Some think of pioneering mission as a “mostly UK thing”. Others are convinced true pioneers go overseas. In fact, pioneering mission knows no geographical boundaries. And although CMS’s pioneer mission training was designed with the needs of the UK in mind, the students don’t always stay put.
In 2010, Church Mission Society piloted a Pioneer Mission Leadership Training course with nine students. Over 10 years that number has grown annually. In fact, in any given year, CMS is equipping as many as 120 students for pioneering mission, mostly in UK contexts. And there are now two delivery centres and four extension hubs.
At the same time, CMS still sends mission partners overseas. The training process for these people in mission is different, and yet the two groups seem to overlap more and more.
For example, Levi Santana enrolled in the pioneer MA course in 2014 while he was a curate in High Wycombe, reaching out to young adults. While on the course, he and his wife Debora, who are both from Brazil, sensed a calling to return to their first country.
Ideas crossing cultures
Today, they are putting both CMS pioneer training and mission partner training into practice in Goiania, Brazil, an area where a number of people struggle with poverty and addiction. They are challenging the local church to step out of their comfort zone and mix with people on the margins.
What’s more, Debora, a trained hairstylist and beautician (pictured at work in Goiania, above), is planning to use a course developed by Erika Biscoe, who was also on the CMS pioneer course.
Erika started a manicure ministry – listening to people’s stories as she did their nails. This led to her writing Cherish, a course based on the book of Esther for pre-teen and teenage girls that is all about discovering their self-worth in God.
This equally applicable in Debora and Levi’s context, where Debora spends lots of her time chatting with people trapped in poverty and addiction while she cuts their hair.
Here, there and everywhere
Debora and Levi are examples of people who undertook pioneer mission training – usually thought of as a UK thing – and ended up overseas. On the flipside, CMS has seen mission partners return from overseas and take up pioneer mission training, too.
One recent example of this is Dr Corrie Verduyn, who has recently returned from working at Kiwoko Hospital in Uganda. She likes the pioneer course’s focus on moving out of traditional pathways, and found many other courses to be too long, or online only, which she didn’t feel was right for her.
Building on the same history
In a sense, this convergence of local and global mission shouldn’t be too surprising. After all, CMS’s history of pioneering mission goes back more than 200 years. And the Pioneer Mission Leadership Training course aims to take these two centuries of cross-cultural mission experience and apply it to the UK mission field. There is much shared DNA between the two training tracks.
Ann-Marie Wilson, who pioneered 28 Too Many (an organisation dedicated to eradicating FGM (female genital mutilation) across Africa and in diaspora communities) has valued CMS’s traditional mission partner training as well as being part of the pioneer course.
She said, “Going with CMS has provided a network; I have linked with other pioneers through the pioneer training which has been invaluable to me, to not feel like a complete misfit in society. I’m in with a group of misfits, which is reassuring!”
Ann-Marie has found it particularly helpful to become a licensed lay pioneer through CMS: “This will enable me to work across dioceses and that’s thanks to CMS.”
Bev Richardson was part of the pioneer training learning community before becoming a short-termer, and now a mission partner, in Paraguay.
Ebb and flow
Having begun her work in Paraguay by supporting the work already in place, she has more recently been able to start introducing new ideas in line with her pioneer training. This has included considering different ways of doing church; for instance youth Alpha, Messy Church and all-age worship.
Bev continues to apply and share with others many of the spiritual practices she learned on the course, including retreating to spend time with Jesus.
A do-er by nature, Bev says the pioneer training’s emphasis on being continues to encourage her to find a balance between being and doing in her context where it is all too easy to become driven by the doing.
Returning from Latin America is CMS short-termer Rachel Burton. Having worked with recovering addicts in a residential setting, she is keen to expand on this and pursue new ideas centred around creating community, particularly for those on the margins or who are struggling/recovering from emotional issues. She has recently enrolled on the pioneer course to help her with this.
In the words of Jonny Baker, director of mission education, “The reason CMS was a great home for pioneer training initially was because its mission practice round the world is cross-cultural, which is exactly the approach to training needed in UK contexts now.
“So it makes perfect sense to me that there is synergy and overlap between those pioneering in mission in the UK and those who cross borders to participate in mission in cultures elsewhere in the world.”