Navigating the new seas

Detail of painting: hands plunging oars into stylised sea

“Watch and Pray. Come with Me.” (detail) by He Qi, commissioned by Church Mission Society

Reimagining the missions journey

Portrait shot of Vinod Victor
“Challenges make missions exciting” – the Rev Vinod Victor

The Rev Vinod Victor, chair of the Asia-CMS board of trustees, reflects on the changing seascape of mission.

You have not trodden these pathways before

The journey of the tribes of Yahweh reached another hotspot when they reached the banks of the overflowing river Jordan. The Wilderness journey and the Red Sea experience of the past gave them confidence that the Lord would help them find a way to navigate their path in the new crossroads.

In Joshua 3:4 their leader affirms: “You have not gone this way before” but at the same time, in his interaction with the people, he gives them three assurances:

  • God will show you the way
  • God will do a miracle
  • God will continue to be with you

These are perhaps, affirmations that we would need most at such a time as this.

Challenges make missions exciting

The journey of missions has always been challenging, in terms of travelling to the people across the world. The Church Mission Society for instance, from its inception in 1799, has had pioneers of missions navigating their way through rough seas into unknown terrains and territories, with the love of Jesus as the core message of missions. No big wave deterred them.

Their faith and determination had manifold expressions in the fruits of mission engagement. Today we look back and thank the Lord for all the people who were part of the mission journey thus far, contributing in various ways – going, sending, facilitating, giving, praying, supporting, receiving, and hosting.

We are now at yet another crossroads. The Covid-19 pandemic has already redrafted the course of the world including our missional journey. It is clear that missions need to be done differently now. The shift from Post-Colonial Missions to the Post Corona Missions has to be carefully comprehended. The closing down of borders, restrictions in people movements and lockdowns in several parts of the world may look intimidating on one hand, while on the other hand, it opens an array of opportunities.

De-globalisation should be seen as an opportunity to increase the pace of indigenisation of mission and mission practices. Like the Jubilee Year, the time of Rest must be seen as a time for spiritual renewal and ‘righting the wrongs’ that has crept into the way we conduct our lives, including doing missions. It is an opportunity for deconstructing and reconstructing the missional paradigms. Yes, challenges always make missions exciting!

Being with people is missions

The pain of the people that we see around is inestimable. The digital world is so impersonal that we see only pale images. Missions need to emphasise connecting with people beyond digital platforms, without negating the abounding online opportunities that the current time presents. To cry with people and offer consolation, and hope in Christ, that our wounded Healer and wondrous Counsellor can offer to a broken world, should and always will be our focus.

Missions personnel in the frontlines need to be strengthened and we will continue to be committed towards this. Our staff members and People in Mission including mission partners will be supported in all ways possible to be participants of missions in a safe environment despite the turbulence around.

As we continue to focus on people on the margins and edges, our mission strategy will shift from the Decentralisation, Indigenisation and Regionalisation (DIR, which was core when Asia-CMS was formulated) to Empowerment, Companionship and Transformation (DIRECT). We will strive towards Empowerment of personnel and people in the peripherals; Companionship affirmed globally in equal terms; and Transformation of people and structures, based on Kingdom values.

Re-imagining missions – inevitable need of the hour

We had grand plans for the years of 2020-22 but we were humbled in realising that our plans are not always the best for God’s Mission. The outbreak of the pandemic affected the plan to the extent that it had to be completely revisited. We were quick to listen to the cries of the people across the world affected by the pandemic and rolled out a Covid-19 relief package that helped people on the edges across Asia.

A word of appreciation to the dedicated staff and team who travelled the extra mile in reaching out to the pain of the people. We do realise that several lives have been uprooted because of the disruptions that Covid-19 brought and our focus in the next phase will be on rebuilding the lives of as many people as possible.

The paradox of the time is inexplicable. While on one end we talk of Artificial Intelligence, on the other end is the failing mental health of people in crisis; on one end are global debates on the trillions spent on new businesses, while on the other people are thirsting for any paid labour that would ensure bread in their table. On one end is a digital replication of all that is happening offline, unaware of the constraints online, while on the other is digital fatigue and digital marginalisation. The list is endless.

But we do realise that this phase is temporary. We will have to journey into a new normal. Safe distancing, masks and sanitisers will make way to a new way of leading lives. How do we do missions then?

Let us engage in a conversation while we participate with God in the making of a new future – fully submitting to divine guidance each step of the way.

Republished by kind permission of Asia-CMS.

Published 19 November 2020

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