In addition to all the other swoon-worthy cultural features of living in the USA (sourdough bread, streets with lines painted on and podcasts of This American Life to name a few), free public events like lectures and concerts make me giddy with joy. I love learning things! Aren't new ideas great? I keep close tabs on events scheduled at Fuller and go to as many of them as I can. Last week, in addition to the art opening and lectures mentioned in my last, I took in a rabbi's comments on his book about faith and today I am recently returned from the Missiology Lectures, an annual feature of the School of Intercultural Studies. Today I heard Vinoth Ramachandra from Sri Lanka point out economic, social and therefore spiritual consequences of globalization. I am totally out of my depth at analyzing current global trends--really, I have, to my shame, only the vaguest notion of current events--so I soak up anything on the topic I can get, and what a bonus to get the analysis from a scholar of international scope and renown. His comments make me muse on several Big Ideas. Notably, I continue my internal conversation/debate/war about how to use my resources. The materialism of my culture goes deep in my personality! How do I extricate myself and use my resources as Jesus, not advertisers, recommends? My lifestyle abroad is more luxurious than my national neighbors by a huge factor. Here in the USA is my chance to acquire all the lovely stuff that I can't get over there--to gather up four years worth of it and ship it back there. Stuff! How I love it! Sigh: I'm sure we can both agree that consumerism is poisonous, but where do I buy the antidote?
Ramachandra also challenges the church in the West to drop the business model of "partnership" that often means a one way shipment of money and advice (well, perhaps grant applications flow the other direction...). All very well on the macro planning level of missions strategy, but how do I adopt on the micro level a listening and learning posture, treating people as the body of Christ instead of acting the expert, being a business partner? This basic question of missiological strategy is complicated in my context: to my middle school students, I am the expert teaching them. Thus, modeling the humility and service required of Christian leaders requires a balance of using and giving up power--I think it takes effort from both students and teacher to make that discipleship dynamic work in the classroom. Even more insidiously, adopting the listening and learning posture with my PNG neighbors is complicated by living on the big mission station, ensconced in the culture of my fellow expatriates. What would it look like, for instance, to be in a posture of listening and learning from the teachers at the next-door national high school? Do I drive or walk over with cupcakes one day and hang out in the teacher lounge? Ask for their help in a spot of lesson planning? What do I have to learn from them?
Well, I'm confounded, to a greater degree than perhaps comes through in these posts, and I won't be disappointed to discover that I'm troubling you to examine your assumptions, too. Unless you're distracted by, for instance, having neck surgery this week and have other notions to ponder and other lessons to learn!
Turning over these scenarios of ministry in my head is a big part of taking classes. I jot notes of ideas for ministry and lessons and testimony and sharing in the margins of my class notes and books. I think of ways to help organize church services in Uka. I wonder if my boss will let me teach a high school class on church history. Ideas dart around in my mind, tangling themselves up in increasingly complex nets of connections as they get examined in light of church and chapel services, of testimonies from friends, of textbooks, of prayer meetings, of lectures, of sights seen as I bike and walk through Pasadena, of conversations with believers and non-believers. The idea of dropping in on the national school, for instance, is getting examined by my busy brain from an anthropology standpoint, from a missiological one, but most critically from a power encounter one; Power Encounter is my new class, an intensive that goes three hours a day for a fortnight. Sorcery and violence is regularly reported happening at the national school. For that matter, the whole valley is filled with revenge killing, violence, conflict, and all manner of darkness. Frankly, trotting over there on my own armed with cupcakes bent on performing a spot of anthropology would be foolish. The first strategy for doing anything there would be concerted prayer. Which thought is tangled in the idea net in my brain with an examination of my own practices of prayer, flagged with a large marker that informs me that I do not, in fact, devote myself to the kind of prayer that research says is a precursor to any kind of revival....much to ponder there, but to return to the thread: my heart breaks this week as I think of how much prayer and warfare goes on and is still needed for my poor Aiyura valley. Teach us to pray, God! O Lord, save!