Yesterday in a meeting I was asked who is my favorite mission theologian. I quickly answered: Glory Dharmaraj. Glory and her husband Jacob worked for many years in United Methodist mission agencies, Glory for United Methodist Women and Jacob for the General Board of Global Ministries. They wrote about complex mission concepts in such a way that makes it accessible for mission teams and mission volunteers. Concepts of Mission by Glory and Mutuality in Mission by Jacob and Glory are two wonderful resources.
The concept of mutuality is critical for mission work today. One person in the meeting yesterday talked about a non-profit that works providing services and resources for the poor in their county. They want to work with mutuality, but that can be difficult to attain. They have people of many faiths helping with the work, they have people of various motivations on leadership teams, and they want to include the people they serve as part of their conversation. We agreed that sometimes it’s easier to have conversations about mutuality when the mission work is in another place, and more difficult to have those conversations close to home.
Another United Methodist church I know has been working for two years to establish a relationship with a United Methodist church in Zimbabwe. Instead of picking a place to “go to” for their mission trip, the church prayerfully considered where they should go, and then worked to establish relationships before sending the first team. Now they are preparing to send another team, and are listening to the needs of the Zimbabwean congregation.
Both of these groups – the US church working on an international relationship, and the non-profit working in its home community – are trying to live out mutuality. Jacob and Glory state that mutuality “constantly educates, redefines, and updates the nature of the relationship between partners. It is the moving target of relationships. If one partner feels that benefits are no longer mutual, the status of the relationship has to be redefined or terminated. Mutuality is a win-win concept, not one-sided, or else it will be short-lived.” Whether we are working to address needs in our home communities or to work with a congregation in another country, we must understand that we are equals with the people we serve. We each come to the table to discuss our projects, our ministries, our needs and our relationship with each other.
Mutuality is possible because as Christians we live together in God’s grace. In Acts chapter two through six, we read about the earliest days of the church following Jesus’ resurrection. Acts 4:33 illustrates how the early church lived out Jesus’ command to love one another through grace: “With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.” Grace made it possible for the apostles to witness to the love of Christ. Grace made it possible for people to believe. Grace made it possible for people to be generous and to care for one another. This is still true today.
Grace makes it possible for the love of God to be proclaimed in word and deed. Grace makes it possible for us to believe. Grace makes it possible for us to offer our time and our talents in mission. Grace makes it possible for us to respond when others are suffering. Grace makes it possible for us to serve with humility. Grace makes it possible for us to be in relationship with others, to give and receive, to come to consensus together, to be committed to equality and honesty. God’s grace is upon us all.
Quote from page 37:
Dharmaraj, Glory E. and Jacob S. Mutuality in Mission: A Theological Principal for the 21st Century. 2001. General Board of Global Ministries, The United Methodist Church: New York.