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Takeaways from ACNA Assembly 2017: Mission on our Doorstep


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New Wineskins Missionary Network reflects on the 2017 ACNA Assembly.

I’m sitting on our plane, flying back to North Carolina from Chicago, still reeling and absorbing all that ACNA Assembly 2017:  Mission on our Doorstep was and offered to me.

This was my first time attending an ACNA Assembly, and this one certainly did not disappoint!  It was also my first time to visit Wheaton College, and we couldn’t have asked for a more perfect venue.  As a mission-minded person, the Assembly theme of Mission on our Doorstep was intriguing and offered a whole lot of material to chew on and consider.  The Spirit of God was alive and active at Assembly, moving among all of us.  Here are a few initial takeaways on mission from the week in Wheaton.

Who really is my neighbor?  This is a theme that emerged in one of the Anglican Global Mission Partner’s (AGMP) workshops.  Stories were shared of loving one’s neighbor, and you wouldn’t believe the diversity of the stories that were told!  International students, the elderly, Muslims, teenagers, the people who live down the street from you-all of these are people that can be found outside your door in your own neighborhood.  The takeaway-everyone is my neighbor!
We must proclaim the gospel without reservation.  This is a theme that came out in Louie Giglio’s teaching, in Bishop Ben Kwashi’s exhortation, and in other teachings and talks.  We must proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without reservation-for the sake of God, for the sake of others, and for the sake of ourselves.  We can repent for the shame of the gospel that we have all had at one time or another.  This is a hopeful message that is vital to the heart of mission.
Being as the source of Doing.  In another AGMP workshop, Cynthia Buttram (a SAMS missionary serving with her husband, Kerry, in Cairo, Egypt) addressed the need to ‘Be’ before we go and ‘Do’ anything.  When we turn our thoughts to mission, we most often think of what we can do, what we need to do, what we will try to do.  But Cynthia addressed the need to be with God, in his word, in solitude, and in rest before we try to go and do anything.  It is out of the overflow of the heart that the mouth speaks, and as we consider stepping out in mission we must first ensure that we are rooted in Jesus and filled and inspired by the Holy Spirit.

“To the ends of the earth and to the ends of your heart.”  This quote by Amy Carmichael was shared by Geoff Chapman, Senior Pastor of St. Stephen’s Anglican Church in Pittsburgh, PA, during a morning plenary session.  The dual direction and double mission of the Great Commission is “to the ends of the earth and to the ends of your heart.”  God has a salvific and redemption plan for the entire world, and he has this same individual plan for you.  Stepping out in mission advances the great commission in our actions to the ends of the earth, and in this process, it also advances the great commission to the depths of our hearts.
A mission appropriate heart response.  During another AGMP workshop Lollie Twyman, from the Missions Committee of the Diocese of Ft. Worth, shared their diocesan experience growing in reciprocal mission with the Anglican church in Malawi.  After years of sending teams and pouring out resources, the folks in the Diocese of Ft. Worth stopped to ask this question-“Is a heart response always a mission appropriate response?”  They came to the conclusion that, no, it is not always mission appropriate, even when it comes from a place of love and compassion.  This question catalyzed their Diocese to develop reciprocal mission, and to aim at developing mission partnerships that maintain the dignity of their international partners and do not foster dependency.  This is a great question for all of us considering missions involvement to consider!

The major takeaway from Assembly is that mission-opportunity to share the love of Christ with others, to display kindness and compassion, to serve those in need-is literally waiting outside our doors.

Before we boarded our flight in Midway a few hours ago, we had about 20 minutes to sit and wait in the terminal.  Jenny and I flipped open our computers, ready to begin slogging through our email inbox.  As I opened my computer, I heard a happy baby babble from the row of seats behind me.  I turned to see a bright-eyed handsome little baby, smiling at me happily in the arms of his mother.  We began talking and I couldn’t help but notice by the color of their skin, the design of their clothing, and the mother’s accented voice, that they clearly were not from around here.  I asked the mother the name of her baby and she said his name and she explained that it means “God’s gift.”  We fell into conversation as I asked her where they are from (India), what she does for a living, and where they were headed.  I got the opportunity to share that I was a Christian and that I place my hope in Jesus Christ, and she shared with me some of her Hindu faith.  I learned about her culture as I asked about the mark of ink that adorned her forehead, which turns out to be a sign of a married woman in her culture.

Did I get to share the Gospel and lead her through a prayer of repentance?  No.  But what I got to do was smile, express my interest in her culture and family, and show in a very small way the kindness and love of Jesus Christ.  I pray that this is one of many seeds that God plants in her heart.  The takeaway?  Mission really is right on our doorstep.

By Stephie Van Wagenen, Assistant to the Director for New Wineskins.