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Year End Review 2007

At the end of every year, I try to read my both my private diary and public journal from the previous year, reflect on my vocational calling in the next season of life, and put a bookmark in on the pages of life's journey before starting a new year.

Now in my second year as a blogger, I have found that I enjoy keeping a public journal of my travel notes, social commentaries, personal reflections, and mission updates. As an added feature at year’s end (for family and friends, but mostly just for my own pleasure), I have summarized activities and accomplishments over the past 12 months, and provided links to the narrative on my blog:

http://michael-christensen.blogspot.com

January
New book release: Partakers of the Divine Naturehttp://inside.fdu.edu/fdupress/07012501.html

February
Began teaching Drew college course on “Faith-Based Approaches to Ending Poverty and AIDS
Rebecca and I led retreat at Kirkridge based on the book we published: Spiritual Direction by Henri Nouwen
http://www.…

Village Wells Update

What a wonderful experience to watch how God connects resources with needs around the world. In early December, Robby at Hopegivers International called to tell me that his donor was ready to sponsor a village well in Malawi, and that he'd like to join me on the mission trip in March to see the project. Then, last night, Mike Rose, my partner in raising funds for village wells,called me tonight to tell me about another one of his business buddies who wanted to sponsor two village wells before the end of the year. We seized the moment to celebrate the great success that a total of seven Village Wells were sponsored and funded through CitiHope in 2007. Here's a summary of the seven:

1. Zowe (3 hours outside of Mzuzu) is a remote preaching point of the Circuit of Mzuzu, United Methodist Church, requested by Pastor Copeland Nkhata. “Zowe is a small village with a primary school and a prayer hut church in larger village catchment area of about 5,000 people. It is a very dry pla…

Seasons Greetings?

I, as you, received a lot of 'happy holiday' and 'seasons greetings' E-cards this time of the year. Some made my laugh. My favorite is this politically correct satire from Rob, one of my Republican friends:

To All My Democrat Friends:
Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender -neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling, and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2008, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions t…

Christmas Moon

Monday, December 24 – Midnight

“Christmas Moon”
T’was the night before Christmas
And looming among the stars
Was a yellow orb and red dot:
The Full Moon and Mars!
At midnight I looked up
To see this great site,
And behold, red dust clouds
Hid Mars from my sight
But the Yule Moon was Bright
And the night sky did glow
Christmas was dawning
Yet there was no snow.
So much for my Christmas poem, but it serves my purpose of revealing what caught my attention tonight as soul tuned into the meaning of the season: That a bright star from the East shone brightly over Bethlehem that first Christmas Eve, and I imagine the Moon was in conjunction with both Mars and Venus, heralding the dawn of a new age for humanity in the birth of a King.

Christmas Eve in Madison, 2007:

At midnight in Madison, we saw the Yule Moon in all its bright glory, surrounded by moving clouds that cast the orb a thick red haze. Here’s what the occultation it looked like in Berlin (where our exchange student, Toni, li…

Miriam's Child

A blessed Christmas season to you all.

During the wintry season of Advent, I often sit by the warm fire in our sun room, with coffee or cocoa in hand, sometimes alone or with family members, and play our many Christmas CD's on my Bose wave music sytem.

One of my favorites is "Christmas Carols Old and New" arranged and sung by David Edwards. It's not just that he is an old high school friend from California, I explained to my daughter Rachel this morning, but it's the fact that Dave's a really good poet, composer, and musician. He gives the classic songs new resonnance, and his original song on the album--"The World was in His Hands"--is about the striking innocence and vulnerability of the Christ child who was destined to change the world:

"In Bethleham, one winter night,
a child was born by candle light,
and he looked like any other child in his mother's arms.
Nothing about him told that a mystery would soon unfold.
To see him there, so sm…

New “Shalom Zones” in Baltimore

Although I have not officially started my duties as National Director of the Communities of Shalom initiative at Drew University, I got a preview of what lies ahead for me in the New Year.

Bishop John Schol of the Baltimore-Washington DC Annual Conference called last week with some urgency in his voice that convinced me to join in for a day in Baltimore to help launch a new “shalom zone” in the city in response to the alarming murder rate in the city over the past year.

With more than 270 murders in the city in 2007, Baltimore now has the third highest murder rate in the nation. Bishop John Schol and conference leaders pledged to take five decisive actions in the coming year to address the systemic issues that contribute to the high murder rate. One of those actions is the establishment of five new Communities of Shalom, to be trained by Drew University, to bring peace, wholeness, harmony, and prosperity to their neighborhoods.

The Baltimore initiative will be among the first Shalom ef…

HopeHome Feeds 60 Orphans

Brother Michael,

Sweet regards. Last month we had a more wonderful and awesome picnic with 60 children in attendance their faces beaming with joy and hope. To add more flavor we had 22 foster parents in attendance. We meant to engage them in prayer as a key factor to working out the future of the OVC. We woo them to Christ by this grand fellowship.

Allow me to make some highlights

1. Our hope home group is still at 35 children officially but the actual numbers have grown very high. Our last picnic was attended by 60 children but we can't buy maize for all of them, because its above our budget. However we allow the picnic numbers to be growing because it is away of nurturing young souls for the kingdom. I do believe that when we have given them enough grounding, later Christ will be formed in them. It is my prayer that God will give you sufficient grace to continue to support us in this godly enterprise so that we can preserve some lives for Christ Jesus.

2. We have six branches in t…

World AIDS Day chapel at Drew

World AIDS Day at Drew was observed on December 3, and I was invited to speak in chapel on AIDS in Malawi. Since it was the first week of ADVENT, I chose to speak about the witness of John the Baptist who had heard that the Messiah was on the move.

Aslan is on the Move: Stirrings of Hope in Malawi
Text: Matt 11:2-5

Introduction: One of my favorite Advent themes is from the Chronicles of Narnia:

“It’s always winter and never Christmas,” says the character of the Beaver.
“But Aslan is on the move--perhaps has already landed.”

“He’ll put all to right as it says in an old rhyme in these parts:

Wrong will be right when Aslan comes in sight,
At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more,
When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death,
And when he shakes him mane, we shall have spring again.”

Advent is about anticipating dramatic changes in the long season of winter, of exile, captivity, suffering or devastation. Help is on the way. Hope is in the air. Soon it will be Christmas, even is…

World AIDS Day

December 1 is World AIDS Day, and there's reason for hope.



Bono says: “Africa is ablaze. We are called to help put out the fire!” God uses rock stars like Bono, celebrities like Madonna, and even politicians like GWB, as well as ordinary folks like you and me, ‘for such a time as this.’ The Continent is still on fire, but there are reasons for hope and encouragement. Because incarnations of the Messiah are on the move (see my sermon for World AIDS Day chapel at Drew).



Since 1989, World AIDS Day has raised our consciousness to the alarming stats of the global AIDS pandemic. By now, after 19 World AIDS Day observances, the stats are familiar:
• Five people die of AIDS every minute!
• In the same amount of time, nine more people are infected with HIV
• About 20 million people have died of AIDS since 1981
• Of the 33.2 million people have HIV/AIDS worldwide, 63% of them live in sub-Saharan Africa.
• Half of those living with HIV in Africa are orphaned or abandoned children. The common…

March Mission Trip to Malawi

Next Mission Trip to Malawi, Africa
March 4-15, 2008

Sponsored by: CitiHope International

Led by: Dr. Michael J. Christensen, Drew University, and Rev. Paul S. Moore, President, CitiHope International


DATES: March 4-15, 2008

Travel Plan: Depart JFK on Tuesday, March 4 for Johannesburg to arrive in Lilongwe, Malawi, on March 6; Return on Friday, March 14, and arrive JFK early on Friday, March 15 (10 days).

Destination: Malawi, a small land-locked, developing country of 12 million people bordering Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambique, is particularly vulnerable to famine and disease, and suffers from extreme poverty and AIDS. The March Mission Trip will carry out its mission in and around Mzuzu City in Northern Malawi where CitiHope Malawi operates relief and development programs from its mission center located in the heart of Mzuzu City.



Mission: To raise hope in vulnerable communities through cross-cultural relationships, “reverse mission” and the ministry of presence. The mission te…

Thanksgiving 2007

San Diego: Family gathered.

Celebrated Mom's 80th birthday!

Shane Claiborne speaks to Methodists

Fort Worth, Texas: I attended a terrific conference this weekend on the theme of Micah 6:8--"God has revealed what is required us: to seek justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God." The highlight for me was hearing Shane Claiborne talk to social justice types who specialize in confronting sytemic social ills on a political level, and say prophetically: "If you want to confront poverty, you have to know the names of poor people..." Here's a link to summary in United Methodist Reporter, and pasted below:



Energized for justice: Living Faith conference celebrates UM ministries

Bill Fentum, Nov 9, 2007

UMR PHOTO BY BILL FENTUM

A banner at the Living Faith, Seeking Justice conference showed support for Step It Up 2007’s National Day of Climate Action, Nov. 3.
By Bill Fentum
Staff Writer

FORT WORTH, Texas—It’s easy to give in to despair on the front lines of social-justice ministry. Supporting workers’ rights, immigration reform or environmental concerns put…

Communities of Shalom

Dear friends and colleagues:

I want to let you know that I will have a new position at Drew beginning January 1, 2008. After 12 years as Director of the Doctor of Ministry program, I will transition at the end of the year to give my full attention to my new position: Director of Communities of Shalom. My role will be to facilitate and provide resources for a grass-roots, faith-based, community development network of "shalom sites" in the USA and Africa, in connection with theological education at Drew.

Here's a link to the announcement by the United Methodist Church General Board of Global Ministries in New York:

Drew Theological School to Be New Home
Of United Methodist "Shalom" Initiative


If you are Methodist, you may remember hearing about "shalom zones" in the early 1990's. The United Methodist Church responded to the race riots and social unrest in Los Angeles by working with local congregations to create a "shalom zone" in South C…

HopeHome Mzuzu Expands Again

Rev. Copeland Nkata, pastor of Mzuzu Methodist Church and circuit, sends the following September Report on his HomeHome for 60+ Orphaned and Vulunerable Children (OVC) in Malawi:

Dear Dr. Michael,

Greetings of grace from the embassy of Christ at Mzuzu UMC in the office of Hope Homes and Hope Scholarships.

The Angel Gabriel remitted to us MK138410.00 equivalent to US$1000.00 for September 2007, which we have spent on the following expenses: food, children’s picnic, pictures, transportation for maize, deliveries to UMC branches where orphaned and abandoned children are cared for, transportation to schools, medical help (malaria), school fees, and administrative costs.

This time we had a more wonderful and awesome picnic with 60 children in attendance, their faces beaming with joy and hope. To add more flavor we had 22 foster parents in attendance. We meant to engage them in prayer as a key factor to working out the future of the OVC. We woo them to Christ by this grand fellowship. Plea…

Bruce Springsteen in concert

We (Rebecca, Jeff Markay, Julie and I) attended the Bruce Springsteen concert at the Continental Arena this week. It was a nexus of joy! There was a special moment when Bruce looked up, enraptured, almost orgasmic and transcendent, that was pure joy shown like shekina on his face. I thought to myself "Bruce is doing exactly what he was made for on this earth."

Sponsors Needed for Village Wells

Village Well Project 2007
Deep Water Wells for Community Wellness
Malawi, Africa

CitiHope International, a non-government humanitarian aid organization, and WorldHope Corps, a new non-profit in New Jersey, seeks sponsors and co-sponsors for 20 village wells in a remote area of northern Malawi in need of fresh water.

Here's why:

One out of 5 kids die before age 5, mostly due to preventable, waterborne diseases.



Clean water is a big challenge in remote places in Malawi. Kids die before age 5 largely due to diseases they get from unsanitary water conditions (dysentery, cholera, malaria, etc). This can be prevented by potable water from a deep well.

One borehole of at least 50 meters in depth will provide fresh water for 2,000 villagers. The total cost for drilling the borehole, plus the mechanical apparatus, the necessary repair and maintenance fund, sanitation instructions and training, and a simple irrigation system for a community garden is $10,000. (That translates into just …