Professor becomes practitioner
by Megan E. Richard
This past spring MB Biblical Seminary professor of Mission and Theology, Mark Baker, presented his Biblical Theology of Mission and Evangelism class with a case study. However, this was no ordinary case study, but one that featured Baker himself, as a key player. The study outlined the relationship Baker had been developing via email with Gustavo, a poor Peruvian pastor who he planned to visit in July to discuss how they could partner together. Students were asked to provide their own “next steps” for this relationship. They were to incorporate practices of interdependence and mutuality in mission rather than practices of paternalism and dependency. Baker himself wrestled with the same questions as he prepared for his trip.
The relationship between Baker and Gustavo had begun over a year earlier. Gustavo’s interest in Baker’s online articles led to an extended email conversation exploring theological formation in Peru. Gustavo also discovered Baker’s two Spanish books published by Kairos, an Argentine Christian publishing house. Through an arrangement with Baker, Gustavo began to sell copies of the Spanish books to fund his trips to the jungles of central Peru to share the message of holistic mission and a gospel of freedom. Prior to Baker’s visit Gustavo had sold 500 books!
With his students' suggestions (along with thoughts gained from reading and his previous experience as a missionary in Honduras) ringing in his ears, Baker made his way to Peru with MB Biblical Seminary alumnus Ryan Schellenberg. In his post trip report Baker commented that he intentionally went with broad areas for discussion, not a “pre-fabricated plan.”
The July 9-19 trip allowed for significant amounts of time to be set aside at the beginning of the trip for conversation and prayer with Gustavo and his wife Mariela. Baker followed a schedule set up by Gustavo, speaking at local churches and appearing in an interview on a Christian television show. Baker introduced Gustavo and Mariela to Mennonite Brethren church leaders in Peru. A relationship between the conference and Gustavo’s independent house church could potentially provide a significant amount of emotional support in ministry.
The absence of a pre-fabricated plan allowed everyone in the conversation equal input. Together they decided that Gustavo and Mariela will begin meeting with an advisory/support group, comprised of members they have chosen, who will help them as they seek to expand their mission of promoting holistic mission and a gospel of freedom. Gustavo will also work at organizing a chapter of Red del Camino ("Network of the Way"-- Latin American churches seeking to live out holistic mission) in Lima and continue to be in conversation with the president of the Mennonite Brethren conference in Peru. Upon Gustavo and Mariela’s suggestion, Baker agreed to write short pamphlets in Spanish and add more material to his website that would expand on the books he has already written. Finally, Baker will provide start-up funds to enable Gustavo to become a distributor for his and other Kairos books in Peru. The hope is that this will provide a stable income for Gustavo’s family and ministry.
Baker is quick to admit that he must consistently work at what it means to do mission in an interdependent and mutual way. The “potential for unintended consequences are great,” he says and that keeps him striving for ways to create co-equal relationships in mission.
The experience of Baker’s trip to Peru will no doubt be something he brings to the classroom as he continues to work out what it means to do and teach mission. “As a professor, I feel privileged to have had this opportunity to take the theory from the classroom and attempt to put it into practice,” says Baker.
To view the television interview Baker did in Peru visit http://video.google.es/videoplay?docid=7003869416307186766
Posted: August 21, 2007