Thursday, November 29, 2012

Conference addresses ‘incarnational mission’ far away--and at home.

A world map at Mission Alive 2012
Photo by Carol Waggy
A world map at Mission Alive 2012 shows where Church of the Brethren mission workers are serving. Setting up the map are two of the Mission Alive planning team members Roger Schrock (left) and Carol Mason. Also on the team were Bob Kettering, Carol Spicher Waggy, Earl Eby, and Anna Emrick, coordinator for the Global Mission and Service office.
Close to 200 Brethren from as far as Nigeria and Brazil, and as near as Elizabethtown and Annville, Pa., gathered Nov. 16-18 at Lititz (Pa.) Church of the Brethren for Mission Alive 2012, a conference sponsored by Church of the Brethren Global Mission and Service.

Plenary sessions, worship services, and workshops on a wide array of mission-related topics were held over the weekend, which began Friday with an address by Jonathan Bonk, executive director of the Overseas Ministries Study Center in New Haven, Conn.

“We in the West like to do a lot of abstract thinking about missions,” Bonk said. “But the only meaningful mission is incarnation. We are full of ‘a priori’ agendas. We travel around the world and tell people what’s good for them. We have to get back to our roots.”

“We have come together to focus our hearts and minds on mission, ministry, and service of Jesus as his radical, compassionate disciples,” said Church of the Brethren associate general secretary Mary Jo Flory Steury in her welcoming remarks Friday. “We are here to worship our God, to learn together and from one another, and to be encouraged, challenged, and empowered for continuing the work of Jesus in our local communities and around the world.”

Others who spoke at plenary sessions or workshops included Samuel Dali, president of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN--the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), who attended with his wife Rebecca; Suely and Marcos Inhauser, national coordinators of Igreja da Irmandade in Brazil; and Annual Conference moderator Bob Krouse. Ilexene and Michaela Alphonse, Church of the Brethren mission workers in Haiti, also attended. Workshop topics ranged from “The Power of Prayer” and “Mission in Post-Colonial Contexts” to “Internet Evangelism: The Ends of the Earth are a Click Away” and “Engaging Communities Through the Schools.”

Samuel Dali updated attendees about current tensions between Muslims and Christians in his home country, and spoke appreciatively about the role of Brethren missions there historically. He also acknowledged more recent efforts by Nathan and Jennifer Hosler to foster reconciliation between opposing groups in Nigeria, particularly the establishment of CAMPI (Christians and Muslims for Peacebuilding Initiatives). The Hoslers had taught theology and peace at Kulp Bible College in northern Nigeria from 2009-11. Nathan Hosler currently works in Washington, D.C., as advocacy officer with the Church of the Brethren and the National Council of Churches.

“Every church in Nigeria is thinking about self-defense,” Dali said. “How does the Church of the Brethren preach peace in this situation? Sometimes we are mocked when we talk about peace. But hope is not lost. Even during the time of missionaries it was not easy. But still they came up with a strategy to make sure the gospel was shared. So a difficult situation cannot stop the word of God. But it’s not going to be easy. We value your prayers, and we invite you to continue to pray. We invite you to come to Nigeria and experience what is happening.”

“The mission field is not ‘out there somewhere,’” remarked Jay Wittmeyer, executive director of Global Mission and Service for the Church of the Brethren. “There is a sign posted as you leave the Spring Creek Church of the Brethren parking lot in Hershey, just a few miles from here. It reads, ‘When you leave this parking lot, you enter the mission field.’ The mission field is anywhere we are and everywhere we go.”

In addition to those in attendance in Lititz, dozens more people have viewed portions of Mission Alive via webcasts. The webcasts have been viewed in as many as eight countries, including Nigeria, Brazil, and Uganda, and in 70-plus locales within the US. Recordings of the plenary sessions and worship services are still available to view at .

-- Randy Miller is editor of “Messenger,” the Church of the Brethren magazine.

Source: 11/29/2012 Newsline

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