HFA Great Commission in Today’s World
When I arrived in Singapore for OMF’s Orientation Course in 1980, I was surprised to discover that two of the couples on the course were from Asia, going to Asia. One couple was from the country I was heading to as a missionary. This was the era when missions was largely from “the West to the rest.” Gratefully, OMF was far ahead and was already sending Asians from Asian countries as early as 1965. I was the one who was more than a little behind in my thinking.
Soon after we joined OMF, Dr. Taylor (James Hudson Taylor III) became General Director. I remember him telling us, “Do not put your missions sermons away when you go back to the Field.” He was teaching us to put the challenge of missions before the people we were in Asia to reach. Again, he had insight far beyond many of his contemporaries.
Thankfully, our founder James, Hudson Taylor, had good insight here too. There’s a quote that has been attributed to him. “The Great Commission is not an option to be considered; it is a command to be obeyed.” Whether that exact quote was first articulated by our founder or not, it was definitely in his DNA. Local people were brought into the early mission teams who then travelled to distant places and cross cultural boundaries within China.
Today, missions truly is from “anywhere to everywhere,” but it does not just happen. As I was commending a woman from China for the great passionate missions effort from her country, she corrected me saying, “Zeal, ‘yes,’ but passion, ‘no.’ ” She observed that there was much desire to go, but felt this was not matched with concreate and well-planned actions. As I have engaged with missions movements in quite a number of countries in East Asia I have come to see five major components to a healthy missions movement. If any one of these is weak, the whole indigenous missions movement is in jeopardy and workers can be hurt badly.
The five components are: 1.) Selecting, 2.) Training, 3.) Sending, 4.) Receiving, and 5.) Returning. Missions involves selecting the right people; thoroughly training them to be effective cross-cultural workers; sending them to the place of ministry; receiving them into field structures that enhance effective ministry; and finally having a process for them to return to their country of origin, either for reconnection or for a final return. I have seen occasions of failure in each of these five areas and the result has been damaging to the individual and to the work.
As we engage with East Asia today and its peoples, part of our calling is to walk alongside them in any one of these five components or even in multiple components. Today, there are places where we are being asked for help at every stage. Some of our workers are helping with the selection process – I have been involved in that myself. Many of our workers are involved in training within East Asia for cross-cultural mission. We have set up our own sending structure but have also helped local groups create their sending structures as well. We have frequently had the privilege to receive workers into our teams, sent by these younger sending agencies. We have the privilege to be enriched by these workers and also have the privilege to provide structure and direction in the early times of their missionary career. The system to enable people to return to their passport country was missed in some young missions movements and workers struggled. We have been invited to help young agencies think that through.
God is moving his people from every nation to every nation. We have the God-given mission to focus on East Asia’s peoples. Equally, we have the calling to journey with and strengthen the East Asian Missionary Movement.
Richard Schlitt, National Director