All posts by Steve Bradbury

About Steve Bradbury

Steve Bradbury is the Director of the Micah 6:8 Centre and Lecturer in Transformational Development at Eastern College Australia. Find out more about the Masters of Transformational Development

Compassionate, Visionary, Hopeful, Joyful

Semester 1 at Eastern saw 57 Master of Transformational Development (MTD) students immersed in studying the implications of climate change for some of the most vulnerable people in the world. It is one thing to be deeply confronted by the disturbing scientific realities of climate change through our reading, but many of Eastern’s MTD students are directly involved with communities already suffering as a result of climate change.

Several of our students live and work in Kenya and Zimbabwe and, as is true in many parts of sub-Sahara Africa, the farmers in their churches have endured months and months of no or little rain. Crops wither in the fields, and with them family incomes also dry up and food security is threatened. The increasing unreliability of rains, one of the symptoms of climate change, is impacting on our MTD students’ communities in Egypt, Pakistan, Nepal, India and Bangladesh.

Imagine the impact of soaring temperatures on the inhabitants of large urban slum communities where our MTD students are working: Delhi, Jakarta, Nairobi, Dhaka, and Lahore. One inevitable consequence of climate change in those communities will be the dramatic increase in outbreaks of the diseases such as diarrhoea, cholera, malaria, dengue, and encephalitis.

How do we engage meaningfully with a threat as deeply disturbing as climate change? What does Christian hope look like when confronted by a global ecological crisis that threatens human existence as we know it?

In a public lecture at Eastern on May 2, in which he examined many of the challenges confronting the global community at this time, Evert-Jan Ouweneel, a Dutch philosopher and World Vision senior advisor, offered seven ways to resist the pressure to cave-in to despair and grief, and be energised by hope:

  1. Stay calm. “God is in control – He’s got the whole world in his hands.”
  2. Stay compassionate. Our first priority should be the “well-being of those who are hit first or hit the most.”
  3. Stay hopeful. Evert-Jan reminded us of Martin Luther’s assertion: “If the world ends tomorrow I will still plant an apple seed today.”
  4. Stay visionary. Always remember the Bible’s global vision and God’s promise of a glorious future for the entire creation.
  5. Stay stubborn. “Let’s stick to hope in the midst of pessimism and cynicism.”
  6. Stay human. “In this time of re-tribalism, with people withdrawing into their own bastions of likeminded people, Christians can be the bridge-builders of society.”
  7. Stay joyful. “If we can’t count our blessings as children who say ‘Abba Father’ to God, who can.”

Someone who epitomises what this looks like to me is Sharon Edison. Sharon is in her final semester of MTD studies, and four years ago set up a small development organisation called Sahayak (meaning helper) to respond to the needs of highly vulnerable women and children living in a slum on the southern edge of the sprawling Indian capital Delhi. The challenges confronting this community are huge. Just last Tuesday (July 11) I received a WhatsApp message from Sharon telling me of a cholera outbreak that had taken the life of a 5-year-old girl called Reema, and another four of Sharon’s young charges had been hospitalised. Despite such terrible setbacks Sharon and her team remain determinedly positive and committed to making a sustainable difference. In her July newsletter she writes:

“Creation Care is all about stewardship. It all belongs to God… The first command God gave to man was to take care of the Earth, which includes managing and protecting the environment. We believe that what we can do, we must do! We have been discovering nature’s solution to climate change related health issues for the benefit of our kids at Sahayak. Wherever we found land we planted Aloe Vera and it’s a joy to see Aloe Vera plants that we planted some time back growing. This plant has antiviral and anti-bacterial properties as well as being a healing herb for skin, rich in vitamin A, B, C & E. Aloe Vera is a commercial miracle plant in one of a medicinal group of plants…. Our aim is to sustain this initiative for the benefit of our kids and their families in the community. At present, we are farming about 90 plants since we last counted. We have been approached by neighbours, shopkeepers and gardeners for sale of these plants. We have incorporated Aloe Vera gel in recycled bottles and given to all our kids at the centre to heal their heat boils and bug bites.

We also are planning to add the gel of aloe in fruit juices as it’s good for health. May we find it in our hearts to care for one another and our earthly home and leave it greener and cleaner for our children and their children.”

Compassionate, visionary, hopeful, joyful – all who have studied with Sharon in the MTD know that she is all these things! Please pray for her and her 50+ colleagues in the MTD, that God will sustain them with hope and joy as they walk alongside the poor in their communities, and work with them for a better future.

Steve Bradbury
Lecturer in Transformational Development

“But let God remould your minds from within…”

In every generation of the church, since the day Jesus first launched it, his followers Have been pressured to conform to the surrounding society’s dominant ways of thinking and living, ways so often utterly contrary to God’s ways.

The power of this dominant culture to impact upon our values, our behaviour, our politics, upon how we see the world, and even upon the way we understand our own faith and interpret our sacred texts, has been likened to the power of gravity.

Paul was clearly keenly aware of the danger of this, and his astounding letter to the small community of Christians embedded in the belly of the Roman Empire included at its heart an urgent challenge: “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God remould your minds from within…” (12:2, Phillips translation).

Clearly we all need to be vigilant in this regard. I need to be vigilant! And the MTD provides me with some wonderful assistance in this regard. First, because the small MTD learning community is a global one we expose one another to dramatically different perspectives and different ways of reading and understanding the Scriptures. For example, students who come from strongly communal cultures are less likely to read the Bible through the individualistic lens of your average Western Christian.

Second, the cultural diversity of the MTD community, combined with the importance of ensuring that our studies are contextually relevant, means it is imperative to include non-Western authors in our reading. Inevitably, they open my eyes to dimensions of Biblical teaching, and the application of that teaching, that previously I had only seen dimly or not at all. Let me mention just one such writer:  Vinoth Ramachandra. He frequently crops up in our MTD reading. If you would like a wee taste I encourage you to visit his blog site https://vinothramachandra.wordpress.com/about/

I can confidently predict that you will experience a disturbing blend of challenge, inspiration and discomfort!

 

About Steve Bradbury
Steve Bradbury is the Director of the Micah 6:8 Centre and Lecturer in Transformational Development at Eastern College Australia. Find out more about the Masters of Transformational Development

Love God. Love Neighbour. Love Enemy

Steve Bradbury, Director of the Micah 6:8 Centre and Lecturer in Transformational Development at Eastern College, reflects on the theme of the SURRENDER:16 conference.

Love God. Love Neighbour. Love Enemy.

There is something deeply compelling about these words. Even if we don’t believe in a God, there is a very good chance that we believe that a world in which people truly loved one another would be a much better world than the one we have. Even if we believe that it’s simply unrealistic to expect us to love our enemies (if we have any), we can see that our lives would be so much better if those enemies loved us. We know that the world cannot have too much love.

There is also something deeply uncomfortable about these words. There is no wriggle room in them. When a lawyer skilled in obfuscation tried to find some, it provoked Jesus to tell a simple story that has inspired actions of compassion and justice by his followers in every century since its first telling. Those actions demonstrate that Jesus’ exhortations to his disciples – to live lives of love: love for God, neighbour and even for enemies – were not merely a set of aspirational yet ultimately unrealistic values or goals. On the contrary, they were intended to mould us into a way of living and being.

Of course it’s daunting. Of course we discover, over and over again, that we really do suck at this. Which is why I find a prayer of Brother Roger of Taizé so meaningful:

God of mercy,
enable us to wait for you
in prayer
and to welcome
the look of love
with which you contemplate
each of our lives.

It takes us back to first principles. We must know love in order to love. This prayer reminds us of the constant, unrelenting love God has for all of us. This is the LOVE out of which we can learn to love God in return, love our neighbour and love our enemy.

 

About Steve Bradbury
Steve Bradbury is the Director of the Micah 6:8 Centre and Lecturer in Transformational Development at Eastern College Australia. Find out more about the Masters of Transformational Development