I’m writing this blog in a particular time and place; on holiday while at our family’s favourite spot on the southern end of the Coromandel peninsula.
This particular place has been a refuge and retreat for over fifteen years. For some reason I hear God especially clearly when here. Maybe it’s the pace and place. I’m not sure and don’t want to overthink it; I just enjoy being immersed in it. Anyway – point being – this location is where I have often dreamed of retiring to one day. This place is full of family memories, personal insights and divine encounters; in a word it’s “home.”
For some reason, however, on this current holiday my mind is asking: “where would I go at a time of great trauma?” I know – it’s a bleak thought and hardly holiday-mode but there it is. Where would I go? If something catastrophic happened I would retreat to this place in south Coromandel; to be made whole again. It’s that kind of place.
But it is not the only place. Surprisingly for me I realise my thoughts are going to another place as well. I realise for the first time I have found another place or rather that place has found me; south Asia high in the remote hills of that region.
I would go there at a time of great need.
For the past seven or so years my wife Ruth and I have visited there as part of the ministry that is Langham Preaching. There we have helped with the work of strengthening preaching among those called to and engaged in preaching. I was there again earlier this year; my eighth trip. When I arrived after a few days of travel – within the first hour as I settled into my room – I was struck with a new feeling. I not only felt at home… I felt I had come home! What happened? How did it happen?
Again, this is something I’d rather not overthink.
So I offer you this: I felt I had come home because the people of that region have adopted me with their hospitality, humour, humility, hope and honour. I feel “found.” And at this home I see brothers and sisters in Christ who serve Him courageously and without pretense. I see them serve Him in understated ways and with hunger to grow. I see clarity in their pursuit to live a life of discipleship. I see them struggle with societal, political and national issues which I am ill-equipped to speak into let alone appreciate. And in the midst of all of that, they have generous hearts to assure me that they see me.
So it does not sit well with me to have my work with Langham Preaching described as “mission” to south Asia. But it does sit well to have my work with Langham Preaching described as south Asia’s mission to me.
They enlarge and strengthen my heart.
And in a time of great need that is where I would return to; because they also have the power to heal hearts.
The Christians of south Asia have taught me that mission means being welcomed home.
Rev Dr Geoff New is Dean of Studies at the Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership in Dunedin. With LeaDev-Langham, not only is he involved in supporting preaching training with Langham Preaching in south Asia, but also is the Director of kiwi-made preaching, an initiative of Langham Partnership NZ.
Is there a country or region in Asia-Pacific that has “a mission to you”?