Where are the frontlines of missions today?
That might not be a fair question. I’m not exactly sure how we would go about giving a straightforward geographical answer to that. But I’m using the question to (hopefully) bait you into some surprise when I suggest that we spent a Sunday afternoon on the frontline of missions, in central Glasgow.
For a while now, the missions world has been recognizing that missions is not about exporting Western Christians (and their particular brands of Christianity) to the rest of the world. So, the Lausanne Covenant, a key document which has centred much of the global evangelical movement, says: “Missionaries should flow ever more freely from and to all six continents in a spirit of humble service” (paragraph 9). That statement was written almost 50 years ago but my impression is that we still have a long way to go to see the Lausanne vision really rolling along.
But momentum for missions to be from anywhere to everywhere is building. Authors like David Bosch and Michael Stroope have been pushing this direction. Harvey Kwiyani, the new CEO of Global Connections, especially stands out to me as someone who is making sure that all this theory hits the ground running.
Christiane has been part of this movement for a few years already. While she was in Mabaan with SIM South Sudan, the team was made up of people from a dozen or more countries. Missionaries from Australia, Canada, England, Ethiopia, Germany, India, Kenya, Nigeria, the Philippines, South Sudan, Switzerland, New Zealand, and the US all served together. That multicultural mix makes things more complicated – probably more so than you would think – but it also makes things a lot better. These kinds of cross-cultural challenges are right up Christiane’s alley, so she took part in a multicultural teams training. This training has been immensely helpful as she has facilitated the material herself in East Africa and here in the UK for new missionaries, who themselves will surely be working on multi-cultural teams!
But not all the new missionaries that Christiane is helping to set up are leaving the UK. A number of them are coming. SIM UK, is positioning themselves at the forefront of the from everywhere to anywhere movement by developing and piloting a program called Engage. The key feature of Engage is that it receives missionaries from the Majority World to serve with churches in need here in the UK. The program is onto the second wave now with missionaries from Ethiopia and Columbia serving in London, from Nepal in Manchester, and from Sierra Leone in Glasgow.
Christiane’s main role with SIM UK is working to support these missionaries and the churches which receive them. As we were in Scotland this summer for a family vacation, we took time to spend one of our Sundays in Glasgow with Lawrence and Elizabeth Jah, along with their daughter Priscilla.
Mission from Sierra Leone to Scotland
Here in Glasgow, we have African missionaries helping a Scottish church make inroads with the international communities which surround it. Lawrence was the head of the national association of evangelical ministers in Sierra Leone. He and Elizabeth served as missionaries in Gambia for two decades and have brought their experience and expertise here to bolster the efforts of, and build bridges for, the church in the UK.
The Jahs seem particularly well suited for this work. There is a significant West African population in Glasgow and the Jahs can relate immediately to them. We were first-hand witnesses to the growth of this community through the Sierra Leonese (and now Glaswegian) visitors who we met at their home through the afternoon while we were there.
Lawrence completed a Doctor of Ministry dissertation in 2018 at Asbury Theological Seminary. The focus of his project was evangelism and discipleship amongst Muslims. When I spoke to him in Glasgow he told me that he chose this project because he had been burdened by the fact that the Gambian church did not seem to have an impact on Muslim communities. Lawrence also told me that his studies were being put to good use in Glasgow.
Compared to Scotland as a whole, Glasgow itself has a much higher percentage of ethnic minorities and, uniquely amongst the Scottish cities, Pakistanis are easily the largest group. The Jahs only arrived in Scotland toward the end of the summer but they already have good contact and ongoing conversations with the significant Muslim population in the city. Conversations which were not happening before they arrived.
Let me draw out the connections here. This means that a Sierra Leonese missionary to Gambia who studied in Kentucky is putting his studies into practice in Scotland’s most populous city. That might not be what comes to mind when you think of missions, but I’d argue that it ought to be.
Interested in supporting an Engage missionary yourself? Follow this link for Geoffrey’s story.