International Ministries

"They're going to be shocked!"

September 19, 2011 Journal
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“I’m so excited, they’re going to be shocked!”  Joy was exultant after the practice session for the training on experiential education.  She was a church leader who had been to many workshops, but none had generated such enthusiasm.  She had come reluctantly, stuck in attending because of her leadership position at the Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches (CPBC).  Instead of enduring something she felt was unconnected to her work, she was seeing dramatically new ways of engaging in her ministries of leadership and education.

This was my third in a series of trips to Iloilo to work with the CPBC in various peacemaking efforts.  Last year Feraz Legita, director of CPBC’s Development Ministries, and I talked about how to take our efforts to the next level.  Having me continually come as the “peace expert” isn’t helpful.  That’s not the way International Ministries does mission, and it doesn’t recognize the wonderful giftedness of so many Filipino leaders.  So how could I help equip leaders to access their own creativity and skills to address issues of peace and justice in their communities more effectively?  We decided to train key leaders in a deeper understanding of the principles, practices and tools of experiential education.

Experiential education is a form of learning that recognizes that participants bring much wisdom into the learning moment.  It is an elicitive form that draws out lessons from the participants themselves as they reflect on experiences that they have had previously or that they share together in the workshop setting.  It’s not lecture, question and answer, and power-points.  Rather the facilitator acts like a midwife helping the participants to give birth to their own learnings and discovery.

An interesting mix of folks gathered for the 30day workshop.  We had a former general secretary of the CPBC.  We had CPBC staff.  We had pastors, women’s leaders, students, school administrators and teachers.  We had leaders of community organizations.  We had folks involved in interfaith peacemaking efforts and community mediators trying to solve explosive problems at the local level.  We had indigenous folks who were among the most marginalized in the society.  Then Feraz was there, having just taken a new position with the Asia Pacific Baptist Aid, heading up their sub-office for this region.

Together we launched into new ways of learning and teaching, and you could see the excitement explode in minds and hearts as they could see immediately how to put these new methods and tools to use in their own ministries.  We had moments of intense laughter, soul-searching, sharing and lots of practice.  Veteran Christian educators were being re-energized.  Community leaders were experiencing new creative energy to bring to long-standing tangled challenges.  We did deep work and had a lot of fun doing it.

Paul tells us in Ephesians 4.11-12 that Christ through the Spirit has given gifts such as teaching “to equip the saints for the work of ministry.”  To equip someone for their ministry deeply is to give them tools they can use in their own context, which they will understand better than I ever will.  So they can’t be my tools, they need to be their tools.  If I give people my program it will always be borrowed and second-hand.  Equipping people for ministry is giving them tools and the skills to use them so they can make their own decisions and choices about what needs to be done and how.  We set folks loose to do things beyond our own imagining.  As Paul said just a few verses earlier in Ephesians 3.20 Christ “by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine.”

I can’t wait to hear how Joy will delightfully shock people in her ministry by bringing a dramatically new joyous energy to her work.  I can’t wait to hear how Justine will push her fellow students to new levels of substantive discipleship.  I can’t wait to hear how Joel will enable his congregation to resolve their conflicts in positive ways.  I can’t wait to hear how Henne will help community activists resisting destructive mining on their lands discover their own nonviolent creativity.  I can’t wait to hear how Willy will help people discover together creative solutions to their disagreements.  These wonderful folks will be doing abundantly far more than all I could ask or imagine.  I’m just grateful for the opportunity to equip them a bit for that work.

You too share in such equipping around the world, especially during this season of the year when American Baptist churches are taking the World Mission Offering.  Your contributions enable me and my other International Ministries colleagues to stand alongside our partners around the world and equip them for their gospel work.  As you give generously we together can give an extra boost to that abundant, exciting and even delightfully shocking expansion of Christ’s redemptive work.

In joy and hope,

Dan Buttry