Tuesday, June 05, 2007

A Conversation with Sid Rice of Literacy and Evangelism: The World Mission Scene

Today we continue our conversation with Sid Rice of Literacy and Evangelism. If you missed it, see yesterday's post, when we talked about Leadership. Today's conversation begins with us talking about the world mission scene:

Russ: Let’s shift gears and talk world mission. What’s exciting that you see happening out there on the world mission field?

Sid: There are a lot of different things happening. I told you about the guy from Malawi who spent 10 years translating his heart language with a team of translators. As he was finishing up the New Testament, he found out that in southern Malawi, 70% of the people in his network of churches where he was doing the translation could not read. It just flipped a switch in him and he started looking for literacy programs. He found LEI on the net and spent last summer with us. He’s now a full time LEI missionary. For me, being in literacy missions, it's hugely rewarding to see someone who was called by God to a season of translation, and now to a season of literacy missions because the need is so huge, so awesome.

I talked about another guy in West Africa out of the Ivory Coast. He’s responsible for 13 different countries specifically for church planting with Global 12 which is a charismatic community. His comment was ‘I am putting in place pastors who cannot read’ He confided in me that he was planting churches but the pastors who were pastoring these churches couldn’t read, couldn’t study, couldn’t feast, couldn’t exegete the word of God because they couldn’t read. He said it’s such a huge impediment to church growth and discipleship in West Africa, his sphere of influence. He’s come on as an affiliate missionary member of LEI. We love to see those kind of partnerships in areas where we see such a huge need.

Another thing happening in the world of missions – the invasion/entrance of short term teams is a huge phenomenon, and its debated as being both good and bad. I was in the corporate world for a couple of decades – what inspired me toward the ends of missions and outreach was in the early 90s starting to participate in short term missions through my local church. First participating, just going along. Then in leadership positions. It really ignited my heart and passion particularly for outreach in the context of mission. And I know the spiritually transformative value of short term missions and that’s why I’m particularly jazzed about our partnership with the PEACE Plan.

Russ: The PEACE Plan. Tell me a little more about that.

Sid: It's the next big project from Saddleback church. PEACE is an acronym that stands for:

Planting churches
Educating servant leaders
Assisting the poor
Caring for the sick
Educating the next generation

That last letter of the acronym is where Literacy and Evangelism comes in. What Rick Warren identifies as the global giant of rampant illiteracy. When you read some of the stuff that he’s written on that you think “wow, he’s been reading our website”

Russ: That’s glorious

Sid: You can see him up there going “Half the world cannot read – can you imagine that” It’s neat that we’re a part of their experiment. It really is. They talk about ‘firm jello’ (meaning everything’s a work in process – as it should be) as we come together to bring Jesus home sooner. That’s the overriding goal of missions domestically, locally, and internationally -- to hasten Jesus' return.

The PEACE plan is envisioning empowering short term teams and small groups to reach the remaining unengaged 3400 people groups around the world. They’re building a beta website whereby resources are going to be available to meet those ends, those needs. Literacy and Evangelism is currently the only literacy resource of record on their beta website. We’ve put almost 100 of our different readers in different languages for them to give away to their network of hundreds of thousands of Purpose Driven churches around the world. For LEI, it could be very well the most significant platform of distribution of our product in the history of our 40 years of existence. I’m very mindful that this is an experiment, who knows how God’s going to use it, but we feel hugely affirmed by this group coming to us and asking us if they can use our product.

Russ: That’s a great example of strategic partnership. I also know you’re staffing for short term missions. It’s interesting how that goes hand in glove with this strategic partnership.

Sid: Coming alongside Saddleback has opened up our vision of possibilities. And now we ask what about those churches that aren’t a part of the Purpose Driven network? How do we service those small groups or churches or even individuals that are inspired for literacy missions – who see that global giant of illiteracy and want to help God attack it around the globe. We’re crafting and re-designing our website into a content management format where we can host our primers (Editorial note -- a primier is an introductory reading curriculum), the treasure chest of 40 years of work, out on the net for people to download.

We’re also working on a media initiative in the preliminary stages – Here in North Americal we have 3-5 week literacy training events that empower people to go back to their respective countries and launch literacy programs. Now we've been pushing that training out to sites in Africa and Brazil and India. Our new concept is to take that into the digital arena.

To be continued tomorrow

Soli Deo Gloria