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May 15 - May 16, 2002



Thursday 16th May, 2002


Going to Heaven

Papua New Guinea (PNG) is one of the most Christian countries on earth. According to the Operation World handbook, which monitors some 220 countries, 97.3% of the PNG population is Christian. Among large countries (more than one million people or so), only Ecuador (97.4%), Guatemala (97.5%) and Paraguay (98.0%) have a higher proportion of Christians.


PNG is also one of the world’s most evangelised countries. The handbook says 2,221 foreign missionaries work in the country, a huge number for a population of 4.6 million. More than 10% of the missionaries are from Australia, and you can’t spend long in church here without being asked to give for some PNG project. I myself am part of the support group for a mission couple, from my former church, who lead a literacy programme in a remote PNG community, under the auspices of Wycliffe Bible Translators.


Now comes news that the country is on the brink of an African-style AIDS explosion. An Australian government report warns that within 20 year as many as 40% of the adult population could die, crippling the country.


The report by the Australian Government's aid agency AusAid says as many as 15,000 people out of the 4.6m population are HIV positive.


AIDS-related diseases are the major cause of death at the general hospital in the capital Port Moresby and the number of infections is rising by up to 30% every year, says the report.


…Without sufficiently qualified workers the government might not be able to function - not to mention the huge pressure the looming epidemic could have on health services.


…HIV in Papua New Guinea is largely a heterosexual problem. There is a high incidence of unprotected sex and one in every six prostitutes is HIV positive.


What on earth are church leaders teaching their 97.3% flock (or is the problem all the fault of the other 2.7%)? What messages are the missionaries bringing? Should I be directing my tithes elsewhere? Or should I just sit back content in the knowledge that so many are going to heaven?


-posted 7:30pm



Wednesday 15th May, 2002


Now the Zimbabwe Scam

The Nigerian scam is world famous (and yet still people apparently fall for it). Someone claiming to be a senior Nigerian government official needs help in accessing a huge fortune in a foreign bank account. All that the recipient of the help request need do, in order to obtain a share of the fortune, is forward a certain sum to a particular bank account. Of course, anyone silly enough to send any money never hears from the “official” again.


I have just received an email with what appears to be a variant – the Zimbabwe scam. I don’t know why it was sent to me. I don’t know if this is something new, or something that has been going on for a while. Here, in its entirety, is what I have just received:


       Tel/Fax: 1-775-261-3613


This letter is not intended to cause you any embarrassment in whatever form, rather compel to contact your esteemed self, following knowledge of your high repute and trustworthiness, is borne out of this difficult situation that my family has been engulfed in since my husband and bread winner of our family was forced to relinquish his position.

My name is Mrs. Zoher Usefatu Makawi, the wife of late Mr. Abdur Al Makawi of Zimbabwe.

During the current war against farmers in Zimbabwe from the support of our President Robert Mugabe to claim all the white-owned farms to his party Members and his followers, he ordered all white farmers to surrender all their farms to his party members and his followers.

My husband is one of the best farmers in our country and because he did not Support Mugabe's ideas, MugAbe's supporters invaded my husband's farm and Burnt everything in the farm, killing my husband and made away with a lot of Items in my husband's farm.

Before his death, my husband had deposited with one of The Security Company in Europe the sum of US$10.5 Million {Ten million Five hundred thousand United States Dollars only}.

After the death of my husband, l and my three children decided to move to The United States for safety. We contacted the Security Company where he had deposited the Money  as valuables, and was disappointed as it is against the section 22 of the refugees act NO 130 of 1998 of the human right law that asylum seekers are not allowed to operate any bank account or to own an enterprise.

After much consideration l, my only son and my two daughters decided to contact overseas firm and companies that will assist us to move this money out of Europe.

We have agreed to offer you 20% of the total sum for your assistant, 10% will be mapped out for any expenses that may be incurred in the courtesy of this transaction and 70% will be for me and my family to invest in your country.

All I want you to do is to furnish my attorney Barrister Musa Egoatuegwu with your entire personal phone and fax numbers for easy communication. You can contact him on this email address: for now for security reasons.

Note that this transaction is 100% risk free and absolutely confidential.

Thanks and best regard,

Zoher Usefatu Makawi [Mrs]
       Tel/Fax: 1-775-261-3613


It’s hard to believe anyone would fall for something like this. I hope not.


-posted 9:05pm



Rev. Tim Costello Takes on the Anglicans (Again)

Reverend Tim Costello, president of the Baptist Union of Australia, has written an article in response to last week’s call by Sydney Anglican Archbishop Peter Jensen for Christians to speak out more in order to influence our culture.


The headlines and sub-heads of the two articles sum up their points of view.


First Jensen:


Fear of criticism has made Christians silent instead of significant

Churches must have the courage to win influence back from a secular world


Now Costello:


If the church rediscovers its Saviour, the rest will take care of itself

Rather than bemoaning an absence of truth, churches need to remember why Jesus was relevant


Jensen made his point impressively, but I’m on Costello’s side (and the two are far from mutually exclusive):


In the post-Christian era there is no privileged cultural role, no quiet assent to our doctrines and no automatic spiritual influence. It has to be earned and the talkback broadcaster, the counsellor and the local doctor are as likely to be the therapist of the soul as any clergy.


Indeed, I have discovered when speaking to young people who have voiced a keen interest in spirituality that when I recommend they should try going to a church, it strikes them as a novel thought that churches would have anything to offer them in their quest. They are not hostile to the idea - just genuinely surprised.


…So what is a way forward for the church to hold to its gospel and win back influence? I do not think it is in asserting truth or a ''recognisable theology" to a post-modern world which only hears religious tones of superiority and dogma. Simply, even naively, we need to re-find the way of Jesus. The truth is relational and personal as embodied in him. His style was to tell stories, not to give creedal propositions.


He lived in a travelling community with a common purse, showing hospitality and grace. His way was on the back streets with those who were powerless. He taught ethics in neither a systematic nor ''comprehensive" way. He gave no ready answer to complex human dilemmas. In fact, he did the reverse.


…Because he was an extremist and we in the church are mild-mannered moderates, we have tried to fill the gaps in his ideas by resorting to moral philosophy and theological systems.


But Jesus reminds us that we are at our most dangerous when we think we have the answers. Instead his extreme teaching raises a new moral sensitivity that leads us to listen to others and to God. Rather than mourn the ''tragic absence of truth in public discourse", the church may do better to rediscover its Lord and Saviour.


-posted 11:00am



Confidence Lost

Pamela Bone plods along a safe, correct and dismally predictable anti-American and anti-religious path in her columns in The Age. I doubt that Christians bother reading her much any more, so they may have missed this morning’s column, which raises a good point:


Most people, given a taste of it, prefer freedom and democracy to religious fundamentalism. Successful integration is very often only a matter of migrants becoming middle class. Don't lock up asylum seekers, many of whom are seeking refuge from fundamentalist regimes. Give them homes and jobs, and let their children go to school with other Australian children.


Her point is that fundamentalist Muslim migrants will, sooner or later, become as secular as the rest of Aussie society once they’re exposed to our way of life.


I would suggest another possibility. A strong, vibrant, confident Christian witness in this country would surely be attractive to many displaced migrants, whatever their faith background. There are signs of this occurring.


That is why the fear and the bitter anti-Muslim stance of some local Christian leaders is so puzzling. Could it be that these leaders have lost confidence in their own teachings; that they have lost confidence in God?


-posted 10:35am



Weblog Favourites

A weblog entry is written for the moment. It's to be read in its raw state and remain on the site for a few days at most, before being shunted off to the dark underworld of the blog archive. There it exists in a kind of suspended state, unloved and almost always unread.


Indeed, most blog items - mine and those of most other bloggers - probably deserve that fate.


But some blog entries - while not achieving the status of great literature - do have a certain enduring quality. So I have added a Weblog Favourites page to this site, with some of my weblog entries that I feel might be worth exposing to more than the audience of their day. Initial items are highlighted on the right of this home page. I have also put up on the site a third chapter - Chapter 9 - of my book Living Water to Light the Journey.


-posted 8:05am