Monday, October 28, 2013
Mission Fest 2013--Anywhere with Jesus
No, this isn't the way we used to sing "Anywhere with Jesus." A thousand years ago in Oostburg Christian School, we used to sing this as part of package of hymns ("Far and Near the Fields are Teeming," "From Greenland's Icy Mountains," "Bring Them In," and a dozen others) meant to inspire Christian kids with the dream of someday doing missions.
Amy Grant's version is far more hip, more edgy, more interesting--more a part of this world than the world of small-town Christian life in the 1950s. And that's all right.
Missions were huge when I was a boy, really huge. The very first book I read and never forgot was Through Gates of Splendor, the story of eight missionaries who were martyred by the very people they'd gone to the Amazon to bless with the gospel.
Back then, it was easy to feel the roiling impulse of Jesus's own last words in the Great Commission, to preach the gospel; and "Anywhere with Jesus" meant if I'd leave, I could travel to some far-away foreign land to bring the gospel and still count on His being there, anywhere.
That was a half century ago, and I'm old enough now to recognize that there's a dark side to mission work. More than one, in fact. My guess is that kids in Oostburg Christian School no longer sing some of the old mission hymns. Not long ago, when I had to speak at a local church, I asked the liturgist if we could bring "From Greenland's Icy Mountains" out of mothballs for the service. When he asked the organist, the organist politely refused because, he said, the lyrics were excessively and embarrassingly colonial.
The organist was right.
For all its blessings, my own denomination's missions on the Navajo and Zuni Reservations were unmistakably colonial because they were sanctioned by the government of the United States, who believed that the means by which to deal with "the Indian problem" was to "civilize" them with white culture, which included a good strong dose of old time religion.
Native people often found it difficult to distinguish Christianity from the culture that had destroyed theirs--and with good reason: paleface culture came hand-in-hand with paleface religion, and did so by government design. A Zuni woman told me how torn she felt as a girl because she was led to believe that her father--a good, good man and a leader in his community, but a man who would not leave his Native faith--was somehow bound for hell. She loved her father.
For many reasons, mission work no longer inspires as it once did, but one reason is the cataclysmic change in global Christianity--more African people, which is to say more black people, attend worship services on Sunday in Loondon than do whites. Some 19th century mission fields in Africa and South America now send more missionaries out (even to places like North America) than Western nations do.
This Saturday, November 2, Orange City, Iowa, will host a Mission Fest to celebrate 125 years of missions in the Christian Reformed Church of North America--commemoration, inspiration, and education. Featured speakers and panels will talk about topics of particular local interest, like Hispanic ministries, and agriculture and mission work.
The entire event--Mission Fest 2013--will consider missions in the context of a 21st century world where no one has to go all that far away to find teeming fields.
And, yes, in case you're wondering, this as an ad. It's nine to three, Saturday, November 2, 2013, at Unity Christian High School. For more information, and to register, go here.
Mission Fest 2013 promises to be both interesting and inspiring. These days mission work is, as Amy Grant says, "anywhere with Jesus."
To register for Mission Fest 2013 just click here.
Posted by J. C. Schaap at 6:48 AM