Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

Bridging the Word and the World

3/26 2014

A Mission Reflection: More Than a Building

Our group of seven students and two leaders spent the better part of two weeks in Brazil.  The first week was spent in Manaus, a city in the heart of the Amazon.  We visited numerous churches and pastors and tried to soak up as much information as possible.  These pastors are so passionate and humble about their work! They pray for numerous hours a day and dedicate their lives to doing the work of God.  Their churches thrive on small group ministry.  Held in the houses of congregation members, these small groups are used as a way to invite and minister to non-believers and show them the love and grace of God. Each person is involved in a small group Bible study, and the groups come together on Sundays to worship.

What amazed me about these people was their passion and immediacy about evangelism.  They see Christianity as a life or death situation, and therefore they find evangelism to be a crucial element of the faith.  They are certainly not ashamed of the gospel message!  It was not uncommon for grocery stores to have “Jesus is Lord” written on their signs, nor was it uncommon to see a man with a speaker strapped to the roof of his car, preaching the gospel as he drove through the crowded city streets.  Since they do not fear offending anyone, they are always willing to share the story of how God changed their lives with anyone who will listen, having full faith that God will work through them.  Their courage and passion was contagious!

After a week in Manaus, we flew to the eastern side of Brazil to the city of Sao Paulo and spent time in the surrounding cities of Campinas and Sorocaba.  We continued to visit churches, learn from the pastors and observe how they worked to expand and plant churches.  Many of the churches here seemed to be niche churches.  For instance, we went to one church that reached out to rock-n-roll fans and people with tattoos.  Another church evangelized through jiu jitsu! (and we even got to learn some moves!) After each jiu jitsu lesson, the pastor would sit the students down, read a Bible passage, share the gospel message, and close with prayer.

What struck me about Brazil is that the church building itself seems to be of little importance.  One church met in a local workout gym, another met in a jiu jitsu school and a third met in a small rented warehouse.  What matters exponentially more is the body of Christ itself.  The people in Brazil are very relationship-oriented, and their best evangelism seems to be done through real loving relationship with each other and with God.  By loving each other, they are showing each other God’s love. We asked one pastor what his biggest challenge was when it came to evangelizing to his church of rough, rock-n-roll, tattooed, motorcycle men, and his response was “changing my heart first.”  This was huge to me!  It is important, I have learned, to humble ourselves and admit our shortcomings in order to more fully share the transformative power of the grace of God.  Evangelism is not something that should be viewed as something that we do to people, but rather a dynamic experience that develops through loving relationship with another person.

This trip to Brazil allowed me to see what God is up to in other parts of the world, but also reinforced in me the importance of living a simple life.  When we schedule every hour of each day, we do not leave time for God to speak in the silent, still moments of our lives.  What would it look like if we let go of our tendencies to schedule ourselves down to the half hour, and instead created space for God to work in and through the silences of our lives?

By Stephanie Martin, first year MDiv student at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

Learn more about WMI and the work they do by liking their page on Facebook or going to their website: http://worldmissioninitiative.org/

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11/6 2013

A Different Kind of Trip

It’s that time of year again on the PTS campus when World Mission Initiative is recruiting students and others for the spring mission trips. As they gather together the last minute stragglers (I’m one), I can’t help but reflect on what it is that makes these trips different.

I had been on mission trips before coming to seminary. I am blessed to have been raised in a church and community that leans heavily toward being missional and through that to have had the opportunities to do short term mission trips. Those trips did transform me, so I don’t want what I say to be seen as devaluing those experiences. I treasured each and every one, hugged them close to my heart and let them seep into my core to become a part of my being.

However, there is something different, and after some intrapersonal excavating there is one key attribute that keeps coming to the forefront, and that is this quality of being relational. There is something profoundly relational about the trips hosted through WMI. This is a hard point to sell since a majority of the trips are one to two weeks long, so how can trips that short even be qualified of being relational? Regardless of the trips’ length, the trips in and of themselves are built around being a one hit wonder. They are built on the connections and the trips and the people that came before on the hopes of continuing those connections in years to come. Though the same people may not go each year, or the same trip not offered every year, they are part of a intential weaving of the Church, cultivating a larger picture of God at work in the world. They are not built around going to help perform this service but instead, bridging peoples and nations and nuturing relationships, and every person, every trip is a part of a long and growing lineage.

Yet, not only are the trips built on a foundation of being relational to the core of their being, but the foundation of that is built on the Triune God, the God of all tongues, nations, and people. Which is enough, honestly, to pull me in to another trip, so that I can keep seeing and discovering, through the people God transforms me with, what, and where God is moving in this large, beautiful world.

Written by Rebecca Dix, middler MDiv student

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4/25 2013

A Mission Reflection: Southeast Asia

Her name is Ester.

Upon inquiry about what she does, without hesitation she looked us straight in the eyes and said she’s a servant of God.  She uses art and puppets to reach and teach either stories she has written or stories from the Bible to children of the highlands.  It all started with an English class she was leading that became a Bible study, and now those members are the ones who help in her ministry.

Her name is Oahn.

It was 2004.  She knew God was Almighty and that Jesus was Christ and Lord, and that he came for her sins and in him she had salvation, but she didn’t feel it here, in her heart.  So one night she prayed that if God was the One God that He would then fill her heart, or she would go and follow another religion.  At that moment, she felt her heart being filled with what she called a sweet warmth.

Her name is Nim.

She works with her family weaving fabric by hand.  She and her aunt are the only Christians in their village.  When we stopped with them and read scripture with them, she would cradle her Bible close to her heart like a precious child.

Her name is Qua.

Her son lost fingers on one of his hands, which makes it hard for him to work.  And being an ethnic minority makes it hard in and of itself to get work anyway.  She has been praying for some sort of cure.  A miracle.  She had been told this happened to him because her husband doesn’t believe in Christ, and the weight of that guilt rested on her heart.  But as we prayed with her, one of our leaders put a hand on her shoulder and declared “You are the daughter of the King.  There is nothing that can come between you and the Father.  There is NOTHING that can come between you and the Father.”  Later, she said she felt free.

Her name is Hicn.

She was more reserved and quiet than most of the others, but there was a fire in her eyes that came out when she and other women would dance in worship and try to teach me the steps.  Her petite frame radiated strength, for her feet had complete trust in whom had built the foundations of the firmament upon which she tread.

Her name…I don’t remember.

When in 2000 she decided to follow Christ, her family and friends came and beat her, tied her up to the back of a truck, drug her around, and beat her some more.  She was badly hurt, but she said it didn’t matter to her if she lived or died, for she had Christ.

Their names were never offered, so again I don’t know them.

It was at a women’s conference, and translators were few.  But it didn’t matter. They clamoured over the language barrier between us and sang to me, touching my arms and nose and face, in so trying to tell me I was beautiful.  So I would touch them back, so they would know they too were beautiful, that they too had worth and value.  That they were loved.  And we sat there, together, speaking a language that requires no words.

Her name is daughter, sister, mother.

They are my sisters, our sisters, our daughters, our mothers, our nieces, our aunts.

We are family

By Rebecca Dix, storyteller and MDiv student.

Learn more about WMI and the work they do by liking their page on Facebook or going to their website: http://worldmissioninitiative.org/

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