Well, I survived a total of 9 plenary sessions so far and 1 workshop, plus a short spell of tummy-ache. Of course, today’s trip to the Singapore Zoological Gardens was a nice change but physically and intellectually this is one of the most demanding conferences I’ve ever been part of. The level and standard of the presenters and the papers are very high. So, I’m looking forward to get some better rest tonight.
It’s impossible to put the massive amount of information and insights I’ve gleaned through listening and conversing with different people. One personal highlight worth mentioning is a discussion over lunch with two other Malaysians who work in a NGO for poverty alleviation & holistic mission (incidently was the first plenary session this morning) in urban KL and my main concern was how a local congregation, a pastor like me and fellow church members can see our role in this aspect. If the way we have always done it is not the way, or at least is not going far enough, then how can we proceed forward?
Dr. Carver T. Yu’s session on “Christian Mission in what may be the golden age for Buddhism” was fascinating in helping me understand the relationship between globalization and the postmodern age. Using that as a springboard to link with the growing Buddhist resurgence in Asia. He challenged us in three fronts:
1. We need to develop a holistic concept of the human person – a kind of theological antropology.
2. We need to critique globalization (or work towards a radical transformation?!)
3. We need to equip ourselves to enter into meaningful discourse with:
– Buddhism, etc.
He was one of the few speakers whom I had a chance to interact with (I thoroughly enjoyed his workshop), and he’s one of the few who bring an Asian perspective on Postmodernism!
check out: his Sabbath with a mission and HOW should Theological Education respond to the 21st Century?
A quick note on last night’s talk on “The challenge of Mission in the context of religious pluralism” by Dr. C.V. Mathew (here’s an article by him on Nation building & another one on Indian theology). I’ll just post a quote from his paper which had a very strong GOD-emphasis:
“It is God who saves, not religions or the religiosity of humans. God’s salvation is always a gift. It is grace… Jesus Christ can satisfy the deepest longings of anyone’s heart and give meaning to life. But Jesus Christ is not the fulfillment of any religion nor all the religions together. He is the God-appointed solution to the problems of humans; the God-ordained way to get back to God-given humanity … The religion that has these principles enshrined in its system points to the way of salvation but does not save anyone. No religion has the power to save; onlt God does. He does that in and through Jesus Christ. Religion that is deficient in this cannot ultimately point to the way of salvation. It is at best a fallen human effort which is devoid of the kind of faith that God calls for, and worst a cleverly masterminded demonic device to turn humans away from God.” (p. 6)
Dr. Mok-Chan Wing Yan’s paper on “Issues in Holistic Urban Mission with Christian Drug Rehabilitation as a case study” also left a deep impression on me especially reminding me on the issue of “addiction” and the whole painful and costly process of recovery. Again as a pastor, I caught some idea of how we as a local congregation can change our own “culture” for the benefit of those in need. She said, “If a local Christian chruch wants to reach out to marginal people, she has to either change her own culture or facililate the founding of new churches specializing in marginal people groups. Long-term community building is possible when local churches work alongside para-church organizations to achieve comon mission goals.”