Mission and Imagined Futures

Geoffrey Nelson-Blake is a PhD candidate in Religion and Practice at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. He previously worked for a decade as an Adventist pastor and a community organizer. 

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://spectrummagazine.org/sabbath-school/2023/mission-and-imagined-futures

Thanks for a most stimulating and inspiring exchange regarding mission.

Two of my aunts and one of my uncles in my father’s lineage were ‘foreign’ missionaries during the last decades of formal colonialism. One lost a spouse and one lost a child in tragic accidents thousands of miles from their family home, while their parents, my grandparents will still living.

Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, born in the 40’s, I sensed mission motivation to be about bringing saving knowledge to the uninformed, and not so much out of a generous spirit but as a condition of one’s own eternal salvation.

While this was the background for both using and excusing colonialism, our eschatology also embraced injustice as evidence of the impending return of Jesus. So, the more injustice the more hopefully soon our eschatology felt to us.

And perhaps more to the point, the key to explaining our eschatology was Seventh-day Adventism’s unique claims that this causative injustice that would trigger the return of Jesus would ultimately become a Divine test of worship that would serve to determine who understands how to and who is committed to actually qualifying for eternal life through proper worship on the proper day within the proper religion.

And here I am attracted to what seems your sense, if by inference on my part, that injustice is not Divinely used to test our worthiness for salvation or to trigger the return of Jesus. Rather, any awareness of injustice seems a confirmation that we have universally passed from the sense of death into the reality of life already, and if so, present injustice will be starved to death by acknowledging the universal reality that we are all in this together. While I didn’t see this coming, it feels well within the context of the Three Angels of Revelation 14.

Thanks again!

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Thank you for this discussion to add to the topic this quarter. I am particularly interested as I also completed a doctorate in missiology/intercultural studies and this topic is near and dear to my heart and I have found so few in Adventism who have spent time thinking and studying on this topic. Since I graduated a few years ago, the current references and sources are exciting to me as well. I’m also interested in your thoughts on the role of education and healthcare in SDA mission in light of the message of the second advent.

My research focused on cross-cultural management in mission hospitals using an Adventist mission hospital as a research base/case study. In my research, into the history of the mission/health work in Adventism it was intriguing to see how it grew out of the mainstream mission agencies as sort of a radical approach at that time. Social justice (such as healthcare) was not seen as ‘legitimate’ mission activity (and still isn’t in some circles, by the way). A good example of this is Albert Schweitzer who was basically kicked out of the sending agency at the time because he wanted to start a hospital in Africa for Africans rather than only treating colonists and foreigners living there.

There are so many topics stemming off of the topic of missiology and the practical applications to our every day lives… I would value more conversation or published articles in Spectrum on these topics.

I would also be interested in further dialogue with the author if there is any way to facilitate that to learn more about your research and focus as well as practical applications. I’d also be happy to share info on my dissertation if that might be interesting to you as a resource.

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