.
“If our father is our basis for God, and our fathers abandoned us, then what does that tell you about God?” – Tyler Durden in Fight Club
Okay… lets look a bit deeper at how he chooses to answer the question. The question was “What are your thoughts on stay-at-home dads if the mother really wants / needs to work.” His answer reveals his convictions on gender roles. Not only does he speak out against men staying home while women work, he makes it clear he believes a woman’s place is at home.
Personally, if a woman wants that, I think its a great option. BUT… it is not the only option. Again, even if you go into a discussion of gender roles, we have to understand what scripture says and doesn’t say. It clearly does not say a woman should stay at home with the kids. Driscoll bashes the “culturally relevant” argument, but in doing so he neglects the social situation of the day. Thank God we have come a long way as a society and women now have choices and are not considered property. Lets not adopt an archaic social structure (i.e. slavery) just because scripture addresses that cultural circumstance. But again, that is not even relevant because scripture is silent on whether women should stay at home. But I digress… I want to return to affirm women who choose to stay at home. I think this is a much better option than paying someone else to raise your children. Likewise, if women do work, I think that is a perfectly fine model as well — as long as your family is being cared for.
Lets return to Driscoll’s argument and something his wife says: “”It is hard to respect a man who does not provide…we need to take the word seriously.” While I agree it would be hard to respect a man who does not care for his family, lets not forget “the word” does not use this phrase to address material, but actually care and foresight. She then quotes Titus and Paul’s words to this young missionary. Again, if we look at the context, Paul is giving some suggestions on what to teach to a new church. There is one phrase in chapter 2 that says “women should be busy at home.” Now… is there enough in those 6 words to base your entire post-marriage career path on? I think not. Can a woman (or man) be busy at home and have a job. Absolutely. Just ask my wife!
Lets end on a Driscolls closing. He says there is nothing in scripture that allows for this sort of family structure. First, I would also point out there is nothing in scripture that clearly lays out the structure he insists on (mother at home, dad bringing home the bacon). But more importantly, I would disagree with him. We do have a model of this. Check out Lydia in Acts 16:
Lydia’s Conversion in Philippi
11From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day on to Neapolis. 12From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.
13On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.
40After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and encouraged them. Then they left.
The text clearly shows a woman working outside the house. The household is identified by her name rather than her husband’s and she is in a prestigious business. I will grant a couple points: She was not a christian when described as working, it is possible her husband is dead / she is not married. However, what I find important here is that the text is neutral and does not paint Lydia’s work outside the home as a bad thing.
Lets get personal for a second. Beth and made the decision together for me to be a stay-at-home dad. We realized that we could provide for our family best if she worked and I stayed home. We are not giving into cultural trends, we are biblically asking how we can best provide and following through. Let me say this too. Beth is not working just so she can make the money to sustain the family. She is working because the job she has allowed for more ministry than anything I could get. Plus, it freed me up to engage in ministry of my own that I would not be able to do if I was working full time. Forget killing two birds with one stone, we just took out a flock of geese with a boulder: Beth can minister as a teacher, I can minister during the day, Mikayla is raised primarily by her parents, financially we can give more to charity and the church…. and the list goes on.
Driscoll’s conclusion to the question asked is very direct: unless there are extreme circumstances, it is outside God’s will for a man to be a stay-at-home dad. He even goes as far as saying such an action would require church discipline. Once again, I must ask… on what grounds? It is so frustrating to hear his pastor rail so heavily on the importance of the scripture, yet when you take even cursory glance at his arguments you realize his preconceived views are more heavily at play than the authority of scripture. We aren’t even discussing interpretation of difficult passages. Driscoll is ignoring the context and running with a flawed ideal.
This is not just about me getting my feelings hurt. This man is calling into question the career and family life of a significant number of godly people. Heaven forbid godly men and women abandon their life just because some pastor misreads (or ignores) the implications of Scripture. If Beth and I were to act on his advice and take up his model for a godly family, we would be living on less, giving less, Mikayla would have less time with her parents, Beth would leave a job she loves and I would have to take a job I hate, our opportunities for ministry would decrease and our stress would increase. Is that really the biblical ideal of providing for one’s family. I think not.
I would leave his church over statements like this (and perhaps that would only stoke his ego) because I think they are dangerous and ignorant.
Beth and I are not ignoring the call of God, we are embodying it. We are not clinging to culture and rejecting biblical truth, we are clinging to godliness and rejecting naivety and closemindedness.
Thankfully, after writing over 2000 words on the matter my blood pressure has returned to normal and maybe I can get some sleep. 😉
*I found this video while searching for stay-at-home dad blogs. HT to athomedaddy.