Today we feature the following article from guest writer, David Hackett, who serves as General Director, Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship (Tel. 206-747-7714). He reports the experiences of Jefferson Ritchie, who is writing from here in Seoul:
Reporting from Seoul, [Jefferson] Ritchie shows his exuberance at the consultation's progress. "The spirit here is blowing our minds!," says Ritchie. The Presbyterian Church (USA) Associate for International Church Development and Evangelism says, "I already sense two key themes developing: the first is people uniting to pray. The second is people uniting across all sorts of lines to strategize together on how best to evangelize the peoples of the world who don't yet have a witnessing church." Both aspects show the international Christian Church is learning how to connect with itself across formerly large boundaries of cultural, national and theological differences for the sake of reaching the unreached, he explains.
One South Korean delegate said he was ready to make a major change in how he utilized networks in his ministry, exclaiming, "This is a turning point in our mission work. We're finally beginning to understand what partnership is all about." That particular South Korean missionary lives in Germany and coordinates Korean outreach in several central European countries, including Albania, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Throughout his travels he encourages Korean fellowships. Ritchie notes with humor the typical Korean creativity in how the Albanian ministry is succeeding in drawing together Albanian-residing Koreans. "They're working with the Albanian Encouragement Project and have a church planter there, but they also have someone teaching Takwondo!," says Ritchie.
Other long-term resentments were being overcome at the consultation, notes Ritchie. One particularly moving time was when a Japanese leader spoke on the theme of repentance and then called on any delegates from countries which had been invaded in the past by Japan in World War II to come forward. Delegates streamed forward from Korean, the Philippines, China, Malaysia, and other countries. To the gathered group the speaker asked for their forgiveness. Such actions have created a palpable atmosphere at the consultation with bitter spirits are being replaced by spirits of humility and renewed commitment to unity and cooperation.
Ritchie is particularly impressed by the story of Delegate Mannu Arong, a missionary from India to Nepal. After having been deeply influenced by the 1984 International Prayer Summit, this woman started a prayer group in Nepal which has now grown so strong as a movement that most women's prayer groups in Nepal have a prayer track, modeled after Arong's group, praying for the growth of the church every Monday morning. "This movement is providing a backbone of prayer to the emerging church in Nepal," Ritchie says.
There is a notable Presbyterian presence at the Global Consultation, Ritchie says. "We can celebrate that many of the key leaders at the consultation are Presbyterians..."
[end of article]
Thanks Jefferson and David!!!
Today's hours were invested in Tracks, which are smaller group meetings aimed at fostering the development of global or regional outreach plans based on common interest areas rather than on geography. Tomorrow, the conference goes into its final innings, with a day of regional meetings (e.g., continents), then a day of national meetings again on Thursday. Closing session is Thursday night. Since experiences in these individually-experienced sessions are so varied, it's hard to get a sense of where the conference is going, as a whole. I =can= say that the rooms today seemed buzzing with excitement.... reports, challenges, appeals, prayer, praise, singing, and much more. I can also testify that many seem very tired. At times, you can simply read the fatigue on a new acquaintance's face (as we've said before, in most cases we've had to leave the hotel at 7:30am and arrive home after 10pm -- with no chance to rest at all in between). In addition, there's been not a single day off since arriving. Some have joked that this conference might indeed go down in the Guinness World Book of Records... as the one that most resembled an endurance test!!! Another delegate quoted what he believed should become the AD2000 & Beyond key scripture verse... "We shall not sleep, but we shall all be changed!" [grin] It's hard to know how deeply this draining schedule has impacted the consultation. There's no doubt that many are sleepy in afternoon sessions. (In fact, today, we saw men in small group settings, right in the middle of sub-Tracks, sprawled out on folding chairs trying to catch up on rest.)
In addition, we continue to hear delegates wish that somehow the networking time could have been a more intentionally planned process. One representative suggested that perhaps there could have been free time in the afternoon in which organizations were asked to man "booths" with their displays, in a large "hall of halls". Delegates could then file through booths to make contacts and "network". On another day, key leaders/representatives from each country could be placed at booths (and there would be 190 of them!), allowing members of the organizations and churches to file through and meet =them=. You get the idea. As it stands, the Tracks ran all day, from 9am to 9pm, with time off only for lunch and supper.
A side effect of this lack of intentional networking time is that, as we've hinted before, there seemed to be little time for the average delegate to be involved in drawing up intentional strategies and action plans. On a stairway near the Cities Track today, one man explained that he thought this would be more of a "working convention" when in reality, it had been, for him, an "inspirational convention". Keep in mind that those are just individual opinions. We're sure that those who =were= successful at networking and building relationships would have other reports. We cannot overstate it that this does not mean that the consultation wasn't successful -- but rather, that it was just different than the expected outcome.
Also, as we've said before, we're a bit disappointed about the lack of a solid target. If it's a "church for every people" that we're shooting for, then getting a list of "every people" is fundamental. In spite of the fact that everyone apparently thought this was forthcoming, Patrick Johnstone, for one, arrived here with deep regret in his master hand (as he viewed the list). Johnstone is author of _Operation World_. He contributed to earlier versions of the people group list, but didn't get a chance to help with the final product, he said. As a result, at GCOWE, he distanced himself from the final product.
As for Brigada, we're probably going to urge users to check out the list being circulated by John Gilbert and the Southern Baptists. First, it is figured more on objective criteria -- some 79 parameters that he'll recall it so that he can update it each. Second, it's available. No waiting until 1998. No wondering about the subjectivity of the writer!
To take the place of articles for tomorrow (Wed.) and Thursday (all day), the GCOWE Today (the printed newsprint journal distributed to all delegates) contributed articles that had reference for all. You can "shop" for files by sending a message to the hub computer at email@example.com with only the following line in the text of the message:
Pick out the file(s) you want to retrieve and send another message to firstname.lastname@example.org with only the words...
The next time we write will be on Friday, May 26, after the closing of the conference. Pray for GCOWE!
at GCOWE '95 in Seoul