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Things Home Mission Can Learn: Serve

When we lived in Gouabafla, I’d often spend an hour or so in the late afternoon chatting to people while cleaning up wounds of one sort or another. I treated machete wounds, abscesses, tropical ulcers and all sorts of things. I’m not medically trained, I’m just a bloke who knows a bit about first aid and who (unlike anyone else in the village) had access to basic medical supplies.

More importantly, I couldn’t claim to be in the village to share the love of God through the Bible and yet ignore the suffering that was all around me. I couldn’t do much about the poverty in the village, or the endemic corruption that reinforced that poverty, but I could clean out a dirty wound, treat it with antiseptic and put a clean dressing on while showing people how to treat their own wounds in future.

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What makes us distinctively Christian?

I have commented before on the challenge of being distinctively Christian in an environment which requires certain legal and administrative practices of us.

Not only do we find ourselves forced to comply with legislative practices (often good) imposed on us by secular authorities, but in order to be seen to be delivering on that we often adopt secular business practices.  This is all too easy for those of us who were trained in management in secular employment before we joined the mission field.  And those of us who are already equipped with management and administrative skills are the ones most likely to be selected for senior leadership, which then reinforces further the use of secular practices in our organisations.

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Things Home Mission Can Learn: Contextualise – Part 4

During our time living among the Kouya, I was regularly called on to preach in church – people didn’t really think that Bible translation kept me busy enough. It became obvious, pretty quickly, that the way I’d learned to preach in the UK wasn’t going to cut the mustard in rural Ivory Coast. The logical three-point (alliterated) sermon gave way to a more narrative form and I soon realised that I needed to be far more overt in talking about the spiritual realm – bush spirits, witchcraft etc., than I would have been in the UK (more of this in a later post).

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The church mission committee was meeting

Chair: So the next item on the agenda is Christine’s return on home assignment for nine months.

Ron: I expect she is going to have to go round all her supporting churches raising support for her next term and we won’t see much of her.

Chair: Well actually we will have her exclusively with us for five months.

Carole: That is a long holiday!

Bill: I expect she will want to be active in the church for some of the time.

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Things Home Mission Can Learn: Study – Part 3

This is the third part in a series on what those involved in mission to the UK can learn from cross-cultural mission around the world.

When Sue and I first went to live among the Kouya and before we were allowed to start translating the New Testament, we had to demonstrate that we knew something about Kouya culture. We spent a long time chatting to people, doing some informal interviews, and taking part in village life. Eventually we gathered enough information to allow us to write some ethnographic articles about Kouya life and culture. You can find some of them here, if you are interested.

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There are no ‘World Religions’!

Christian mission often finds itself up against ‘world religions’. We have been told, since year dot (when we were toddlers), that there is a set of eleven or so ‘world religions’, of which Christianity is one. Those who told us this, didn’t seem to have any qualms about its truth.

When we believe the above, we see mission as doing our bit for Christianity, against other ‘world religions’. When we look in the bookshops, we find lots of books on the shelves telling us about those other religions. We think that is helpful, because if we can understand them better, that should help us to convince them that Christianity is ‘better’. At the same time we wonder – if there are so many world religions; then how can we be sure that ‘ours’ is the best?

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Things Home Mission Can Learn: Go! – Part 2

When push comes to shove, there is one basic difference between long-term, cross-cultural missionaries and the average church member. The missionary got on an aeroplane (or boat…) and went somewhere for an extended period, with a particular purpose in mind. Sure, there are lots of other differences in terms of background and experience, but they all flow out of this one decision to get up and go.

A very simple lesson can be drawn from this: if you want to reach people with the Gospel, you have to be where they are. This applies in Bingley, just as much as it does in Bangkok or Bahrain. Let me unpack this a little.

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Things Home Mission Can Learn From Overseas Mission – Part 1

Missionaries are an odd bunch; they talk about exotic places, they swap stories about suffering from strange diseases, they speak foreign languages and they are often rather out of touch with life in the UK. It’s good to have them around, to listen to their encouraging and heartwarming stories, but all too often, what they say is out of touch with the reality of being a Christian in twenty-first century Britain.

OK; that’s a caricature; I know that and you know that, but like all caricatures, it carries a grain of truth.

However, I believe that the skills and experience of cross-cultural missionaries are crucial to the future of the church in the UK, let me explain.

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Calling all teachers

‘Give me the children until they are seven, and anyone may have them afterwards.’ Saint Francis Xavier
‘Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.’ Proverbs 22:6

The importance of teaching children was emphasised to the Israelites.  Deuteronomy 11 v 18-19 ‘Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.’

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Mission begins with “ask”

At a day event for the Interserve supporter-network, Paul Hardingham the minister at St. Peter’s church in Halliwell, Bolton, gave a terrific Bible focus from Matthew 9:35-38. Here’s a shortened rendering of that text:

35 Jesus went through towns and villages teaching, proclaiming the good news and healing. 36 …the crowds [provoked] compassion on him, because they were harassed and helpless. 37…he said “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest…to send workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9)

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