A New Missional Invitation without Western
by Wilmer G. Villacorta
the United States was debating whether or not to raise its debt ceiling, many
nations around the world waited for the global repercussions of a possible financial
collapse. As I watched the news, I wondered what would happen if another
financial super power would emerge in the wake of a U.S. collapse. This
economic and political showdown in Washington, D.C. provided a dramatic
backdrop to my recent visit to Hong Kong for a consultation on global leadership
development. From October 14-17, 2013 the news concerning the US not meeting
its financial responsibilities spread like a virus in Asia. The deadline for default
became the focal point. As the investment capital in the region, Hong Kong
would have played a key role in a changing scenario.
situation reminded me that in this era of information saturation, people are
exhausted by the sheer weight of the data that continually flood their lives. However,
sensationalism, bias and special interests often skew the accuracy of the data
and the truthfulness of the information flow. For instance, not long ago, all
the concerns and fears of an imminent North Korean attack was “front page
news.” What happened? This crisis gradually moved out of center stage and out
of our consciousness, as more emergent things captured our collective
attention. We have so much information yet we grasp so little. Without
appropriate context and follow through, our attention is scattered. Additionally,
because of this information overload, our senses become increasingly blunted.
We read, but retain little.
Kong is the hub of commerce for millions of Chinese who travel there annually.
In this ongoing semi-migration, there is a dynamic interaction between a
westernized society and millions of citizens living under communist rule. The
potential for key missional engagement is unprecedented. While in Hong Kong, I
attended an international book fair and was amazed by the amount of Christian
literature available in Mandarin and Cantonese. I asked if Christians from the
mainland bought and took literature back with them and the answer was, “of
course.” I asked my host whether or not “Christians in China were forbidden
from taking literature with them.” He replied: “Not anymore, that is what the
West thinks. There are too many good things happening now in China.”
Although the global consultation focused on
the topic of how leaders are being
developed in various contexts, the good news is that we all felt a powerful
movement of God, waking us up to a deep missional concern. The “news” came to
us from listening to one another and God’s spirit, participating in discussions
of ultimate concern: how to develop and equip leaders for the manifold
ministries of Christ and his Church.
a first for me, being in a gathering where Chinese Christians were in the
majority (more than 50% of the 250 participants). With most of these leaders
being from various provinces, the level of commitment and the sense of expectation
were staggering. Worship and prayer were all in Cantonese and Mandarin with no
translation and no instruments. This arrangement allowed participants from
other contexts to taste how Chinese liturgy takes place. The enthusiasm,
passion and fervent prayer of the Chinese spread throughout the gathering. As I
shared in these beautiful moments, I was struck by how much time and resources
we in the West tend to spend in worship services with all the “bells and
whistles,” while people of faith in other contexts can keep it simple and
focused. Although I didn’t understand the lyrics, I sensed the presence of God
in our midst. These are times I will never forget.
committed minister from South Korea, educated in the West, offered a profoundly
moving and convicting challenge in which God woke us up to a new and disturbing
realization. He shared about his ministry to intercede and raise awareness
about the dehumanization of prisoners in North Korea. A video of only eight
minutes was long enough to cause us to fall to our knees for the suffering
people in the prison and labor camps. The question echoed: who will go, who
will be sent out to these? Then the answer came.
fifteen-minute presentation about the suffering people in North Korea became an
hour of intercession and commitment to participate in the suffering of the
prisoners. You can guess who took this challenge as an invitation from God to
become a missional agent of redemption to people in North Korea. Being in
border proximity with this country, the Chinese Christians have one of the
greatest opportunities to serve and participate in this mission. They embraced
this opportunity in the hopes of beginning a healing movement of God’s kingdom
– and all of this without the resources of the West.
This is the
news that you will never read in Associated Press or watch on CNN, the news in
which God’s children in North Korea took center stage, not as agents of nuclear
destruction, but as suffering people in need of redemption. This kind of good
news happens as the people of God gather around the word and pray together
without limitations of agendas and strategies. From all of this I learned that
God has prepared the countless people of faith in China for a next move to
bring freedom and healing to the suffering children, women and men in North
Korea. And he calls all of us to pay attention to the realities of the world
beyond the news media and our electronic devices.
leaves me with a lingering question. How do we, as Fuller Theological Seminary
see ourselves entering into this critical moment? How do we walk alongside those who are called
to direct action on behalf of the suffering people of North Korea? What role might we play in this incredible
missional opportunity? This is the good news I’m longing to hear!