procrastination, heresy, and navel-gazing.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Gaudí en la favela

a few years ago i stumbled upon a documentary about a guy in a brazilian favela who had been decorating it in a style uncannily like Gaudí. like all those living in the slums of brazil (he lives in sao paulo), he built his house from things he found, but in his case there was a tree on his 'property'*, which he incorporated into his dwelling, and it has gone from there.
bbc has a good report on their website here

the info for the doco is here, i'm pretty sure i watched it on abc, but it's probably pretty hard to find.

i love the creativity, the organic nature of his art, the unpretentiousness of it all (he trawls through building sites for things to keep adding to it). it reminds me of the refrain in Gen 1, where creation is to be fruitful and multiply - the creation keeps on creating with its God-given createdness. that is, Ezekiel's perfect temple is beautiful, but that perfect architecture gives way in Revelation to the perfect presence of God with us, and the river that feeds the trees that bring life and healing.

i love cities, but my favourite description of metropopli (?) comes from the sociologist Max Weber, who looked down from a sky-scraper and from there saw the city as an ecosystem, everything organically reacting to each other element. it's therefore not surprising to see the mixing of the metaphors of perfect city and garden, rather very fitting!

* i don't think favelas can ever be official even though there are millions living in them, they're 'domus non grata' (i don't actually speak latin, but that's my best guess!)

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Hudson Taylor :: A Man in Christ

i've been busy (you may've guessed that from the lack of posts this last month). i've just finished an essay on Ezekiel and Regeneration, which i would like to talk about at some stage. but for the moment, here's a book review of a book i read a couple of months ago, which will appear at some stage on the webzine of AFES - websalt. check out their site for some really great and current reviews and articles.

Roger Steer. J. Hudson Taylor. A Man in Christ. Carlisle: Paternoster Lifestyle and OMF Publishing, 2001. 372p.

The name of Hudson Taylor is synonymous for many with Christianity in China. A man used mightily by God, this book traces his life in 48 bite-sized chapters, from his youth in England to his missionary work in China. On the way, you see God powerfully at work through a fallible man – but you also get the love story (stories!) and an enthralling picture of perseverance too – as you journey with him.

The first thing you learn is about Taylor’s parents, they always had a deep love for China and for the millions who didn’t know the love of Jesus. They always prayed for him that God would use him to reach China’s Millions.[1] However he didn’t share this vision until after his conversion at 17 through the persistent prayers of his family. This is a great story of the power of persistent of prayer, a theme returned to often in this biography.

There are some other themes we come across in the formative years of Taylor’s life, one his agonising over whether to finish his medical training before heading off to the mission field, but also his determination to ask no one for money. Both of these are still live issues for many, the first for anyone trying to work out whether to pursue full-time paid ministry. The second is a question for those in ministry, as they consider asking for financial support. Reading biographies of people like Taylor, but also Brother Andrew[2] and others, the way God provides exactly the amount required – even for the most sceptical – is really challenging.

In China, Hudson had a phenomenal impact. He taught himself to read Chinese whilst still in England, and quickly became proficient in many languages and dialects. His time was rarely trouble free, with disagreements with some missionaries and his incompetent sending mission organisation, as well his chronic sicknesses, deaths of those around him, war, persecution and betrayal. He did have great joy in seeing many be converted and mature in faith. He founded a mission organisation, the CIM (now OMF), and saw his audacious prayers for many co-workers answered.

When you read this biography, you don’t get the picture of a superhuman. You do get the picture of a workaholic, and give thanks for those around him who made him rest. You also see a frail man, yet a man continuing to live the Christian life day by day, reading his bible and praying to the God in whom he put all his trust.

I don’t know if you get in to Christian biographies. I always feel a bit sceptical, wondering if they really did all that, and particularly what the biographer chose to leave out. You end up siding with Taylor in any dispute, the only failure I can think of is when he’s quite old and gets a bit lost in a talk – which happens to the best of us regardless of age! But that said, the book does seem to be really well researched, from personal letters, other biographies, and I guess any filing cabinets around the OMF offices – and is still crafted into a riveting story.

Reading this biography of the great Hudson Taylor is really rewarding – I tried to read it one chapter a night before bed, and often read many more. You really feel his deep love for the unreached people of China,[3] and understood his absolute determination in going where reason should have deterred him. But the self-sacrificial love of Christ compelled him to go where no one else would. I would recommend getting into this biography, and to pray with him for the many unreached people throughout China, East Asia, and the world.

[1] the title of Hudson’s magazine, now called East Asia’s Millions.
[2] God’s Smuggler, London : Hodder and Stoughton, 1968.
[3] CIM stands for China Inland Mission – until Taylor, missionaries rarely ventured far from the main coastal cities.

i think you can buy it from OMF or perhaps here and support a great missionary agency at the same time!

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