A Vision is Cast
At the World Mission Conference in the summer of 2014 International Ministries celebrated 200 years of mission. Because of that celebration a large number of representatives of International Ministries’ Partners from all over the world were invited. Because International Ministries has invested extensively in Theological Education there were a number of directors from theological schools in Ibero-America and the Caribbean at Green Lake. Most of them had never met so Area Director Jose Norat invited them to a gathering where he presented this proposal: a theological education summit where they would gather to talk about theological education in their Latino context, share struggles and concerns, and talk about the future. It would take the next 18 months to pull together and be fulfilled by Jose’s successor Adalia Gutierrez Lee. But it happened!
First Time Ever
For the first time ever the directors of theological schools from 10 different countries in Latin America and the Caribbean met February 25-28 in Managua, Nicaragua. The room was lined with 27 men and women from Chile, Bolivia, Columbia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Cuba, Mexico (3 schools), Puerto Rico, and International Missionaries. Over the two days of gathering we focused on 4 themes: Context, Accreditation, Curriculum, and Finances.
There is far too much to include everything, but here are a few things that emerged:
- An overall massive decline in students seeking to attend theological schools (crisis)
- An overall financial crisis to keep the schools training pastors, teachers and leaders (crisis).
- An overall need to respond to the prevalence of peace and justice issues (crisis)
- A need to rethink theological education and be creative
- The need to share resources and network
- An opening toward ecumenicism and gender equality
- A need to develop spirituality and wholeness in the seminary experience
I was invited to offer a morning devotion on the second day. We had spent 13 hours together the previous day and unless you went to the bathroom you were constantly listening to someone talk. That’s not a bad thing, but I was aware of the opportunity (need?) to introduce some silence and another kind of listening. I felt led to guide the group in the discipline of Lectio Divina or “sacred word.” Lectio Divina is a powerful experience of reading a Scripture passage three different times with a space for silence and a question after each reading. It often reaches deep and evokes a new awareness. I asked the group if any had ever practiced this spiritual discipline. Only a few raised their hands and most of them were IM missionaries. Afterward I heard from several people about their dynamic experiences in their groups of three. Later that day the worship team invited me to lead Lectio again in place of a sermon for the Sunday worship.
Spirituality as Mission
As I introduced myself to this group on day one I shared that I’m the missionary with the mission of offering Spiritual Formation courses to theological schools, and Renewal for pastors and leaders. Little did I know that God had planned for it to be a small part of this gathering of theological leaders as well. Little did I expect to hear so many of these leaders saying that they need to mature leaders of deeper spiritual awareness, and help them grow towards wholeness. I don’t know if they knew how that was going to happen but God did! During this short conference God opened the door and put deeper spirituality as mission on the table in Latin America…only God can do this stuff!