30 April 2021
A Global Perspective
This article first appeared in the Methodist Recorder on 23rd April 2021.
I wonder how broad is your perspective? Is it limited to those who live in your house, your wider circle of family and friends, your local church and community, your regional area, your nation? Or is it more global? Are you informed about issues facing different areas of the world beyond what they tell you on the BBC? Do you know the prayer needs and concerns of different nations? If not, do you know how to find out?
My husband and I have had the great privilege of being mission partners in Guyana in South America as well as undertaking several short term mission visits to various nations. Each time I meet and minister with and to people from other countries and cultures, whether here or overseas, I am blown away by how much we in the British Methodist Church have to learn from our Christian sisters and brothers in other places.
Not many are called to service overseas, and indeed there are varying views on whether we should send mission partners at all now or whether it is better to use our resources to enable and support locals in mission; but from my own experience, an overseas visit to a church in another culture can be a life changing experience and my visits have given me a much better understanding of what life is like for some of our church partners, many of whom live in circumstances very different to our own. I have also made some lifelong friends around the world and through these relationships I am more able to pray in an informed way about the needs of various nations.
Jesus calls all of us to mission in some way but for each person that call will be different – for some our mission field is in our homes, neighbourhoods and communities, while for others it may be further afield. Sometimes we can get very insular and bogged down with what is going on in our own lives, our families and our own churches and forget the wider world yet we can all be involved in global mission in some capacity. How can we achieve this?
Firstly, by learning. Don’t just rely on the BBC for your world news which is very limited. Watch more international news channels such as Al Jazeera which covers stories in many nations that you may never otherwise hear about. Buy a copy of Operation World, which is a great international prayer manual, sign up to global Christian charity newsletters, get a copy of the prayer handbook and subscribe to the Global Relationship news and mission partner blogs. When you hear about a country in the news, look it up and find out what the issues are there. Ask yourself how this news story affects our Christian family and the spread of the gospel.
Our learning should lead us to prayer and many Christian charities working overseas such as All We Can, MAF, SAT-7, Open Doors, and Embrace the Middle East all produce great prayer guides and resources to help us pray in an informed way as does the Methodist Prayer Handbook. As you learn more about the nations you can pray more specifically and intentionally.
Another way we can support global mission is through our giving. Some people are blessed with resources and although they may not be able to go and serve overseas themselves, are able to give into God’s work. You may feel led to give to a mission agency who are sending people overseas to bring God’s love or an international Christian charity.
There are other ways in which we can engage with the global church. You may consider twinning with a church overseas and the Global Relationships team can support you in that. You may feel able to support a serving mission partner with your prayers, by writing to them, finding out about life in the country where they are serving, sending things they need or maybe even visiting them. When we lived overseas I was so thankful for all the emails, letters and parcels that we received from home as they helped me know that I was not forgotten and reminded me that people were praying for us.
When travel restrictions end and you plan a holiday abroad, don’t just be a consumer who visits hotels and tourist sites but try to find out about the local church and worship with local Christians even if you don’t understand the language! It is good to reflect on how we can be more thoughtful travellers and how are we supporting local business, local people, charities working in that country or local churches.
Some people may feel that God is calling you to actually go somewhere yourself either for a short time or longer. Going on a visit with a church overseas is so much more worthwhile and meaningful than a holiday in a luxury hotel as you get to meet the local people, support them, encourage each other, worship together and build relationships.
So my encouragement to you as you read this, is to lift up your head, look around you and discover what is going on in the wider world so that you can indeed have a global perspective on mission as you fulfil God’s call on your life.
Carolyn Lawrence, Vice-President of the Methodist Conference, 2020-21
Photo: Carolyn Lawrence with her husband Mark and a friend , Pastor Paul, in Kenya. Credit: Carolyn Lawrence.