This is part two of a two part series. Read the first one here.
I’m still working my head around the missionary task in a postmodern era. But there are a few things that I know for sure:
There is no one culture that is the standard bearer for the “right” way of being. And there is no such thing as not having a culture. Good and evil are present in all ways of being because we are all human, imperfect by nature, and yet formed in the image of God.
I come from the United States. A Texan. I speak English with a bit of a twang. I say “y’all". I have English, Scottish, Irish, and Native American blood in my veins. White skin. From a middle class educated family living in the suburbs north of Dallas. Female. A Christian, baptized Presbyterian and raised United Methodist. I am proud of all of those things. I know that some of those things afford me significant privileges and some of them mean that I am denied certain privileges. My thinking and experience are colored by those things, and in a global society it is helpful to know that. My way is just one way of being in the world, and I know that God is present in all contexts.
From Everywhere to Everywhere
In generations past, it was white people who were seen as the bringers of the Gospel to people of color all over the world. In a postmodern world, all races and nations are understood to be worthy carriers of the Gospel. And so now, missionaries come from everywhere and go to everywhere. In my missionary training this past fall, there were seven people trained coming from four different countries—Mozambique, The Philippines, the U.S., and Zimbabwe. We are being sent now to Brazil, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Fiji, Sierra Leone, South Korea, Tanzania, and Zambia. The Global Mission Fellows are people in their 20’s sent out by Global Ministries to serve two years across the world (Europe, Asia, Africa, the US, and Latin America). Last year, more than half of the Fellows were African. It is a new day.
Global Ministries is opening up offices in Latin America, Asia, and Africa along with it’s United States office. My direct supervisor though Global Ministries is a woman from and living in Liberia. I am directly accountable to the Sierra Leone Annual Conference’s bishop, Bishop John K. Yambasu.
There are probably very smart things I could say about how the internet has ushered in globalism, brings people together, and creates unprecedented opportunity to organize (the Arab Spring, anyone?). But really I reference it because as a missionary I get to daily video chat with my people at home on Marco Polo. And also, Netflix! Can I get an amen for Netflix? Turns out I can get it here. Jesus loves me.
Mutuality and Respect
Finally, (and more seriously) one of Global Ministries’ Guiding Principles is “to approach our connections in a spirit of mutuality, recognizing that the Grace of God is at work in the world before any action on our part, and that God’s image is present in every human being. We are open to receive humbly as well as to give graciously, one to another, with respect and gratitude.”
There is more to say and certainly more I expect that God will reveal. But I will end the way that Global Ministry’s Theology of Mission ends with an affirmation of the “Spirit’s surprising activity". I think it sums up what it means to be a postmodern missionary very well.
"The Spirit is always moving to sweep the Church into a new missional age. With openness and gratitude we await the leading of the Spirit in ways not yet seen as God continues to work God’s purposes out in our own day in a new way.” Thanks be to God for the call, to Jesus Christ for his strength and humble wisdom, to the Spirit for its bold leading.