Three events took place this last week that allow a glimpse into how the world changes. After finding the story behind the events, I remind myself and my friends about tools for acting out our hope and contributing to the good of the world.
- In Guatemala, the staff of a historic British mission to Latin America met last week. Today their staff is no longer British, but multi-national. And, to their meeting, they invited to a Brazilian mission leader to speak to them. Tonica brings expertise, developed out of the Brazilian experience, that Latin Link needs. Since mission no longer flows from north to south but, perhaps primarily, from south to north, they need to offer personal and professional support for missionary personnel mobilized by them from Latin America. As this gathering, they named a new International Director, elected by a largely Latin staff, whom he will lead from South America; additionally, some Latin Link missionaries from Latin America are now sent to Europe. Latin Americans face their own unique challenges to follow to their life-calling from their countries, so the changes in their personnel justified seeking out Brazilian expertise.
- In another Central American country, Brazilians joined other Latin Americans to think, pray, and plan about how Christians should interact with Muslims and considered the impact of those interactions on the future of humanity in light of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
- In East Africa, a 100-year-old Protestant mission agency, originally organized to promote the gospel in Africa, gathered their leaders from around the world. Today they have “sending bases” in many other countries, including countries that they once considered mission fields. At this meeting, the leader of the Brazilian base helped guide strategic thinking about the future of the sending agency model itself.
All 3 gatherings were focused on Christ’s worldwide mission, but not in ways American Christians are accustomed to:
- Fundamental decisions were made, outside of the traditional sending countries, about how to carry out the mission.
- Two simultaneous changes have affected the context in which such decisions are made. On the one hand, the ethics of engaging in mission from the West is questioned, even by many Christians. On the other hand, that decline is met by an increase in the numbers and commitment of Christians in the global South and East. They have their own own reasons for following Christ into mission and have been gaining practical experience for a few decades now. They know how to lead, find new ways to move forward and enter new contexts.
- The geography of “ownership” of mission has changed dramatically. No longer do Western agencies invite “local” leaders into the decision-making process solely because they are concerned to foster “local ownership” of “field projects”. Non-Western leaders have authority to speak into decisions that have global implications and they do so from valuable perspectives that previously were overlooked.
In each of the events, Brazilians played a key role. Increasingly, Brazilians are taking leadership roles that shape how Christians all over the world will participate in the gospel. The roles they played this week involved re-tooling traditional mission agencies.
For me, it is hard to miss how things have changed in 40 years. When we went to Rio in 1980, there were only a handful of missionaries sent out from Brazil and only a few more preparing to be sent.
All we could ask for was prayer. And many friends joined us in those prayers.
We also asked our new Brazilian friends to pray.
The above is the end of some sermon notes, typed on a typewriter, in 1979! It’s a sermon I delivered in a number of places, sometimes when I accompanied Jonathan Ferreira dos Santos, pictured with me in our OC Prayer Letter above.
By noticing the connection between our prayers and what these people are doing, we don’t want to take credit for hard work other people did to bring about this amazing change in the role of Brazilians in missions. Nor is it proper to take credit for the prayers themselves, since prayers are words other people used to express their desire and their expectation about potential developments. When we asked for these prayers we did think they would align with God’s promises. Nevertheless, it is pretty incredible to look back on where those prayers have led.
When we notice how such prayers are working out in Brazil, we should continue to pray, with even more expectation.
- Pray for success for Brazilian Christians who aim to create new paths for global participation in the gospel.
- Pray they can find new avenues for addressing issues of poverty and exclusion, migration and war, drug addiction and systemic corruption, education, and human flourishing.
- Pray they will inspire more and more people to follow Jesus.
- And pray for us in Martureo.
This potential is one important reason why Martureo is focused on promoting “missiological reflection” among Brazilian church and mission leaders. There is no guarantee that this potential will lead to fruit. We can pray and take action, though, to try to reach that potential.
Chapter 2 of Paul’s letter to Titus ends with a picture of “potential”. The entire letter is about praying and working for a potential in the Cretans to be realized.
the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
This is why I work in Martureo. The Martureo team aims to foster good thinking that leads to more effective action by Brazilians in the world. Reflection involves re-visiting the basis for the actions we take, based on experience in mission. Brazilians with experience in mission can shed new light, for all of us, on how to participate in the story of the gospel.
If you want to join us, you can pray and you can contribute. I have provided a list of prayer requests above. You can contribute here.