Thursday, July 5, 2012

Hacemos La Misión en Colaboración: Honduras Youth Partnership 2012

One of the ways I have felt called to exercise my vocation as a youth pastor is through the development of a wide variety of missional partnerships. The kingdom of God is so vast and diverse, yet the temptation looms large to assume that our context is the only context whereby the gospel speaks and God's people dream.

What are missional partnerships?

Missional partnerships are pilgrimages that enable disciples in one context, i.e. the suburbs of Philadelphia, to travel with and work alongside disciples in another context as the church collaborates and conspires together.

Missional partnerships are immersions within the missio Dei (mission of God), which is to reconcile the whole world, through Jesus Christ, to God's good and beautiful intentions. The mission of God can also be understood as God's movement to save the world from all forms of suffering, injustice, evil, and chaos. And this reconciliation, which began in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, continues as God's people, in places like West Chester, PA and Tegucigalpa, Honduras, are formed and sent by God's Spirit to live into good news of God's deliverance.

Missional partnerships emphasize collaboration and reject imposition and inquisition. Missional partnerships are conversations. Missional partnerships assume nothing and work together on everything. Missional partnerships risk the sharing of leadership. Actually, missional partnerships shift leadership from the hands of the travelers to the hopes and dreams of the hosts who call the "foreign" context their home. This is what Hunter Farrell refers to as "mutuality in mission." [1]

Missional partnerships take short-term missions to the next level and extend interactions and collaborations beyond the one-week excursion and continue the dialogue and dream even after photos have been swapped and t-shirts washed and buried at the bottom of drawers.

Missional partnerships become covenanted relationships that extend well into the future- God's future!

I am a firm advocate of the "come and follow" and "look and see" discipleship model first embodied by Jesus in the calling of the Twelve. These missional partnerships are adventures in such discipleship, whereby youth are awakened by the kingdom of God and transformed by the power of the gospel alive and well all over the world. These partnerships empower youth to develop the eyes and ears to see and hear how God may be calling them to exercise their unique gifts and callings to participate in the very dreams of God locally and internationally.

That said, as the Imago Dei Youth Ministry prepares for a return to Honduras and year two of our youth-to youth missional partnership with the Presbytery of Honduras, I thought I would muse about a few of my hopes and dreams. Imago Dei Youth, feel free to comment and add your own :)

Two of Pena de Horeb's Youth Leaders
Reconnect and Reunite: Last year was like that awkward first date. We met, asked surface level questions, learned about their community, and had a wide variety of adventurous experiences that created fun stories to tell our friends and family back home. They also made for great photos! However, this year is all about about reconnecting and taking the relationship to the "next level."

What will it look like to develop a growing sense of intimacy with one another in regards to the incarnation of the kingdom of God in Teguc? How can we not only continue to laugh and play together, but also create and dream together about fresh expressions of the voluntad de Dios (will of God)? What are some of the deeper concerns, hopes, and passions the youth from Peña de Horeb have bubbling up within them that our combined efforts can begin to transform into possibilities for church and wider community transformation? I am not sure, but I am eager for Part II to begin and new conversations to be had.

Learn More About the Gospel as Understood by Honduran Youth: I believe that the good news of Jesus is everything but static. It does not cling to one culture, tradition, or theology. Instead, the gospel holds in tension both a local and universal flavor. While we can say, "Jesus saves," what that means in West Chester may mean something a little different in Teguc. It also may not. Still, the call is at least to foster environments where the similarities and differences can be explored. So the 2012 rendition of this partnership will begin with a Presbytery-wide youth retreat, as led and coordinated by the youth leadership in Honduras. I will preach once. But only once. The rest of the gospel witness will be in Spanish, spoken by Honduran preachers and teachers. There will be nearly 100 participants, only 26 Americans. We are in the minority. A very different experience for most of us.

I wonder what the good news means to youth throughout the Presbytery of Honduras? I am eager to learn how the gospel is spoken, shared, and explored together in a developing nation. What will our youth think of the messages and talks? What will we hold in common and will challenge our thinking? And when I preach, how will God use my words when all the illustrations I use up here may mean nothing down there? We shall see...

Engage Mission of God as Understood by Honduras Youth and Honduras Church Leadership: The false assumption is that all churches think the mission of God includes not only personal but also social transformation. Just as many O' Evangelical churches assume social justice and poverty alleviation strategies are "secular" and "liberal" concerns, the same is true in places like Honduras. While our hearts may be grieved by this, as "progressive" and North American mainliners, we must reject arrogant and imperialistic agendas and maintain a posture of mutuality. Said differently, we cannot impose our interpretations of the gospel in the same way those who may be responsible for a more conservative theological praxis and ecclesiogy did years ago. While West Chester youth may be eager to engage the work and witness of Association for a More Just Society, not all Honduran disciples are equally as eager. Some are. The call is to learn why and walk alongside our partners in mission even in the midst of disagreement. Only then can this truly be a missional partnership versus another exercise in Christian colonization.

Sacred Pilgrimages and Play in New Places: What I love the most about this missional partnership is the amount of time we travel together. We encounter the sacred in bus rides and touristy walks. We experience the movement of God when we play soccer and wiffle ball at local parks. Honduras and American youth catch a glimpse of the kingdom of God through shared meals, worship services, and random interactions throughout each day that incorporate heightened levels of Spanglish. While there is a tremendous amount of intentionality behind a missional partnership, sometimes the most beautiful elements are those that are not scheduled or forced. I am eager for the bursts of holy laughter and the wonder behind every smile. These are some of the purest forms of partnership and the mot brilliat attestations to growing intimacy among friends...actually, family!

This is only the first of many blogposts to come. Some made in-country, others made upon return. Keep checking back, as I am sure to have further musings as the Spirit of God awakens us in the midst of year two of the Honduras Youth-to-Youth Missional Partnership.

Notes:

[1] A great article by Director of PCUSA World Mission, Hunter Farrell, "Short-term Missions: Paratrooper Incursion of 'Zaccheus Encounter'?"

[2] Also check out Westminster's blog: www.workofthepeople.wordpress.com for updates on this partnership and others...

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