Under the theme “From Everywhere to Everywhere” (polycentric mission) the Mission Commission of the World Evangelical Alliance organized a world conference in Panama, with 300 participants from over 80 countries. As missiologist working many years in Central and Eastern Europe I was asked to lead one of the plenary bible studies on Jonah, with the – given – challenging title: Confronting the Status quo in mission.
It was very special to meet after many years Dr. Samuel Escobar, who I first met in 1979, as first year theology student. Over the years, I have learned very much from his theological-missiological approach. It was also very good to meet my good friend Ina, who has led a training center for cross cultural mission in Romania for close to a decade.
The Lord teaches Jonah new lessons of His universal plan for this world and the greatness of His love for all people. Stubborn Jonah was first unwilling to listen to the call of the Lord. A painful learning process begins as part of God’s plan to save Nineveh. He was surprised to discover the presence of the Lord on the sidelines, away from the center, which he thought was the presence of God. The book of Jonah holds a mirror up to Israel and to us, to confront us with our own limited understanding of God’s mission, in order to teach Jonah new lessons, and to show him that God is still going to be unprecedented progress.
The conference opened my eyes to how many missionaries are sent from Latin America, also to Europe. A few weeks after the conference I met a group of Brazilians around Osijek, who made a missionary orientation trip. In short, it was a very inspiring conference, where I learned a lot!