Borthwick Update February 2008
Reflections on Global Missiology
The past eight months or more have been a whirlwind of activity for us, and as 2008 has started, we've managed to get away for a break - a time which affords better reflection on our ministry involvement and the corresponding relationships we have through Development Associates International (DAI), Gordon College, Urbana, and a host of other networks including Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization as well as Board membership with Partners International and World relief.
For those who are new to the "Borthwick Update" list, a quick review. The past eight months have included:
OBSERVATION #1: FROM EVERYWHERE TO EVERYWHERE
In the last few months, I (Paul writing here) have met Americans working in Turkey and Egypt, an Egyptian married to an Irish working in North Africa, a Sri Lankan serving in Pakistan, Camerounians serving in Nigeria, and Nigerians serving in the USA. Our DAI team features an American helping equip Indians to serve in Nepal, a Nigerian who oversees 300+ Nigerian missionaries in 14 countries, and Ugandans training leaders in the Sudan.
In Jamaica, we commissioned a young man going to serve with SIL/Wycliffe in Nepal. In Taiwan, young people, whose parents were often taught to resist everything about the Peoples Republic of China, raised their arms in openness to go serve in that vast country of 1.3 billion souls. In Indonesia, generally regarded as the most populous Muslim nation on earth, 500+ young people committed themselves to inviting that nation to worship Jesus. And in Nigeria, 6200 students gathered for five days in living circumstances that would test the mettle of even the heartiest disciple - all to explore how they could be lights to the nations (starting with their own).
LESSON? Wake up and join the team! God is doing something global, and if we really want to be part of the "Missio Dei", the mission of God in the world, we need to be learning about somewhere else so that we can pray, celebrate, and get involved. Christie and I have found that staying updated on God's work elsewhere often keeps us encouraged when things seem slow or discouraging in our own neighborhood. So we'd encourage you: don't be content with a 'my country only' vision. The USA is about 5% of the world's population; therefore, most of our Christian family is someplace else. Get to know them.
OBSERVATION #2: NEW PARADIGMS OF SENDING
For most of the "modern era" of missions (from roughly the 1790's and William Carey's ministry to India to the late 20th Century), the sending paradigm has been that of people from wealthier countries going to serve in poorer countries and people from more powerful nations going to serve either in less powerful nations or in the colonies of their own nations. [The preceding statement is perhaps over-simplified, and there are notable exceptions, but most would agree that the richer-to-poorer, powerful-to-powerless paradigm has prevailed - from the colonial era up through the post-World War II and post-USSR communist era]
The newest paradigms of sending turn the older paradigm on its head. In Sri Lanka [one of the poorest and more recently de-stabilized [again!] countries in Asia), Paul met in October with 30 young people committed to encourage them as they are pursuing God's will concerning cross-cultural missions. If they get to go to the Muslim world, it might be the Saudi Arabia peninsula, and they may go as maids or other types of domestic workers. The young man from Jamaica going to Nepal must trust God for his financial needs being met by churches that might not be able to support their own pastors in Jamaica. Those going out from Indonesia or Malaysia might have better financial resources, but they are often regarded as socially 2nd-class because they are Christians in predominantly Muslim nations.
Observant readers will understand that this is not really a new paradigm at all; it is merely a return to the way Christians went out from the church in the first few centuries of Christianity. Many came from postures of poverty, weakness, and low social standing to spread the good news (see I Corinthians 1:18-31). This biblical perspective of Christ's power being evident in those who are "weak" is what provoked Kenya pastor Oscar Muriu to ask a group of Western leaders, "Why do you in the West find it so difficult to see the immigrants as the new missionary force?"
LESSON? We have had to confront our tendency to equate the mission endeavor with Western affluence (i.e., that only the churches "rich enough" should be owning the vision of making disciples of all nations. Instead, the Sri Lankans and Indonesians and Nigerians are teaching us that the Lausanne slogan is right - "the WHOLE church takes the whole gospel to the whole world."
OBSERVATION #3: NEW PARADIGMS OF SUFFERING AND THE PURPOSES OF GOD
Although the association of suffering with being a disciple of Jesus permeates the New Testament ("take up your cross daily" certainly implied a life of suffering to serve others), our Western teaching of following Jesus (combined with extreme examples of "prosperity theology") often overlooks this basic component in the ministry of the Gospel. In contrast, four recent experiences have underscored this truth that following Jesus is often accompanied by suffering.
Our long-time associate and friend, Ajith Fernando, in Sri Lanka (where the suffering index has been increasing again) has recently released "The Call Joy and Pain: Embracing Suffering in Your Ministry." It introduces us to the joy-in-spite-of-prison Gospel that Paul personifies in the book of Philippians.
In Orissa, India - where we held DAI Masters level training in July 2007 - radical Hindu opposition to the Gospel has intensified, with hundreds of incidents of violence against Christians in December and January. [Violence in a place where we've just served always brings the reality of suffering home to us.]
In Nigeria, a young man traveled 12 hours by bus (each way!) just to greet "Uncle Paul" - we had corresponded for three years but had never met. Abraham told his mesmerizing story of conversion from Islam, attempts on his life by his own family members, his father's dramatic conversion and subsequent violent death at the hands of Islamic leaders, and his own life in a Muslim area. Threats and danger surround him, but he perseveres "because of all Jesus suffered for me."
And finally Kenya - often seen as a stable foundation for East African Christianity - has been re-introduced to suffering resulting from corrupt politics, people who value an ethnic identity over their identity in Christ, and governmental leaders apparently intent on stirring up strife.
The point is this: following Jesus is not easy nor did Jesus promise it would be easy.
LESSON? For us, the challenge has been to address our own desire for a nice, peaceful, suburban American-dream life. While these are normal desires, we've been forced to realize through our international brothers and sisters that our supreme desire must be to glorify Christ - even if it means loss of safety and security. In short, we need to beware the seduction of comfort-zone Christianity.
So that's our encouragement to you as well. Find where God is at work in the world and join him there (a la Henry Blackaby's "Experiencing God)." Remember that God delights to reveal his power through weakness. And learn to see suffering as God's tools to make us and his church around the world into the image of his Son.
Thank you for your partnership with us.
Christie & Paul
A NOTE ABOUT FINANCES: with increased international ministry ahead comes increased expense. If you'd like to join us in financial partnership, tax-deductible contributions (designated "Borthwick Support") can be made payable and sent to:
Development Associates International
P.O. Box 49278
Colorado Springs, CO 80949
|Copyright Paul Borthwick 2013|