Call this the mustard-seed edition of CT.
From the slums of Bangkok to the boroughs of New York City to the quiet landscapes of Nebraska, this month we spotlight Christians who will likely never get quoted in The New York Times. They have negligible Twitter followings (if they are on social media at all). They are not getting book deals or speaking requests. At first glance they don't seem to be producing much "fruit."
We happen to think they represent the most exciting stories of emerging kingdom work today. First meet Michelle Kao, one of the 200 missionaries who identify with the New Friars movement of urban ministry. Kao veered off the med-school track for Bangkok, where she has lived in a community of 3,000 since 2007. There she has fended off wild dogs (really) as she lives among Thai poor and directs the Thai Peace Center. Kent Annan spotlights Kao and others who are following Christ into "the mosquito buzz of concrete and corrugated tin" of the world's slums.
Next meet Alan Farrell, dubbed NYC's "fatherhood czar" in a city where almost half of all births (45 percent) are to unmarried women. A Bronx native and second-generation immigrant, Farrell has spearheaded the Mayor's Fatherhood Initiative since 2010. How does he stem the tide on such a colossal social issue? By meeting with men one at a time, at City Hall and support groups and churches. Farrell and other immigrants far outside the limelight are planting seeds for their neighbors to flourish in their hometown of 8.3 million.
Kao, Farrell, and their respective peers are timely examples of what Kentucky novelist Wendell Berry called "stickers." These are people who "settle, and love the life they have made and the place they have made it in." Instead of scattering their mustard seed across a wide field, they have planted one faithful seed, very deeply, in one location. Essayist Jake Meador calls this "small-town spirituality," and says it's the antidote to our church's and culture's addiction to bigger and better. Granted, the New Friars and NYC's immigrant Christians work in some of the world's largest cities. But they seek to be faithful in every small, hidden decision. For that, their witness is huge.
Next issue: In contrast, when your October issue arrives in your mailbox (or on your iPad), you will notice not a series of small changes but a wholesale overhaul of the magazine's look. We hope that you will, as we do, find it a far sharper way to deliver to you our equally sharper content. Next month, that includes a cover essay from Andy Crouch on power, a look at why charity races are proving so effective for World Vision, and a profile of devotional writer-in-hiding Sarah Young. Don't miss it.
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