(Re)reading mission in light of the Bible

I’ve been published again!

Martureo — The Brazilian Center for Missiological Reflection recently published an article I wrote on The Bible and the missionary imagination after colonialism.  

My article, published originally in Portuguese, drew on my life exprience in what might best be called “an inbetween space”. I am from a place in the North that used to send missionaries to countries to the South and to the East. And yet I had a place of my own with people from another place–one that put them on the receiving end of missionary projects from the North–in their efforts to follow Christ into His mission.

My article also drew on the story of NT Wright, controversies about his work, and how those controversies have played out in Brazil and in the USA.

Out of those experiences, I found stories that reveal the effect of some “structures” that remained in effect after colonialism was dismantled. Surprisingly, those structures make it difficult for Christians to actually listen to the Bible. Too often we use the Bible to make it say what we want it to say. The structures have another related effect: they name some people as needy and other people as the ones that God somehow needs so he can meet their need.  

My story is about people who let the Bible examine them and their practices. Its about how when they let the Bible do its work, they were pushed into service for the good of others, rather than worrying about how to “defend the faith”.  

The article is in Portuguese, so I have included here an English draft version of my article

Join us in making changes…

I tell people I commute to Brazil.  Mapa-Mundo-AtualAnd sometimes I do, and sometimes I work from the USA focused on the work of Martureo–The Brazilian Center for Missiological Reflection where I am Executive Coordinator.

How does Martureo work?

Martureo influences the perspective and efforts of thousands of Brazilians who bear witness to the Lord Jesus Christ, and all his teachings, around the world and in every sphere of society. In 2018 Martureo did this in three significant ways.  We offered Continue reading “Join us in making changes…”

40 years of unfinished projects. Thanks for sticking with us!

The story of more than 40 years of our life with Latin Americans came together in a very special way in 2017.

During the second half of the year, I learned important lessons.  Those lessons reminded me that we don’t walk through life alone.  This story would not have happened without you: Continue reading “40 years of unfinished projects. Thanks for sticking with us!”

Year end giving in my 40th year of Christian service.

I am not sure how I feel about the heavy traffic of e-mails I get with Christmas greetings mixed with an appeal to me to give money to everyone’s favorite charity.

I admit it is part of the system that has defined “missions” from the American church to the rest of the world and that we have done some good.  This system has made it possible Continue reading “Year end giving in my 40th year of Christian service.”


In late April, I started a new job in Brazil.  I am now the Executive Coordinator for Martureo:  the Brazilian Center for Missiological Reflection.

Marcos Amado founded Martureo to produce resources Brazilians need to assess their experience in global mission and chart a course for the future.

When Lois and I went as missionaries to Brazil in the 70’s we believed Brazilians should not so much receive missionaries as send them.  Over the next few decades that is exactly what happened.  A movement of Brazilians in global mission emerged and grew. Continue reading “Martureo”

On living a charmed life—gift #1—thanks to you!

Lois and I have been entrusted with gifts and privileges over the years.  Such things may come ultimately from God, but they are delivered through people like you.  Two special gifts  came this month and reminded me why we say “entrusted.”  We get gifts so we can use them responsibly.
The first gift was when we found an old recipe book of Brazilian recipes from a women’s meeting on our first visit back from from Brasil.
Let’s go back a few steps:  Before we got married, we decided to be missionaries.  A year after tying the knot, we moved to Brazil — 25 and 23 years old!
Leaving for Brazil

We started our family in Brazil, and then raised our daughters in Guatemala.  Some people thought we were really dedicated—giving away our lives—but we always thought we were on the receiving end, getting many more good things than we ever gave up.

The recipe book, and the prayers of friends
The first gift I got this month was an old recipe book with only five recipes.  It’s old, and typed on a typewriter.  We aren’t exactly sure when this little booklet was made. The introduction includes language that often made us feel uncomfortable because it implied that we were doing something particularly special.  It also made Brazilians out to be poor and needy, and our friends in Brazil were very much like us.  Sometimes our friends nurtured ideas of Brazil that was might have been more consistent with the Amazon jungle than with the very urban context of the two cities we lived in.  Not only was the jungle 5 hours away by plane, the cities we lived in were amazingly modern, in some ways beyond what we had experienced in the USA.  São Paulo (15 million people then) was enormous and an industrial powerhouse .  Curitiba (3 million) was a great city to live in, and a global standard setter for good urban planning.
What made this booklet a gift was also in the introduction.
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Something more important than the mis-conceptions about who we were and where we lived, was the willingness of our friends to make special efforts to pray for us.  We were the privileged ones because we were on the receiving end of the prayers of many more people than anyone we knew.  Many still pray for us.  We get all the benefits.
Its mysterious to some, but God seems to pay attention when people turn to him and cry out for help on behalf of others.  We were those “others” for whom our friends cried out to God.  It’s not like bad things never happened to us.  But it is true that the bad things never STAYED bad.  People we hardly knew kept talking to Him about us.
I have attached a link to the entire cookbook.  It has five great, and simple, recipes for Brazilian food that we still love to this day.
How to use this gift responsibly?  I think the answer is hidden behind the second gift I received recently, and I will post about that in the next couple of days.
But using this gift responsibly begins by saying THANK YOU!
You have made a huge difference in our lives.  All the joyful pictures and family joys that we post on Facebook, are because of you.  The skills we have now and use to serve others — Lois helping students at the High School to find their way to College, and me, standing as an ally for Latin Americans as they enter a world of conflict, oppression and need in the name of Jesus , so that they can offer blessing and well-being and encourage others to follow Jesus—these are special skills and we have them because you gave us a context in which to grow and develop them.  Thank you.

Thinking about what drives me….

I am intuitive

I am at home in Latin America

I am very aware of the world and its issues:  politics, economy, geography, travel

I am a networker—a connector of people

My people skills include:

  • Listening
  • Affirming goals and visions of others, helping them turn those into effective action.
  • Able to say: “I am on your side.”
  • Encourager.  I take Barnabas’ ministry as my model.

I am usually workin on multiple projects and to think and plan strategically about several at the same time.

I get involved in visions before they turn into projects (i.e., before they become concrete), and I can work on them until they turn into proposals.

I have good insight into political and administrative relationships, combining savvy with a definite impatience for getting through to resolution.

Change is a big part of who I am and the way I live.  I am adaptable.  I want to change the world.  I am idealistic and process oriented.

I am comfortable among the very poor and I have not found it difficult to slip in an out of politically tense situations.

I grow by connecting.  Latin American Christians have changed my life.

Me, the WEA and the Mission Commission

I work on the Leadership Team of the Mission Commission (MC) of the WEA — World Evangelical Alliance.  This is not a role I ever thought I would have, particularly given my perspective as a “critical insider” in the evangelical movement.  But I have been doing this, now, for about 2 years, part time.  I spend my time serving the rest of the MC team by focusing on strategies for communications and resourcing the work of the MC.  So it involves a lot of meetings and not a whole lot of the kinds of things that most of us would link to service in the way of Jesus.   My work in MC does not directly involve me in service to people in need, public speaking, or trying to get other people to follow Christ.   Sometimes that causes an identity crisis for me:  why not do something more directly engaged with the real problems of real people?   I deal with that crisis in two ways:  first, by engaging in my local community here through other things I do and, second, by understanding the full cycle of what the MC means.

For me, being in the MC is a unique vantage point from which to see how the world is changing. The most exciting changes are the ones that are fruit of the work of the Spirit of God.  The Spirit takes Jesus’ followers from everywhere and engages them in the lives of people they might otherwise avoid, and then calls both to adopt His love for “the other” as the basis for their way of living.  My friend, Paul McKaughan, from when I went to Brazil as a college student has said about the MC, “There is no more geographically or culturally diverse group of leaders than the Mission Commission of the WEA. This is a place where 2/3’world leaders help each other and interface with us in the West.”  It’s true.

Last week I was in Sweden for a small meeting of what we call network leaders.  A hugely diverse group of people from around the world shared a common table and tried to hear from God through each others’ lives during three days.

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As for what the MC means, I think this text, though rather long, captures some of it:

The Mission Commission (MC) is an intergenerational global community of mission leaders who aim to inspire, advocate and strengthen thousands of practitioners of God’s mission agenda around the world.

The 250 Mission Commission Associates (MCA’s)–leaders from 85 national movements who send and support 300,000+ missionaries from evangelical churches in over 100 countries–include mission leaders from both new old and new sending contexts.

Three basic strategic considerations guide  the MC Leadership Team,

  1. The gospel moves forward based on relationships.
  2. MCA’s catalyze national, regional and global mission movements and networks.
  3. The resulting new missions resources are for the global church.

Thus, when we gather as reflective practitioners in dependence upon the Spirit we address crucial mission issues, together–through research, gatherings, and cooperative projects–and for application to concrete ministry contexts.

The relation of MC to WEA

According to its 1951 charter from WEA, the MC should “promote closer coordination and cooperation between missionary societies in different countries where greatly needed.”  It was to be a fellowship, a missionary subset of the churches, denominations and national alliances affiliated with the WEA.

The southward shift in global Christianity made coordination and cooperation between existing missionary societies seem almost provincial.

New missions movements led by reflective-practitioners of mission are the source of new experiences and understandings of Biblical mission from diverse cultural contexts. They are resolving practical challenges for doing “mission from the margins” that are quite unlike the ones faced by missionary societies that grew out of the strong economic and geopolitical position European and American evangelicalism!

Rather than being a subset of the WEA, the MC seeks to mobilize leadership for the entire constituency of the WEA to engage in mission.  The MC attempts reflect the Spirit’s commitments to mission beyond the WEA constituency.

Brazil Trip

I leave tonight for Brazil.   I would appreciate you accompanying me with your prayers.

I am going to introduce a broad spectrum of church leaders there to the President of LAM and to two Board Members.  We are going to listen and to ask about the role of a 100 year old mission that was born to evangelize Latin America.  

What is our role in a Latin America that, increasingly is evangelizing the World?  

Brazil is a good place to explore this.  I have felt carried along by the Spirit and by the experiences and relations that God has given me since the first time Lake sent me to Brazil in 1970 and then as a new missionary couple in 1977. There is a pay off for having been at this so long.

The reason we are taking this trip is to better see a) the work that God has been doing in Brasil, b) the way the advance of the gospel in Brazil is producing leaders and c) what the mission of evangelicals in Brazil means for the world we live in.
We are motivated by these three purposes:

1.  We understand that the Sports events of 2014 and 2016, in Rio de Janeiro, will implicate the gospel in Brasil in several ways–it will give continuity to the process by which Brazilian evangelicals think about (and act)  more and more intentionally in relation to the world outside of Brasil.  One of  the things that the world might possibly learn about Brazil will be how extensive has been the move of God in Brazil and some of the impressive commitments His people have made (or maybe they won’t see it!) for improving the world we live in.  As a mission agency, in LAMwe are involved, in a small way, in the initiative of Brazilian evangelicals along these lines.  We are participating in a small way by providing personnel to the “Campaign against child and teen sexual tourism in Brazil” project.  Our perspective is international and, traditionally, this has meant international from the perspective of the North toward Latin America.  Now, it is meaning, increasingly, together with Latin America toward the rest of the world.  We want to follow the events related to 2014/16 as they unfold with the participation of Brazilian evangelicals so that we can better understand how God will open the world up to the Brazilian church and the Brazilian church to the world, and come to know whether we have a role to fulfill in that. 

2.  LAM was born, and has served, for nearly 100 years in a flow from North to South.  The gospel was in the North and the need was in the South.  Now things are not that way, and part of the development of a new reality is tied up in the developments in Brazil.  We are wanting to re-orient ourselves to continue to follow in the Lord’s footsteps as he leads us forward.  I am hoping that this trip, with LAM leaders, will help us capture a better idea of what God is doing in Brazil, the place of evangelicals in what He is doing, and take note of the level/quality of leaders that have been produced by this move of God.  We want to understand how these new realities will lead LAM to be different in the future.
3.  The role of Brazil in Latin America.  Brazil has never been a major area of efforts by LAM.  But with each day that goes by, the evangelicals of Brazil are participating more in the gospel in the rest of Latin America.  At times with the same kind of imperialism as the US, and at other times as companions, some times receiving from Spanish speaking Latin America, sometimes sending, and sometimes working side by side.  We understand that Brazil, and the leadership of Brazilians, has something to do with our future, and we are trying to understand what role Brazilians play in it.

WEA Mission Commission conducts 11th Global Consultation

The first two weeks of November I was in Germany.  Take a look at the pictures on my Facebook site.  I really enjoyed spending time with colleagues, and long-time friends from various parts of the world.  I also enjoyed thinking with them and others about the way God works in our world, and how he gets some people to live for the good of the World, and encourage people to follow Jesus.

Perhaps I will get a moment to blog about that.  But I didn’t want to put off any longer what I could have done in this last week or so:  give you the press release from the consultation.

Sent: Friday, November 18, 2011
Subject: WEA Mission Commission conducts 11th Global Consultation
News Release
November 18, 2011
The Mission Commission of the WEA, conducted its 11th Global Consultation, from November 6 to 11, with 203 mission practitioners from 42 countries at Schönblick Conference Center near Stuttgart, Germany.  The theme, God’s Disturbing Mission, emphasized the developing complexity and diversity in the practice of global mission today.  At the same time it recognized that mission belongs to God (Missio Dei).  The thought that God himself might be behind disturbances in the mission agenda proved to be an invitation to seek God, read His word, strengthen relationships across diversity, and bow in worship
The reality of constantly renewing leadership was enacted as younger leaders led the Consultation from the platform.  Their perspective drew attention to what is next.  Speakers from India, Lithuania, Russia, Brazil, USA, Sri Lanka, Rwanda, Kenya, S. Korea, Sri Lanka, South Africa and the UK took part, reflecting the broad range of global perspectives.
Table groups met all week to discuss, pray and commit to paths of obedience as God spoke a fresh to move forward in mission. Afternoon “post-it” sessions identified and focused on shared concerns and explored ways of cooperation in mission practice.  The event ended around the Lord’s Table, an enactment of the global missional community gathered by Jesus from every nation, generation by generation, and sent out as the fruit of His sacrifice.  
Certain themes emerged: the challenge of developing adequate mission practice in and from contexts of complexity, uncertainty and change; and the reality of multiple approaches to mission and its practice.  
A palpable sense of mutuality and interdependence reminded all that any redefinition of ourselves and our mission must take place in a context of discipleship–of following Christ together.
The consultation was designed to shape the future of the MC itself.  The MC is governed by the Global Leadership Council (GLC), formed from its constituency.  Peter Tarantal of South Africa was elected as the new Chair. The GLC will meet in May 2012 and consider implications from the consultation for what comes next. Whatever the outcome, the consultation stands as a reminder that mission depends on God’s initiative and that he will use new and old senders to shape the future of Christian mission.  Bertil Ekström, Executive Director of the MC, looks to the future in this way: “We are on a journey together.”  
The WEA Mission Commission responds to the needs of national and regional mission movements around the globe. For the past 24 years, the MC has dedicated its energies to strengthening these continental and national entities, and promoting movements in nations that currently are not a significant part taking the Gospel from every nation to every nation. The MC is the only global platform that serves this important function.
The WEA is the most comprehensive and representative Evangelical body in the world today.  Established in 1846, the WEA is a movement of growing influence in the early 21st century by equipping, connecting and speaking on behalf of its global constituency.  WEA serves 129 national evangelical alliances, hundreds of associate member alliances, totaling over 600 million evangelical Christians, uniting all to transform the nations.