October 10, 2022
I was feeling insecure and anxious as I boarded the Singapore Airlines flight to the Philippines September 10th. I wondered if perhaps I had forgotten how to travel internationally and how to engage people in cross-cultural ministry. I hadn’t done any teaching and training with a live audience in person since February 2020. But it didn’t take long for me to recover my “sea legs” and I could sense that many people were praying for me as I taught with 70 Filipino missionaries and church workers with the Free Methodist Church, the church in which I grew up.
I frequently end a week of training by displaying on a table six small soft rubber “body parts” – heart, brain, ears, hands, stomach, and eye. I invite participants to come forward and choose one of the body parts that most represents what they experienced in our training together. Most choose the brain or heart, but the first person up this time chose the stomach. “I need to digest all I have learned this week, not only new information but a new perspective and understanding of cross-cultural ministry,” she said as she continued almost in tears, “My expectations were met and exceeded on the very first day of our conference.”
It was indeed a fulfilling conference and many testified of new revelations and deeper insights they gained. “We will go back into our mission work full of encouragement, so much blessed with learnings and with your love,” Irene shared in one of our last meetings. “All the questions in my mind were answered. Thank you for the messages,” Sandra testified in one of our group discussions. Darrell’s presentations and stories were very engaging.
So, what’s been happening since my last Global Development newsletter and update? In April, I helped organize the last of our Mission Leaders Forum on the theme of “Mission and the Arts” with 50 participants. Our group of mission leaders have met annually for 35 years at the Overseas Ministries Study Center in New Haven, but our time has come to an end. A new and different era of mission is now emerging, and although I still frequently think of myself as the “new kid on the block,” the reality is that I’m now one of the old white men, and it’s time to move on and empower others to lead.
In May, I continued training 80 Chinese missionaries and a dozen mission trainers, all via Zoom which is now becoming “second nature” to me, although I don’t think Zoom will ever replace the value of being with people in person and interacting with a live audience.
In June, I gave the keynote address at the American Society of Missiology annual meeting held at Notre Dame. I chose as my topic “The Conversion of a Missionary: A Missiological Study of Acts 10” where I argued that every missionary needs two conversions – one to Christ to combat our egocentrism, and a second conversion to cross-cultural awareness and understanding to cleanse us of our ethnocentrism. Acts 10 is the story of the Apostle Peter and the Roman centurion Cornelius. Peter had to undergo what I’m calling a second conversion of cross-cultural awareness to cleanse him of his ethnocentrism, when he declared, “I now realize that God has no favorites. God treats everyone on the same basis. It makes no difference what culture they come from” (Acts 10:34). As a missiological anthropologist this has been a dominant theme throughout my life. We all need two conversions!
Coming up in the near future is a return to Nagaland, India in November and in December training 80 Chinese missionaries for two weeks via Zoom. I have a full schedule in 2023, and so will greatly appreciate your continued prayers and support as I continue to participate in God’s mission in the world through Global Development. Blessings on you.