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Monthly Archives: January 2010

Hi friends,

As many of you know I’m currently a seminary student at Wycliffe College at the University of Toronto where I’m working towards my M.Div (Master of Divinity). I just wanted to take a chance to let you know of a great opportunity I have. From February 13-20 I’ll be heading down to New Orleans with a group of students during our reading week to work on a home. As you’re aware hurricane Katrina left the city of New Orleans devastated. Now, over four years later, not much has changed.

We’ll be heading to the lower 9th ward, a neighbourhood where most streets are still empty because people cannot afford to rebuild their homes. This is not the poorest area of New Orleans but it is a neighbourhood where simply owning a house was significant. These are families who have no extra finances. Post-Katrina, most of their homes sit gutted, empty and rotting because of the overwhelming cost of rebuilding.

Let’s be honest, the government has failed the people in a big way. As a result many organizations have been trying to pull the weight when it comes to rebuilding New Orleans. While there we will be working alongside the Episcopal Diocese Disaster Relief Fund who focus on those most in need of help, those who have been turned away by other organizations. Last year a group of our students worked on the interior tiling of a home owned by an 85-year-old woman who had custody of three of her grandchildren and was herself unemployed.

Some may ask, “but what’s the point?” I believe that any life-giving act, any act of beauty and restoration is itself an in-breaking of God’s kingdom here on earth. God’s redemptive action in our world is not something that we simply sit back and observe. Rather, it is something that we are invited to participate in each and everyday. Therefore, something as simple as dry-walling someones home at no cost so they are able to move back in with their family becomes a deeply redemptive and transformative action.

This year our team consists of ten people, most of whom are university students. So far, we have raised about half of what we need to go through various fundraisers and we’re really believing that the rest will come in. This letter is not meant to convince you to give money to a cause. Rather, I believe that most of you are generous folks who realize the importance of work like this and would be willing to give without even being asked. Here then, I’d like to present you with an opportunity to do so. No amount is too small and anything you feel you’re able to give would be a gift greatly treasured.

If you are able to give financially you can make a tax deductible donation. Simply make your cheque out to “Wycliffe College” and put “New Orleans Trip 2010” (this is important!) in the memo-line. Wycliffe will then mail you a tax receipt. All cheques can be mailed to: Wycliffe College University of Toronto, 5 Hoskin Dr. Toronto, ON M5S 1H7.

Also, be an advocate for us in prayer. Come alongside our team as we pray for the people of New Orleans that they might find joy in the midst of their circumstances. Pray for our team that we may be taught, challenged and uplifted by our experiences with the people of New Orleans.

If there is anything else you’d like to know please ask me! I would love to talk with you more about what I am going to be doing and why it is important to me.

Thanks for taking the time to read this letter. I look forward to talking to you about my adventure to the Big Easy!

For the people of New Orleans,

Jonathan Turtle.

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Frankly this is scary as hell.

The influence of major corporations on politics (I’m thinking of the US in particular here) isn’t really much of a secret. However, things are about to get a whole lot worse. The US Supreme court has just blocked a ban on corporate spending limits during elections. If this holds up, there will be no limit to how much money corporations can spend to “support” electoral candidates. Essentially, this opens the door for corporate America to buy the government of their choice.

Shit.

God save us from the destructive lies and way of life of Wall St.

Jesus is Lord.

“Stewardship starts with the principle that we first have to honor whatever we are charged with. Then we can think of ourselves. We have done just the opposite. We have tried first to have everything for ourselves and then have tried to correct the damage we’ve done to animals and to plants. It is not a good relationship. I think we must go back to the beginning and ask ourselves as western people, what did we trust, what gods did we decide to follow, where does the real point of happiness lie in our lives?…we have the promise of our Saviour himself that in christian belief there is a power to replace that old faith [in building our happiness out of technique and economic growth]. It is not a power emerging from us, but one that has its fulfillment in his coming kingdom in which he will change our present world to restore justice. In that kingdom we will find Shalom dwelling immanently in our intercourse with him and with our neighbours. It will not be a product of our activitiy but will dwell there as something to be lived out of. It is up to us to expect that kingdom and to erect a signpost of that kingdom in our present society” (brackets and emphasis mine).

Bob Goudzwaard, Aid for the Overdeveloped West, p. 57-58.

We cannot build for ourselves Shalom or happiness. These do not come about through technological or economic progress (which damage our relationship with others and with creation itself). Rather, Shalom is something given by God, not as something that we work towards but rather as something that we work out of.

Our way of life in the Western/Northern world is a lie that we must abandon. Here, I think the Body of Christ must lead the way.

From the Toronto Star:

MALINDI, Kenya–Kenyan fisherman are perhaps the only people in the world who have reason to be grateful to Somali pirates – they keep away illegal fishing boats.

In past years, illegal commercial trawlers parked off Somalia’s coast and scooped up the ocean’s contents. Now, fishermen on the northern coast of neighboring Kenya say, the trawlers are not coming because of pirates.

“There is a lot of fish now, there is plenty of fish. There is more fish than people can actually use because the international fishermen have been scared away by the pirates,” said Athman Seif, the director of the Malindi Marine Association.

On one early morning, as the sun bathed their wooden dhow in a pale yellow, four fishermen jumped out of their rickety 15-foot boat, grabbed a hand-woven straw basket and waded ashore. The basket held the bounty: 175 pounds (80 kilograms) of sailfish, barracuda and red snapper, the haul from a 12-hour night on the ocean. Each fisherman stood to make $12, enough in this town to be considered a decent night’s work.

Fishermen and sportsmen say they’ve been catching more fish than ever. Howard Lawrence-Brown, who owns Kenya Deep Sea Fishing, said fishing stocks over the last year have been up “enormously – across all species.”

“We had the best marlin season ever last year,” said Lawrence-Brown, who owns Kenya Deep Sea Fishing. “The only explanation is that somebody is not targeting them somewhere. … There’s definitely no question about it, the lack of commercial fishing has made a difference.”

Fishermen in the region have seen their incomes and quality of life rise. New boats and better equipment can be seen on the water.

In Malindi, a second-tier tourist town whose tastiest seafood restaurant is called “The Old Man and the Sea,” after the Ernest Hemingway novel, the income of many families is determined by the number of fish caught during a half-day’s turn at sea.

On a recent weekday, fisherman Abdi Ali said he has more money of late to send his kids to high school, which costs money in Kenya. As Ali spoke, a man nearby held up a 2.5-foot (.75-meter), 9-pound (4-kilo) red snapper to motorists on Malindi’s main oceanfront drive in hopes of enticing a sale.

“This year the amount of fish we have caught has been very good. We get about 150 kilograms to 200 and even 300 kilograms, depending on how much we fish,” said Ali. Three hundred kilograms is about 660 pounds.

“There were fish that had disappeared and have come back like the barracuda, oranda, red snapper and other types,” he said. “We are very happy now that there are so many fish.”

Fishermen in Somalia, too, say they’ve seen increased catches. Traders at a Mogadishu fish market are happy because more fish means lower prices, which means more Somalis can afford to buy.

“I remember some days I used to go to the sea early to catch fish and would return with no fish, but nowadays there are plenty. You can catch it everywhere,” said fisherman Bakar Osman, 50. “I do not know the reason but I think the foreign fishing vessels, which used to loot our fish, were scared away by pirates.”

Somali pirates have increased attacks the last two years because of the millions of dollars in ransom they can earn. They currently hold close to a dozen vessels and more than 200 crew hostage. Fishermen here acknowledge the horror of the attacks – they occasionally are harassed by pirates themselves.

Before the pirates came out in big numbers, fishing longliners roamed the coasts, Lawrence Brown said, laying out miles (kilometers) of line.

“They kill everything from the bottom of the ocean to the boat. They run at 22 knots. They can lay their lines for 24 hours, pick them up and get out of there,” he said. “The damage on the sports fishing side is immeasurable.”

A report on pirates this year by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore said the value of illegal catches from Somalia’s maritime jurisdiction is estimated at between $90 million and $300 million a year, and that foreign fishing vessels hail from all around the world.

The report’s author, Clive Schofield, a research fellow with the Australian Centre for Ocean Resources and Security at the University of Wollongong, called it ironic that nations contributing warships to anti-piracy efforts are in some cases directly linked to the foreign fishing vessels “stealing Somalia’s offshore resources.”

“This situation has led some pirates to justify their actions on basis of illegal foreign fishing activities – styling themselves ‘coastguards’ and characterizing ransom demands as ‘fines,'” the report said. “Without condoning acts of violence at sea, it is clear that the Somalis who hijack shipping off their coast are in fact not the only ‘pirates’ operating in these waters,” it said.

Piracy has not had a huge effect on Kenya’s overall fishing industry, which is not very well developed on the coast, according to the permanent secretary for Kenya’s Ministry of Fisheries Development, Micheni Japhet Ntiba. Kenya has brought in between 5,000 and 7,000 metric tons of fish off its Indian Ocean coast each of the last several years, he said, less than a tenth of Kenya’s yearly catch from Lake Victoria, on Kenya’s western edge.

Piracy “is a negative thing for Kenya fisherman. It’s a negative thing for the Kenyan economy. It’s a negative thing for the western Indian Ocean economy,” Ntiba said. “What I think is important for us is to invest in security so the government and the private sector can invest in the deep sea ocean resources.”

Still, Kenya’s sports fisherman say the pirates appear to have had a hugely positive effect on their industry. Angus Paul, whose family owns the Kingfisher sports fishing company, said that over the past season clients on his catch-and-release sports fishing outings averaged 12 or 13 sail fish a day. That compares with two or three in previous years.

Somali pirates, Paul said, are a group of terrorists, “but as long as they can keep the big commercial boats out, not fishing the waters, then it benefits a lot of other smaller people.”

I read this article on BBC this morning.

Immigration is something that is close to my heart. After all, my family immigrated to Canada in 1989. Now, being Caucasian no doubt made this transition period easier as we didn’t have to face the reality that is racism. That being said, immigrants and more specifically “illegal” immigrants are most often viewed as less-than human. Intruding on “our” land like bacteria might ones body. There is a small agricultural town near where I grew up. Every summer loads of workers from Mexico would go there to work on the farms. However, these large agricultural corporations almost always took advantage of these poor workers and made them stay in terrible conditions while working up to 14 hours a day (everyday) and receiving relatively little pay. About two summers ago there was a highly publicized raid on one of these farms and all of the migrants were “rescued” from the oppression they were suffering. What did the Canadian government do with them then? They put them in jail a holding facility before sending them back to Mexico. All in all I found this to be a terribly sad situation. We’re not dealing with animals or criminals here. These are human beings for fucks sake crying out loud! The last two summers I’ve spent over in Europe in an attempt to journey alongside of the Roma (gypsies) and refugees (predominantly from Iran, Afghanistan and Iraq). The attitudes of most of the French people (including the government) towards these folks is appalling. A Roma friend of ours named Daniel was sleeping in his car with his brother one night and a group of French youth attacked the car with Molotov-cocktails. Daniel suffered third-degree burns over most of his body (we saw the scars). His brother died in the attack. I probably don’t even need to say anything about the situation in the U.S. The attitude there towards immigrants is pretty horrendous as well with U.S government officials making dehumanizing public statements about “illegals”.

In the darkness and evil of our attitudes towards “the other” it is refreshing to hear Pope Benedict XVI proclaim the gospel:

“An immigrant is a human being, different only in where he comes from, his culture and tradition…He is a person to respect and with rights and responsibilities, and should be respected particularly in the working world where there is a temptation to exploit…We have to go to the heart of the problem, of the significance of the human being…Violence must never be a means to solve difficulties…The problem is a human one, and I invite everyone to look in the face of those nearby and see their soul, their history and their life and say to themselves: it is a man and God loves him as God loves me.”

“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh…But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep,” (Luke 6:20ff.).

May God have mercy on us all for the ways in which we dehumanize and humiliate our brothers and sisters.

*For those interested I’ve published here a paper I wrote on Liberation Theology.

“Make a right turn” = a) “Make an immediate right” or, b) “Bear right”?

In this case, Michael clearly misinterpreted his GPS. Really, he should have known, but I suppose there were a few ways to interpret.

When it comes to the scriptures how are we to interpret? I mean, we all interpret right? What do we base this interpretation on? Are all interpretations equal? Are there infinite interpretations? For example, if someone interprets particular OT and NT texts in a way that allows them to dehumanize and exclude people based upon their sexuality is this a valid interpretation or will this interpretation end up in a lake?

Well, I can’t believe that I’m already beginning the second semester of my Seminary experience. So far it’s proved to be great and I really feel that this experience is continuing to shape me as a disciple of Christ. I constantly feel challenged both academically in my learning and practically in responding to the Spirit’s guidance and conviction. At any rate this new semester is shaping up to be even better. I’m really excited about the courses I’m enrolled in and my desire to learn and read has been renewed. One of my goals this semester is to treat school as a full-time job which means I’ll actually be doing all my reading this semester. Also, I went to the gym today for the first time in about 4 years and although it felt great I am even more out of shape than I had imagined. All in all, this semester will be challenging in many ways but I’m expecting it to be even more rewarding still. Here are the courses I’ll be taking this semester:

Towards a Christian Political Economy: The Writings of Bob Goudzwaard – Prof. Brian Walsh.

I’m really looking forward to this course. Although I’m not too familiar with Goudzwaard I’ve heard nothing but great things so I’m excited about the chance to read much of his work. As a bonus, Mr. Goudzwaard is in Toronto for a month and the first four classes will be seminars led by Goudzwaard and translated by others.

Personal Wellness – Prof. Wanda Malcolm.

This course will look examine what it means to be physically, spiritually, emotionally and relationally healthy.

Postmodernity – Pro. Brian Walsh.

I’ve already started engaging some of the authors we’ll be reading for this course and it’s a topic that I’m fairly interested in learning more about and it’s relationship with the church. Plus, the course is held in Brian’s office in Wycliffe which is super cozy.

Before and Beyond the Gospels – Prof. Ann Jervis.

Leading Missional Congregations – Prof. Merv Mercer.

Here’s to a good one!