May 10, 2019

Going 'glocal'

Greetings from Richmond, Virginia! I'm here on baby watch with daughter Caroline till son-in-law Will arrives on May 21 at the end of their school term in Kigali, Rwanda, where they both teach. Caroline’s due date is June 9 but she had to fly internationally before 35 weeks. Now we’re hoping the doctor can hold off inducing delivery due to Caroline’s sometimes elevated BP before Will gets here from Rwanda!

Somebody coined the word ‘glocal’, which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as “reflecting or characterized by both local and global considerations.” I can’t think of a better illustration of the glocalization of world missions today – and perhaps my international theological education specialist role in particular – than Caroline and me flying from where we do ministry on two different continents to a third one (home!) for the small-but-momentous event of the birth of this one tiny baby in God’s big world. While I’m here I’m engaged in the local details of helping plan for my granddaughter’s birth, playing with my other daughter's 15-month-old (and his parents, of course...), and enjoying some face-to-face time with supporting churches and individual partners in the Richmond area. At the same time I'm immersed in the global dimensions of my regular ministry responsibilities – teaching my online course for Fuller Theological Seminary, which this term includes students in Hong Kong, Germany, and Australia as well as all over the United States; submitting final grades for the class I taught in Burundi in February; prepping for courses I’ll travel to teach in London (June), Myanmar (August), and South Asia (September); developing orientation materials for Theologians Without Borders; and just generally keeping my hand in various projects back home in Dublin and beyond. My office is wherever my laptop computer is.

Working ‘glocally’ involves two other words that have come to mean a lot to me over the last couple of years. One is hypermobility. I’ve joined that group of people who travel for work a lot. Yes, there are some exciting, Instagram-able aspects to it. And I’m not gonna lie, I loved the sunny warmth of Bujumbura in February rather than the cold dark of Dublin. But it also means continual disruption, isolation, disorientation, jetlag, and even lowered immunity to germs. Which I proved beyond all doubt in March when I came down with a nasty virus – flu?? – in the Boston airport on a Friday evening, leading to three nights in airport hotels until I stopped throwing up and could get on a plane to drag myself home to Ireland. True story. (Which is why you didn't hear from me last month. Long recovery from that one.)

To balance that hypermobility, I’ve come to depend on connection – with the friends and family God gives me who keep me grounded and in-the-moment wherever I am. Especially, I’m so grateful for the body of Christ in the various places I travel. My church and home group in Dún Laoghaire, Ireland, as well as the one I attend in Bangalore, India, each year. Being able to drop into a lovely missions dinner, women’s Bible study, and weekly ‘parish group’ at Third Presbyterian in Richmond this month. Serge buddies in Ireland and in the various places I connect with Serge’s outreach, like Burundi and London. In Ephesians 2:19-20 Paul writes, “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.” What I’ve discovered is that Christ’s church is ‘glocal’!

I guess that makes sense, because the Bible shows us that God’s mission is ‘glocal,’ too. He’s involved at every level from healing and reconciling us to himself in our localized and personalized experiences of brokenness and sin, to transforming communities throughout the world, and ultimately restoring all creation. “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away... And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new’” (Rev 21:1-5). In spite of dislocation and jet lag I’m grateful for the small but unique part that I, like each of you, get to play in God’s ‘glocal’ project. And I'm truly grateful for the many of you who pray and give to make my share in God's work possible. Thank you!

Global ministry, local life = 'glocal'!

Teaching my course in Burundi in February, 
hosting Irish church friends and Serge teammates for Easter lunch at home in Dún Laoghaire, 
being welcomed into a lovely 'parish group' at a partner church, 
and blowing bubbles with my grandson in Virginia.