NEWS END OF SEPTEMBER 2013
Anyone wanting to send mail to me in Kenya (when I get back there, in December), please use PO Box 932 , Yala instead of PO Box 75, Maseno.
I have now spent a week at the Worldview Center in Portland, Oregon. The week culminated in my making a presentation on the evening of 19th September to a small crowd including people from Western Theological Seminary that is just down the road. As well as folk from the Worldview Center, I was also able to visit people at Multnomah Christian University, Western Theological Seminary, Warner Pacific College, and the Good Shepherd Community Church in Boring, Oregon. The Worldview Center was founded by a missionary called Don Smith (not the Don Smith who was Principal at Kima and is with Church of God ) as a result of his experience in mission in Africa. Smith has written two books: One is Make Haste Slowly. The second book is Creating Understanding. The Worldview Center specialises in missionary training. For more details.
Don Smith, who began ministry in Africa about 60 years ago, very soon realised that there were problems in missionary communication. As a result of perceiving those problems he was prompted to educate future missionaries. The center here in Portland was for a long time a place of "refuge" for overseas students. Folks here, including the executive director Mark and my colleague Fred Lewis, present missionary training to all interested parties.
I talked to a professor of missions at a Christian university. After discussing different issues for an hour or so, I asked him "So, what would your students make of our discussion?" He was quiet for a few moments. Then he responded "It’s off their radar screen." For a while I was puzzled; you mean, I had come and engaged the professor in debate, and he had to admit that the same discussion would have been indecipherable to his students. Wow! Talk about mission issues being concealed.
Viv Grigg, who opened our US Vulnerable Mission Conference in Los Angeles on 24th September presenting a devotional talk, inspired us to consider how God's Spirit is desiring to work amongst the poor. Viv is well known internationally for his ministry to the poor in slum communities in Third World cities around the globe. Viv’s work in the Manilla slums in the 1970s has spawned numerous movements by Christians to reach out to people around the globe who are trapped in urban poverty.
Stan Nussbaum, our second speaker, told us that in mission, money is not neutral. He made the alarming suggestion; that perhaps Western mission policies are contributing to some of the maladies facing churches in poor nations! He reminded us, that many of the issues we are facing today, were already recognised in the 1970s. More radical action is needed. Stan was soberly enthusiastic that vulnerable mission may be ready for takeoff! That is; that the time has come for more missionaries from the West to engage with people using their own languages and resources. Churches around the world really take off, he told us, when they use local resources to power their ministries.
Our other speaker, apart from myself was Jean Johnson. Jean has a great gift of explaining complex realities through telling stories. She told a story of someone packing sandwiches for an outing, but including a fly in the bag! Sending aid to poor countries can be a bit like that, she explained. Jean herself set out to do ministry in Cambodia in the way she had learned it in America . After 16 years, she had reversed direction, and preferred to enable people to receive the Gospel in a way that made sense in their own contexts.
Our US Vulnerable Mission Conference was a fascinating and interesting event that had us all leave challenged and inspired to go to greater depths of understanding so as to be more effective in sharing God’s words with the poor around the world.