Dear friends in Christ, greetings! This year, Lund Mission Society celebrates 175 years of its existence, quite a long time in human life as well as for an institution. It is time to take a pause, and do some reflection, as we look forward into the future. More important, it is time to give thanks to God for you, friends all over the world, who over the years have selflessly dedicated your lives and talents in trying to make a difference in the lives of others in the global mission. You embody the values and vision of the mission; you are the testimony of the love of God to humanity.
Joy in diversity
In my view, this is the core of the mission of God – sharing with others the joy of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, who loves all people and the whole created order, in its diversity, be it religious, racial, or ethnic, or class. Talking about diversity, recognition of religious diversity constitute one of our critical principles of LMS. As we probably all know, our “… missionary mission …is based on dialogue and interreligious meetings.” It is a recognition of diversity as God-given, a gift in which we encounter and learn from one another. It is at the very centre of what it means to be different and at the same time being one as humans. It is about our ‘life-together’ as humans and in solidarity with nature.
Mission as life-together
At the heart of mission is the concept of ‘life-together,’ ‘life-with-one-another.’ Mission is about sharing ‘one-life.’ This reminds me about the well-known song by Bob Marley: “One life… let us get together and make this world better place to live…’ The songs teaches something about the essence of mission as improving other peoples’ lives.
Contexts in which we live may radically differ one from the other; global south from global north, East and West, but we all share one life, we all share one planet, our mother earth. Thus, the people in Egypt or Cape Town live one life with those in Hong Kong and Jerusalem or Malimo because we share one life, breathe one air. Hence, mission is essentially about interconnectedness, sharing our life in some cases, perhaps with those less fortunate than ourselves. Hence, the principle of charity and respect for others is at the centre of the Christian gospel; respect for others. It is about mercy, love, charity – sharing the love of God in Jesus Christ. It empowers others as we share skills with them, skills that may transform their lives in communities. For instance, I think of equipping others with educational skills or art skills that can change lives for the better, for the Kingdom of God is essentially about living life to the full.
Mission as Sharing Life
In accordance with its statutes, Lund Mission Society seek to work for the “spread of the Kingdom of God and make the mission known and loved.” This is what Lund Mission Society has strived to do since the mission was formed in 1845 “by administering the funds donated and willed to the society and by providing grants primarily for education and in-depth reflection on the missionary mission of the church.” Thus, Jesus Christ’ words in John 10:10: “I came that they may have life; and life in abundance” captures the essence of mission. Jesus offers his own life as a source of life in abundance and quality. Mission is about sharing, sharing life with one another; sharing with others the joy of the gospel which sets us free to love one another.
Mission as Meeting Timely Needs
Mission is about responding to needs in various contexts. Talking about timely needs, a story is told about a Baptist missionary in Africa. He was just walking when he heard the ominous padding of a lion behind him. “Oh Lord,” prayed the missionary, “Grant in thy goodness that the lion walking behind me is a good Christian lion.” In the silence that followed, the missionary heard the lion praying too: “Oh Lord,” he prayed, “I thank thee for the meal which I am about to enjoy.”
We have different needs at different times in our life. Both the lion and the missionary had needs. The Baptist minister prayed for safety, while the hungry lion thanked God for what appeared to be an opportunity for food. Mission entail trying to meet the needs of others in their own contexts and times. It is about trying to create opportunities of service of all humanity, even amidst challenges. Amongst these include the issue of migration and refugees, or child trafficking or women and children abuse. Indeed, a critical missional issue of time is environmental care. We have God-given mandate to nurture and care for environment. Your interest in mission work associated with Lund Mission Society inspires the personnel of the head office in Lund; you are partners with us; mission is impossible without you. Mission continue to respond to changing contexts and with various needs.
Mission in small things
I don’t know what inspires you about mission, what drives you. What inspires me about mission is the desire and urge to make a little difference for others. In my view, mission is not so much about trying to move mountains such as Everest, Himalayas and Kilimanjaro, but rather it is in doing very ‘little’ ‘small’ things for people in our communities, that can make a difference. This may for instance involve equipping them with educational skills, or empowering them with community skills; things which may turn their lives around, and consequently give them hope. It is about giving hope to others.
Mission of trust
It is also important to view mission as an activity of trust and faith. Both, the lion and missionary had ‘trust,’ or if you like ‘faith’ in God; that God was in control. Mission is impossible without trust in God and in other people’s good will. Trust and faith are critical qualities operating almost in all religions. They are the opposite of fear and faithlessness. We live in a world that seem to be paralysed by fear, and hopelessness, sometimes fear of unknown.
Mission as in Good Company
Finally, mission is about journeying along with others. It is about being in ‘good’ company with others, who journey with us all along the way. On the African continent ‘accompaniment’ on safari is very important because of long distances one walks through jungles, rivers, where one needs company. Friends, mission inspires in us the spirit to journey with others. There is nothing more reassuring than knowing that you are not on your own on a journey. It entails giving and living hope, giving other people some hope anchored in our faith in Jesus Christ. It is about giving hope that emanates from our conviction that Jesus Christ triumphed over the hopelessness of death. To inspire hope in people that appear to have lost hope.
In contrast to mission as characterised by themes of intrigue and conspiracy, witty, that take the centre stage in the American action spy film of Mission: Impossible, Lund Mission Society view Mission as Possible only through the “power” of humility – where we serve one another as partners.
After 175 years, we are at the very beginning of another ‘missionary’ journey. We have every reason to look forward to the future with confidence and hope in what God will accomplish in and through you. Let us anchor our faith and hope in God who is able to work through us much more for his mission in the world. You have in you what it takes to make the world a better place to live. Lund Mission remains your partner on this journey. God bless you as you seek to continue to be faithful on this missionary journey!
Henry Mbaya is an Associate Professor in Missiology at the Department of Practical Theology and Missiology of the Stellenbosch University in South Africa. He also serves as a part-time pastor in his local parish.