LCMS World Mission’s career missionaries and personnel from across Asia met in Hong Kong February 12-14 for a ‘workgroup’ meeting.
The event was a rare opportunity for the team to recharge and enjoy fellowship with their mission and ministry teammates. More than a retreat, though, the three-day meeting was a time to come together as a unified group to create a clear vision for the future as they strive to cultivate the “green growing edge” of the church in Asia.
The 21 team members in attendance spent much of the weekend in dialogue with one another and with Asia Regional Director Rev. John Mehl as they worked together to shape the new vision for the region. Special guest and organizational change consultant Les Stroh was also in attendance to help the Asia team articulate the vision and bring it to life.
The new vision is rich with imagery and likens the church to a “healthy tree planted by the water” (Psalm 1). It acknowledges that the global mission movement belongs to God and asserts that LCMS missionaries and personnel in Asia are “doing His work as we urgently and intentionally engage the world at the green growing edge of the church.”
In recent years, there has been a transition in the roles of LCMS World Mission career missionaries and personnel. Today’s career missionaries in Asia serve in strategic roles – as theological trainers for local church leaders and as mission developers who strive to support the efforts of LCMS partner churches. LCMS missionaries sometimes serve where evangelism takes place on the green edge of the church, but often they serve as the ‘branches’, providing support and nourishment for evangelists and church planters of LCMS partners in Asia.
For many of those in attendance, working together with their fellow teamates to develop this new vision was refreshing and served to encourage them in their respective areas of work.
“Many of us are working solo in our countries, so the opportunity to gather together with fellow missionaries was a real blessing,” shared South Korea missionary Rev. Patrick O’Neal.
Rev. Dr. Jonathan Blanke, a professor at Japan Lutheran College and Seminary in Tokyo, was impressed with the collaborative nature of the visioning process. “My opinion was asked for and considered, by LCMS World Mission leadership.”
In addition to the development of the new vision, the workgroup meeting was a time to address organizational questions and concerns, brainstorm new ideas, share successes, collaborate with co-workers, and share time as fellow Christians in Bible study, worship, conversation, and fun.
DCE Sharon Owens, who manages several EFL (English as a Foreign Language) centers in Macau and Hong Kong, shared: “It was really beneficial for me to network with my teammates. It’s exciting to find ways that we can work together and add capacity to our efforts.”
“I like to think of it as ‘missions without borders,’” added East Asia Area Facilitator Rev. Carl Hanson, echoing the importance of collaboration with fellow missionaries.
John Mehl summed up the weekend this way: “A meeting like the Asia workgroup meeting unifies missionaries and personnel in their focus, stimulates collaboration and shared resources, and provides spiritual nourishment from God’s Word for service in His mission.”
The Asia team members returned to their respective fields refreshed, re-energized, and with a new vision to carry on God’s mission of developing the “green growing edge” of the church in Asia.