I travelled the 6633 miles from Edinburgh to Kuala Lumpur along with Gordon Brown (our Board Vice Chair) and staff colleague, Esther Bailey. Don’t ask me anything about KL, unless you want to know about the Summit Hotel and the shopping mall attached to it. This was no sight-seeing tour. Am I bitter? Not in the slightest. The Living Hope Gathering (Phase 2 of the SU International Living Hope process) had 250 people from 108 SU national movements. How many people get the opportunity for that kind of every tribe, language and nation experience? To hear stories of God at work across these nations and to see the faith, ingenuity and creativity of the people serving Jesus was breath-taking – Leonard as the only staff worker remaining in Zimbabwe following economic collapse, Dhinuka working in a majority Bhuddist setting with all its attendant restrictions, Olof trying to encourage young people to engage with the Bible in a highly secularised Sweden.
What were the lessons for SU Scotland? There was affirmation. Some of the key emphases of the gathering reinforced SU Scotland strategic objectives – a rededication to reach the marginalised and the poor (the majority of the world); taking the family seriously, nurturing young leaders. The last of these was to the forefront in that around 20 young leaders from across the world were an inspiring part of the gathering. We need to make sure our strategic objectives become reality. There were challenges. How can we serve the SU family more effectively? We have so much; money, experience, resources. How can these best be used to facilitate God’s work around the world? There was also theological challenge. Globalisation may mean smartphones, the world wide web, TV and McDonalds are part of everyone’s lives but that hides deeply rooted elements of culture which make us distinctive. That’s why simply moving ministry onto the web or Facebook nowadays is only a very partial answer to how we communicate with people. It’s much more about understanding people, their worldview and their aspirations and speaking the gospel into that setting.
Being a tourist or being part of a global gathering and only seeing the inside of a hotel? There is no contest.