When I spoke last week at the Annual Meeting of Missions Interlink NZ in Auckland, New Zealand, I found it difficult to figure out what to say to experienced mission leaders. So I did something I should do more often: I asked for a little help from my friends–and sent a quick circular letter asking for prayer.
New Zealand is a relatively new context. The more often I come, the clearer it becomes to me how Aotearoa New Zealand is shaped by interactions between Maori and European settlers. Interactions are so central that the constitutional document for New Zealand is actually a treaty written–by missionaries–to regulate future interactions. Ideas about their place in God’s mission shaped the text that linked their stories together. That same mission has also shaped my life in the Americas over more than half a century.
My problem is that I am still a learner.
We each experience the big story–of God fulfilling his promise to bless all the families of the earth–in different ways (sometimes for good and sometimes for ill).
When I spoke to New Zealand Mission leaders I didn’t want to overlook those differences. I aimed to talk about the shared story in different ways. To do so, I drew from moments of the story that are represented in the Bible. I also drew from my experience in the mission and how it engaged me in its story and from the unique experience of the mission by Latin Americans who allowed me to join them on their journey and learn with them.
With the help of encouraging e-mails from my friends and God’s answers to their prayers, I did speak. If you are interested in what I said you can listen here to my message on Holy Spirit Disruption in Mission.
There is an advantage to being a learner.
The best part of the day, though, was to experience Pacific Islander and Settler stories merging with my own. Our experiences of the story of Jesus proved to include each of us and examine all of us, and led to a number of discussions before, during and after lunch. How do we think the world is put together? What do we hope for? How to live for each other? My friends who prayed and encouraged me, are also linked in this story of the gospel that makes claims on all our lives.
I learned a lot from my fellow travelers in just one morning in Auckland.