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Dear Friends

It has struck me that I am at times engaged in a kind of 'slave ministry'.

It has been said historically that slaves have often been missionaries. That is, someone is captured in wartime or by slave-traders, and then finds themselves a bonded-servant amongst a dominant foreign people. If the slave is a Christian, the question arises; how they are to behave? It would be easy to despise one's new masters, to harp on about the superiority of one's own people, and do all one can to escape. Or should the slave love their masters?

Slaves are unable to perform important social rituals, but neither are they subject to oppressive cultural taboos. Newly acquired slaves' attempts at demonstrating love are singularly difficult through their having no relatives and a limited understanding of language and of what makes people tick. The subtlety of how to demonstrate love in the host community will not be known to a captured slave. A slave of course has no funds with which to help people. If a Christian and convinced that they should show love to testify to Christ, they are confined to unsophisticated ways of doing this, such as prayer, encouraging those who are sick and rejected or dying, having a smiling face, going the extra mile . . . these would be the bread and butter of the ministry of a captured slave who is a Christian.

I am also finding these things must become the bread and butter of my ministry, as a vulnerable missionary.

Don't get me wrong. I am not a slave. But - not having family, citizenship, community position, a clear understanding of what is going on around me amongst my host people, or money - my ministry opportunities can be as would be those of a slave. Quite humbling. Quite a challenge.

Give thanks - that one of the universities I visited in the USA last year, Abilene Christian University in Texas has agreed to arrange and host a vulnerable mission conference for part of the first week of March 2012 (note year!), plus to coordinate other conferences on vulnerable mission. This is excellent news. ACU is a high quality very enthusiastically Christian university of 5,000 students. Details in due course.