Monday, September 17, 2012

who IS here?

Some time ago I asked the question Who's Not Here? It's time to rephrase the question.

SIM, the mission agency we joined 10 years ago now, has been working in Africa for more than a century, and has since expanded into South America and Asia through mergers with other mission agencies. The original founders of SIM wanted to break ground in new territory, so they headed to the interior of Africa, then know as "the Soudan," to reach the unreached with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Since no agency was willing to send them to such a remote location, they started their own and called it "Soudan Interior Mission." Beginning in what is now known as Nigeria, these three brave men attempted to go where no (white) man had gone before. Only one of them survived the first expedition, but dozens and then hundreds of missionaries answered the call and have been following in their footsteps ever since. Today nearly 2000 SIM missionaries are serving around the world.

SIM has accomplished amazing things in its history, but nothing is more exciting (to me!) than what is happening right now. For the first time in SIM's history, we will be led by an African. Who better to help us think strategically about reaching non-Westerners than a non-Westerner? Dr. Joshua Bogunjoko has been unanimously nominated to take over as International Director of SIM next summer. He is well-educated, with years of experience in mission work and mission leadership, and he is Nigerian. But most importantly, he is a humble man of God.

We had the blessing of an hour of fellowship with Joshua last week in our home. When we asked him his "agenda" or "goal" for SIM, we were struck by his desire to listen. His wisdom and experience will serve our mission well, but he is no bulldozer. Joshua exudes humility and gratitude.

His appointment to this role is evidence of a deep transformation in the way SIM missionaries think about missions. It's not US and THEM, but WE. We're moving from PATRON to PARTNER, and from SUPERIOR to SERVANT. No doubt parochial attitudes persist in all of us, but we're watching with joy as Howie Brant's vision for SIM to send missionaries "from anywhere to anywhere" is becoming a reality. We now have Latinos serving in India, Ethiopians in Sudan, Filipinos in Mongolia . . . and Nigerians in the USA. Glory!

While we're counting noses, I have to say I was delighted this week with the first meeting of the Global Theological Education Discussion Group at Wheaton. I'm part of the leadership team for this informal group this year, where we invite knowledgeable speakers to help us think more deeply about the task of theological education around the world. In the past most of the attendees have been (white!) PhD students, but yesterday we had 6 new (non-PhD) faces around the table, and only one of them was white. Students from Indonesia, India, Korea, and Brazil enriched our conversation as we considered the place of spiritual warfare in a theological curriculum. Wheaton is making a concerted effort towards greater diversity, and it shows.

Globalization is something of a fad right now, but I must say it's one of the best fads I have ever seen. Long may it live, and transform the way we think, talk, and live.

After all, this is a small world, and we're in this together.

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