Jim's Journal - November 2006
I consider this a 'special edition' because in addition to 'Africa News', I also share of a new (for me) type of mission, that is: 'mission to mission' in America!
How come I am suddenly setting off to spend 3 months in the USA? I am heading to the USA hoping that I may thus be able to bring a change for the better in World Mission as a whole, and Africa-mission in particular. The USA being a big centre for Mission sending, seems an obvious place to go to in order to do this.
How does one do this? How am I going to 'speak to the USA' about mission? Thankfully I do have a few contacts 'over there', and one of those particularly has been helpful in advising me as to how to go about planning the trip. That is Dr. Stan Nussbaum, who works with GMI (Global Mapping International, which provide statistics on 'un-reached peoples').
Following Stan's advice, I have drawn up a list of institutions that I now hope to visit. Some of those visits are confirmed and fixed, others are still in the making and not totally certain.
Plans for the USA Tour
OMSC (Overseas Ministries Study Centre, 24th to 30th January) 2 hours drive north from New York is my first intended port of call in the USA. A favourite site for visits by missionary scholars around the globe, I am particularly looking forward to learn more on the centre's perspective on money-in-mission. The Director of the centre (Jonathon Bonk) has written extensively on abuses of money in mission work. Some of his writing has been instrumental in shaping my own thinking.
After OMSC I move on to WMA (World Mission Associates 30th Jan. to 3rd Feb.), this time two hours South of New York, an organisation set up and run by Glenn Schwartz. As myself, Schwartz started his missionary career in Zambia. He was also inspired to bring constructive criticism to what he found on the field. I look forward to finding out more on Schwartz's position. I know that his emphasis is on reducing the creation of dependence in mission.
WCIU (William Carey International University) has offered me a month's position as (voluntary) adjunct faculty (3rd February to 8th March 2007). They are one of the most progressive and influential movements for reform in mission today. In addition to interacting with staff and students, I hope to be used in the development of new cutting-edge cross-cultural curricula to become part of their programme(s). Their courses cover the full range of content from mission to development at undergraduate up to PhD level. My focus will be on contemporary mission issues.
While at WCIU I hope to have some inputs into Fuller Theological Seminary, just a few minutes away. An African staff member called Jehu Hanciles has promised me opportunities to share in the programme of this world renowned leading American evangelical seminary. I have found that a lot of my colleagues in Church of God have been trained at Fuller.
From WCIU and Fuller which are in Los Angeles in the far West of America, I move on 8th to 20th of March to the Colorado area further East. A good old friend and professional missions lecturer Stan Nussbaum being based in this area is arranging inputs into various organisations. These include GMI (Global Mapping International) who employ Stan and with whom I engaged in mission research some years ago. Opportunities may open up for working with other organisations such as MTI (Missionary Training Institute) of the Lutheran church in the same geographical region.
My final month's programme is still less certain, so will perhaps be a bit more relaxed. I plan to spend the week running up to Easter based at SIM (Serving in Mission) Carolina. This is the international and US headquarters of the mission that I was with in Zambia from 1988 to 1991, and with which I am now affiliated. I hope to be involved in some sort of missionary training while there. There is a chance I may be involved in Wheaton and Trinity colleges in a small way, and perhaps slightly more hopeful also Asbury Theological Seminary. I still plan to make contact with and explore options for visiting SIL (Summer Institute of Linguistics / Wycliffe) if time allows. Earlier visits may generate contacts for this later period.
God willing I will be back in the UK from 20th to 26th April, during which time I will be taking a seminar for UK mission leaders arranged by Global Connections, the UK evangelical mission umbrella organisation. This will be the Africa Forum at Bawtry Hall near Doncaster on 23rd April. 27th April I hope to be back in Kenya ready for the opening of a new teaching term at the start of May 2007 at KIST, YTC and STC.
Your prayers are coveted for this time. This is a new venture onto new territory. Pray for me to be able to share in a clear and godly way with folks that I meet. Pray also for my involvement with churches on Sundays. Pray for the travelling and for suitable accommodation at every destination, plus for constructive filling of slack time if and when it arises.
Give thanks for our current Dean, a retired church minister (with previous Dean experience) from the USA who is standing in for 12 months. My teaching in Islam has been challenging. I have found that making reading through and discussing the Koran a part of this course has been particularly helpful. The dedication of the (almost) completed new KIST Chapel on 19th November promises to be a major and important event with many visitors. Term closes on 24th November 2006.
Major changes in the administrative structure of YTC have given us a new Director Pastor Paul Agoro, while the previous director remains in charge of the academic programme. Give thanks that a student on internship from KIST has volunteered to pick up the bulk of the teaching load in my absence from January to March next year. He will be staying in my house while I am away.
It appears that our second attempt at finding a volunteer teacher for STC has hit the rocks. We are very urgently seeking for a volunteer to help us in teaching, to enable the work in Siaya to expand. Until this happens the input to Siaya is confined to a once weekly class meeting in a local church, taught by myself. (A teacher has been found to continue this while I am in the USA.)
House and Home
As I write we am in the process of adding another three children to my household to take the place of older children who have moved on. I am grateful for local church leaders who are putting us in touch with those families who have orphan children who are in very great need. This will bring the number of children back up to 12. (13 including one 'child' who is now a teacher in the primary school attended by other children! One of my girls got married, and two of the older children moved on.)
I am due to re-submit my revised thesis to Birmingham university in the next month or two. I am hoping that I will not need to be called for another oral exam (viva).
Please also pray for a team effort at teaching a seminar on 12th to 17th December 2006 to Mennonite churches near to Migori.
This is what I have sent to the organisations in the USA:
Jim Harries conceded Lordship of his life to Jesus Christ in 1976. He has been a practising missionary in Zambia and then Kenya since 1988. Jim comes with expertise in African contextual theology, missiology and rural development. He has taught TEE (Theological Education by Extension) in Africa, especially with indigenous churches and using local languages, since 1990. He has lectured part-time at BA and advanced diploma level at a Church of God (Anderson) affiliated theological school in Kenya for 10 years. He has up to 14 orphaned children in his home in rural Kenya. This is in a typical local village home, using indigenous languages and living by local Christian standards.
Jim's concern in his 2007 visit to the USA is to promote what he calls 'vulnerable mission'. He says that it is only through being vulnerable to a people that one can get to know them well enough to help them effectively and avoid pitfalls that await the unsuspecting missionary or development worker. His research, some of it already published and including a PhD that he is currently working on, uses linguistic tools to substantiate the necessity of operating in people's own languages. These languages, Jim adds, should be learned through exposure to local people and local culture.
Jim comes prepared to lead seminars and/or present academic papers to audiences who are willing to have their missiological and development preconceptions challenged.
And good wishes for the new year to all friends, supporters, brothers and sisters.