Missio Ubuntu - because of all of you in God; I am
"One major problem that missionaries have great difficulty resolving is their unconscious or sometimes even conscious assumed sense of racial or cultural superiority. There is a sense in which all Christians are prone to ethnocentrism -- and it remains, strangely, the sin they never confess." (Glasser, Van Engen, Gilliland & Redford 2003, 37)
Last Fall, I started my Master’s in Global Leadership program at Fuller Theological Seminary. Part of the program required that we come up with a cohort – or group -- name that symbolized God’s calling on our group of 23 students. We came up with the name Missio-Ubuntu. “Missio” short for “Missio-dei” – latin for the “mission of God” and “Ubuntu” – Zulu for “I am; because of you.” Our mission is to bring about the understanding that “I” cannot exist without another. Specifically, “I” cannot exist without “you” because God created us to be upward dependent and also mutually dependent. In other words, together we make up the body of Christ.
As followers of Jesus, we know that unity is important but it's been a prize that never seemed to be within reach. It has hardly been modeled well for us and frankly, I think most of us have no clue how to make it happen.
One of the breakthrough text for me that encourages me to pursue this elusive prize is Genesis 1:24a 'Then God said, “Let us make man [human beings] in our image, after our likeness". '(ESV)
It made me think -- if God in His very essence referred to Himself as “us”, how could we aspire to be complete/whole as an “I”? On January 22, 2018, God started my journey to experiencing what the Kingdom experience of “us” felt like.
My cohort of 23 arrived in a windowless classroom in Sunny Southern California for our 2 week-long in-person class as part of our program requirement. We were a rest-deprived group of “Kingdom labourers” who were multi-generational (aged 22-60), multi-cultural (all shades of the rainbow) and multi-experienced (eg. American-Canadian guy who grew up as Cameroonian). At first, we were wary, unwilling to let our weaknesses show and, for some of us, unable to put our prejudices aside. But my Peruvian instructor, who spoke English as his 3rd language, disarmed us pretty quickly by sharing his story.
Over the next few days, as I heard their stories and learned of God’s heart for each of us, my emotions began to flow -- I cried with them, I laughed with them. In this community, and in the stories we shared -- no holds barred -- I discovered the fuller picture of God’s redemptive love, and His mission for us to experience the fullness of His joy as we become a closer and more united body. Through peoples’ stories, I discovered the complexity of each person around me, and how because of him/her, I am. By getting to know why they are who they are, I was able to let my guard down and adjust my attitude (especially those discriminatory ones). Their vulnerability and trust in me allowed me to be truly who I am – something I hadn’t experienced in years outside of my marriage.
As God's children, we have an opportunity to get a glimpse of God’s picture that is outside of ourselves. We have an opportunity to expand our world beyond the lenses that we grew up with. I encourage you to ask someone about his or her journey, and take the time to listen to their story from conception to present. I pray that this would begin the healing and joyful journey of knowing why God put us together to be His body.
Text Cited: Glasser, Arthur F., Van Engen, Charles E., Gilliland, Dean S., and Redford, Shawn B..2003. Announcing The Kingdom: The Story of God’s Mission in the Bible. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic. Kindle.
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