Nigel Ring on July 16th, 2014

A new Index
For many years one basis on which poverty is assessed has been people living on less than $1.25 or $2 per day. But this is a very ‘blunt’ way of measuring poverty as the value of $2 varies from one economy to another and also finance is not the only measure of real poverty.

Recently I joined a live-stream seminar organised by the Overseas Development Institute in the UK which launched a new Multi-dimensional Poverty Index (MPI). This does not replace the economic one with which we are familiar but complements it. To me this made a lot of sense since it is far more indicative of the life issues that really define poverty. It has been developed in the Oxford Department of International Development, part of Oxford University.

They use three Dimensions of Poverty – Health, Education and Living Standard. Each of these is subdivided into a total of ten Indicators:

Health –

      Nutrition,
      Child Mortality

Education –

      Years of Schooling
      School Attendance

Living Standard –

      Cooking Fuel
      Improved Sanitation
      Safe Drinking Water
      Electricity
      Flooring
      Assets

Each of these Indicators is weighted to produce the MPI.

Tracking progress in Poverty Reduction
Since this is a far more sensitive indicator of poverty it is easier to track those nations which are making progress in poverty reduction. Very full charts and diagrams were shared to show how some of the 34 nations so far monitored are improving in their poverty reduction, whether in quantity of people affected or levels of poverty. Within these 34 nations they studied 338 sub-national regions which encompassed 2.5 billion people, about one third of the world population.

Many data were presented using the same ten indicators such as Urban v Rural Poverty, Destitution v $1.25/day poverty.

Because this is a more sensitive indicator than the traditional one it allows programmes to be focussed more easily on poverty reduction eg by focussing on some aspect of health or education. It then provides the ability to monitor progress.

It is clearly impossible to present all aspects of this new MPI in a short blog posting. For those involved in poverty reduction at the extremes of poverty I strongly recommend a deeper exploration of this valuable tool through the above links. It is well worth watching the seminar through the ODI link above or through the Oxford Department of International Development  website, which allows you to select the particular speakers making presentations on video. The ODID website


also has a very wide range of data that is available to interrogate and download about nations of your choosing.

 

Footnote:
Because we are entering the summer holiday period in UK this will be my last posting until September.

 

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Nigel Ring on July 9th, 2014

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Lost relations, lost homes, lost livelihoods
The typhoon which received wide publicity towards the end of 2013 caused devastation to many thousands of people as it swathed through the central part of the Philippines. Many lost loved ones, their homes and their livelihoods. Many in the family of Newfrontiers of churches around the world made generous contributions. Some sent donations direct to the Philippines others contributed to an appeal fund launched through this blog which raised over £33,000. Thank you!

Fresh hope
In May Mike Irving made a visit to the affected area. Mike serves Peter Brooks in Australia as he brings oversight to the ministry in the Philippines. Here is his encouraging Report which was published on the Pacific Rim website. I hope you will be encouraged that your donations have been well spent!

Thank you for your support and for standing with our brothers and sisters. It is hoped that in due course a new church will be started out of this tragedy.

 


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Nigel Ring on June 28th, 2014

The Book
I have now shared with you the burden of my heart in helping people to find their place of service in the church. As I have already mentioned the material is embodied in the 100 page book Discover and Serve. This includes not only the teaching but all the materials you need to run a course in your church, including extensive Appendices which can be photocopied, and is available from me at £5.99 plus postage.

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The Course
The best way to run the course is over a 3-week period, probably in the evenings. There needs to be time for ‘homework’ between each session. On each occasion there is teaching about different aspects of serving and the unique characteristics and qualities a person has to offer, as we have discussed with the Serving Profile. At the end of the evening there should be personal prayer, typically in pairs of participants with another one or two people who join them for this purpose to help guide them and listen to the Holy Spirit. They then go away with assignments for the following week.

The course ends with a personal ‘interview’, for perhaps an hour, with one or two supportive people to help discern what opportunities there are for service. Often in these sessions other issues arise that may be helpful to follow through on a separate occasion.

I am highly motivated about this course! It would be a privilege to lead one in your church if you feel I can be of help. Please contact me on feeding5000isnopicnic@gmail.com if you would like to discuss this or order a book.

Conclusion
I hope this long series has been both informative and an encouragement. May God bless you as you implement the teaching and apply it either personally or in your church.

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Nigel Ring on May 27th, 2014

kenya-turkanaNot yet halfway through the drought…
A few weeks ago I publicised the drought that was being experienced in Turkana, North Kenya, together with the impact Edward Buria and the Newfrontiers churches were making to help in alleviating the situation. I have just received this update. The situation continues to be very serious. No rain is expected until October, at the earliest, so on-going help is needed for at least another 6 months.

The fund is still open. If you wish to make a donation contact  paul.wright@tkc.org.uk of the Kings Church, Mid-Sussex who is coordinating the appeal.

Edward’s Report
‘Drought of death in Turkana’ is the only way I can describe the on-going and prolonged drought in Turkana that set in a famine not witnessed in the last 70 years. Its sadly claimed dozens of lives, thousands of livestock and is making life in Turkana, West Pokot and parts of Samburu completely unbearable.

I have been leading a team from Meru that joined up our Turkana teams that are composed of our Pastors as we continue with the intervention programs that started at the beginning of this year and which will go on to sometime in November 2014.

We have been giving out relief supplies every other fortnight to around 500 – 600 families (representing close to 3000 souls altogether). We have been forced to include supply of powdered milk alongside unimix (all children) supplements as children are at very high risk of easily succumbing to the effects of famine and the extreme hot climate that at times goes beyond 43°c.

Relief supplies distribution in progress

Relief supplies distribution in progress

Our latest visit, badly affected me as I listened to very sad stories of the numbers of those who have already died due to the crisis, thousands of livestock have also been lost as well as the general life of these dear people has completely been made unbearable. The story is the same from one village to the next. In some places, things have been worsened by cattle rustling from neighbouring communities who also have not been spared by the effects of the drought/famine.

In one of our churches, hearing stories of the effects of the crisis

In one of our churches, hearing stories of the effects of the crisis

It is clear that we will have to continue the relief supplies intervention up to October/November when we hope at least rains (hopefully) will arrive. In the midst of all this, it is a great encouragement to see how the fish project continues to supplement our relief support as fish is supplied to the needy families especially near Lake Turkana. Talking with the pastors and leaders on how best we can continue with the relief / sustenance programmes, it becomes clear to me that investing more in the fish project is very feasible.

One of the motorbikes we issued transporting fish to the needy families

One of the motorbikes we issued transporting fish to the needy families

As funds become available, we will:-

(1) Purchase 2 more motorboats (as they can launch into the deep parts of the lake where there is sufficient fish)

(2) Purchase 4 motorbikes (to help supply fish both to the needy families as well as taking the balance to Lodwar market for selling)

(3) Purchase 2 new sets of quality fishing nets to make the 5 boats free to go fishing at different times

(4) Since we noticed children have been badly affected, we are being forced to increase on children products i.e. powdered milk (we have not been supplying this in the past visits but has now become necessary), Unimix and in the more severe cases, supply immediate high energy biscuits for immediate supply of energy to the affected children

Edward issuing powdered milk & other relief supplies to children

Edward issuing powdered milk & other relief supplies to children

(5) The other relief supplies remain as follows:-

(i) Water
(ii) Sugar
(iii) Maize flour
(iv) Cooking fat
(v) Beans
(vi) Maize

(6) We have been able to identify OVCs (Orphans and Vulnerable Children) with the intention of sponsorship and mentorship. This is a great opportunity of breaking the vicious cycle of poverty and permanently changing the lives of these marginalised people. It is an objective that I am so passionate about.

We continue to thank all those who have partnered with us in the last 4 months because this partnership has enabled hundreds of families to remain alive and have hope rekindled. The remaining months of the year will be more difficult and challenging as we get into the dry season – This is when we ask for more prayers.

God bless you,

Your brother and friend,

Edward

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screen-shot-2013-06-25-at-1436435The final part of our Serving Profile considers Temperament and Spiritual Maturity.

Temperament
This has already been considered in Part 27. People are asked to indicate where they feel they come in considering the following statements by placing X in the box at the appropriate point along the 4-point scale.

1. I prefer working on a project/with people.
2. When carrying out a task I am a better sprinter (i.e. short term motivation)/long-distance runner.
3. When considering a situation I see the detail/broad concepts.
4. I am a better initiator/responder.
5. When carrying out a task I work better alone/in a team.
6. I prefer to act spontaneously/with pre-planning.

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The results of this help when considering what part they might play in a team as their particular temperament can complement other team members’ temperaments.

Spiritual Maturity
This too has been thoroughly dealt with as a concept. In practical terms, when looking for serving opportunities, it is important to consult with an individual’s pastoral oversight to ensure that any proposed role is suitable for that person at the particular stage of growth he or she may have reached. Serving can be a great vehicle for developing maturity but it can also crush some people. Wise oversight would be able to give some direction about this.

Conclusion
Two of the measures of any churches success are seen first in the leadership’s ability to develop and release their people into fruitful ministry and second in the serving attitude of the membership. We are a privileged people whom God has called to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. This begins in the Jerusalem of our locality, extends into the environs around that area and then may go to other nations.

I believe passionately that God has given to any local expression of his church all that that church needs to fulfil this commission. The primary vehicle he uses is the people. My prayer is that the series we have been sharing together will contribute to making your church fitter and more effective in fulfilling what God has called you to do.

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screen-shot-2013-06-25-at-1436431As we continue to develop the Serving Profile we shall now take three aspects that are closely related.

Calling, Heart’s Desire
There is often a strong link between Calling and Heart’s Desire. We have already seen how some people are passionate about a specific issue or have a strong sense of specific calling. Others may be more laid back and have seen their calling as more general if, indeed, they have defined it at all. To help people think this through there is another simple self-assessment form I use which gives people the opportunity to reflect prayerfully on any area that God might reveal to them. It also allows them to consider their strengths and weaknesses.

screen-shot-2014-04-16-at-1608362Self-assessment
As people meet with their facilitators this assessment form provides a very helpful basis for discussion and prayer. It helps people to focus on possibilities that represent their interests and, in prayer, to ask God for clarification and direction. Further, it gives an opportunity to discuss strengths and weaknesses. A neutral person can be particularly encouraging here by helping identify these with perceptive questioning. He may also be able to suggest ways of building on or correcting them, as appropriate.

Time
The final part of this form addresses the issue of Time. Once again, through discussion it is possible to assess realistically how much time a person has available to serve in the church while not neglecting other important areas of life. This could relate to a regular day (e.g. one Sunday in three), time given while at home (e.g. preparation for teaching children) or to helping with an event (e.g. a week during school holidays). There are many possibilities which can be considered in discussion.

It is important here to combine faith with pragmatics. Some either over-commit, and then find they either let others down by being unable to meet this commitment, or they aim too low, and never fully enjoy the privilege of serving in a sacrificial capacity.

Next time we shall look briefly at Temperament and Spiritual Maturity.

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Nigel Ring on May 9th, 2014

Last year I published two reports about the excellent Dihlabeng School on the South Africa/Lesotho border. I have now just received a request to publicise an opportunity for a teacher to join this school. If you have opportunity to publicise this in your church I should be grateful if you would do so.

Are you a qualified teacher?

Do you have a call on your life to serve the poor and bring hope to the hopeless?

If so, here is an opportunity to be a part of the exciting things God is doing through the church in Africa.

Dihlabeng Christian School in Clarens, South Africa, needs qualified Key Stage 1 and 2 teachers to start January 2015. The posts are suitable for qualified Christian teachers, either male or female – those who feel that God is calling them to work with the poor and materially disadvantaged and who want the opportunity to impact young lives for eternity with the hope of the gospel.

The school works with children aged 4 years to 14 years, the majority of whom come from the local township community. We seek to lovingly nurture those in our care – academically, spiritually and emotionally.

If this excites you and is just the opportunity you’ve been waiting for then please contact Margaret Grant at margaretg@intekom.co.za or at dihlabengschool@intekom.co.za as soon as possible with your CV.

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screen-shot-2013-06-25-at-143643What is a Serving Profile?
We shall be constructing a Profile which will provide the basis of a prayerful discussion with the two facilitators to help find a satisfying and fulfilling place to serve in the church. It has the seven elements we have been considering throughout this series:

• Skills/Talents
• Spiritual Gifts
• Calling
• Heart’s Desire
• Temperament
• Time
• Spiritual maturity

Skills and Talents
There is, of course, a huge range of possible skills and talents to consider; that is inevitable since we are made in the image of an infinite Creator! If you were to list all the types of employment people have in your church and then add their interests and recreational activities you would find an awesome variety of possibilities. In our church we have teachers, computer programmers, train drivers, postmen, doctors, social workers, office workers etc. The list goes on and on. Then there are some people who, in their recreational time, are very creative: dress-making, furniture building, gardening etc. Others are keen sportsmen and women: running, sailing, team games. I even have one friend who is fascinated by historical battles and will re-fight them with model soldiers! He is also a keen amateur actor which gives him much contact with unchurched people.

screen-shot-2014-04-16-at-160836So, as you come to the end of teaching the section on Skills and Talents you could either ask people to write down their particular skills and interests or give them a pre-prepared checklist to help them think through some options. On occasion I have used such a questionnaire and have given people the option of highlighting any new skills they would be interested in learning. This gives the potential of people training others to enrich their lives. In the book Discover and Serve I have included an extensive list as an appendix. This gives the options for people to offer to serve or to request training in a particular area. This book is available through the email address in the side panel for £5.99 + postage.

Spiritual Gifts
This element of the Profile has taken the major part of this series; that is appropriate being the tool-kit God has particularly given to advance the kingdom. But the list of nearly thirty gifts is daunting and contains both those that are conspicuously ‘spiritual’, such as prophecy and word of knowledge, and others that have a lower profile and are thus less easily recognised, such as hospitality or the gift of mercy.

I have found that a pseudo-psychometric exercise can be helpful here. This is neither scientific nor rigorous but can help someone ‘home in’ on their particular gifts. It often helps people to recognise that although they may have thought they had little to offer they have in fact a very precious gift to contribute to helping other people; this is, after all, the main purpose of spiritual gifts. Gifts are given by God to edify and build up the church to be more effective in ministry.

The exercise consists of nearly 200 statements (which are also given in an appendix of the book) and people are asked to rate each one on a four-point scale according to how closely they feel it applies to them. Then through transferring these scores to a grid and totalling the results the top two or three gifts become identified. It is so encouraging to see people’s faces when they realise that gifts they may have taken for granted, such as encouragement, could in fact be significant indicators of how they can serve in the church. It also releases people from feeling that they need to be like someone else; there is no shame in not scoring highly on any particular gift or gift mix. God has provided others in the church to complement our gifts in the body of believers so that the majority of gifts are available to the church through the various members. Indeed, we can be confident that God has provided all that are needed to fulfil His mission for the church.

What Gifts do you think I have?
It is so important to help identify someone’s spiritual gifts that I use a second vehicle; this also brings strong encouragement and affirmation. I ask each person to hand a very easily completed leaflet to two close and trusted people – typically a spouse or close friends. In this leaflet there are six questions with simple explanations related to the person’s spiritual maturity and giftedness. This gives a very helpful external evaluation of a person’s spiritual gifts, whether these are well developed and regularly used or are still needing to be encouraged, in which case training in their use would be helpful.

We shall continue to consider this Serving Profile in the next posting.

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Nigel Ring on April 30th, 2014

screen-shot-2013-06-25-at-143643Application
Over recent months we have seen how valuable it can be to identify the elements of someone’s personality, gifting and availability in determining how they may best serve in the church. But how do we apply this practically?

Holy Spirit leading
First, and most important, what is the Holy Spirit saying to an individual? It would be easy to become somewhat administrative in trying to identify someone’s ‘best fit’ for serving but that should not be the first route of discovery. Administration can be vulnerable to focusing on the task before the individual. The danger of this is that one can just be looking for volunteers to get a job done. I hate this! Hearing leaders ask for volunteers to get a job done tells me that they are more concerned about the task than about the individual, and the need to help that individual develop his or her potential. Of course, this is acceptable for a ‘one off’ job, but not for a sustained ministry like teaching the children.

Some need help to get started
Nevertheless, some people, particularly younger believers, do need helping along this journey of discovery. We shall look at some systematic ways of helping such people to identify suitable areas of service, but this must always be in an atmosphere of prayer. God can reveal to a person where he wants them to serve and this is the best way forward; we are all called to walk in obedience.

Loving support
We give this support in the context of a relaxed meeting for perhaps an hour between the church member and two people who can help draw out from an individual what the key issues are. It should be a very positive time and unhurried. Through discussion and praying together, asking God for direction, we often see people released to be what God intended them to be, finding a satisfying and fulfilling place to serve.

This meeting takes place after people have attended the Discover and Serve course. Through this course people can learn about the different aspects we have been considering in this series such as the place of spiritual gifts in serving; teaching helps achieve this. The same is true of all aspects of the Serving Profile we have been developing; people’s faith needs to be raised to recognise that everyone has a place to serve and this course helps them on their journey of discovery.

No exceptions
Serving is something we are all called to do. As we have seen earlier there should be no passengers in the church or, to mix the analogy, since we are all soldiers in an army and are on active duty there should be no lying around on our bunks because we do not feel like getting involved!

Having established that this is a spiritual exercise we will look next time at some practical ways of helping people think about their particular circumstances based on what we have been looking at in earlier sections.

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Nigel Ring on April 23rd, 2014

screen-shot-2013-06-25-at-1441321The final element in our Serving Profile is Spiritual Maturity. As people wish to serve in the church it is important that the opportunities match their level of spiritual maturity. For instance, you don’t want a newly converted person on the welcome team if they still have a free use of ‘fruity’ language from their former life! Nor do you want someone leading a ministry who does not yet have a secure and deep walk with God.

Grow up!
When a person is first saved he or she is like a baby. The writer to the Hebrews upbraids those who have been walking with God for sometime for still being like babes (Heb 5:12-14). Here it is written with correction but nevertheless it gives us an insight into the contrast between the immature and mature in Biblical terms:

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

The mature person can ‘distinguish good from evil’. The babe cannot.

When considering people for a serving position we need to assess their maturity, their ability to discern and to stand firm when the going gets tough. Nehemiah exemplifies such maturity. From the start of the book which carries his name we find that he does not ‘cave in’ when he hears about the state of Jerusalem, but rather gets on his knees and prays, fasts and repents for the sins of his people (Neh 1:4).

Later, Nehemiah withstood opposition from his enemies since he was convinced that the course he was on was the one that God had given him. Indeed, he not only withstood for himself but he gave strong leadership to help those with him not to let circumstances overwhelm them. He would not be deflected from the course God had put him on (Neh 2:19-20; 4:1-5; 6:1-14)

Matching
In any church there are many opportunities for ministry and it is important that an intentional ‘matching’ takes place, not only between gifting and skills and the opportunity, as we have discussed at length, but according to the person’s maturity. Some ministries are very ‘safe’ and can provide an opportunity for someone to explore their serving capacity, such as setting up the room with chairs or tidying up after a meeting is over. Others are more in the enemy’s firing line such as a ministry to reach out to vulnerable people. Satan does not like people being restored and will oppose those carrying out the ministry. It requires maturity to withstand his fiery darts.

We have now considered all seven elements of the Serving Profile. Next time we shall consider in practical terms how to help people create their unique profile which will then help them to find a place to serve.

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