February was an unusual month, the warmest February in history here in Charlotte, yet I missed virtually all of that while enjoying (most of) a month of real summer on the other side of the equator, in Southern Africa.
My stops included South Africa, Zambia, and Malawi, and my traveling companion was Nathan Krupke, our CFO at SIM USA. Nathan and I began by performing financial audits of SIM offices at each of those three stops, following which we attended SIM’s Global Assembly in Johannesburg, South Africa.
There were a couple of themes running throughout this trip, and I’ll use some photos to help tell a few stories. (Click on the photos to enlarge them, and see the entire caption!)
First is that SIM is old! We’re old, but still changing and growing. This year SIM is celebrating its 125th anniversary, and the celebration was kicked off in grand fashion with over 450 SIMers from more than 50 different countries attending our second tri-annual Global Assembly in Johannesburg.
Over the last several years, SIM has transitioned to a new form of governance, one that gives voice to a far wider range of SIM entities and SIM workers. In place of governance that rested largely in the hands of Westerners, we now invite representation from every SIM entity that has signed our partnership agreement, which at the moment numbers over 40, with others still in process.
The changes are far-reaching and complex, but the benefits can be summed up pretty simply. We’re now so much more in step with the evolving realities in global mission whereby the countries that have historically received missionaries are now beginning to send their own, and to exert their own healthy influence in the biblical cause of missions around the world.
This second-ever Global Assembly included a business session open only to invited delegates (generally just two per entity), and also training tracks and times of corporate worship and fellowship that were available to everyone. Never before has SIM had such a gathering of missionaries and mission leaders from so many places, which leads me straight into our next theme…
SIM is diverse! Of course we saw this most clearly at Global Assembly, but we also enjoyed it very much in the course of our audits.
Besides diversity that revolves around our makeup as an international and inter-denominational organization, we’re also a melding of a number of organizations.
When we tell the story of SIM, we need to consider a number of “streams” in our history, individual streams that represent several organizations that have merged into SIM over the years. Each of them has their own history prior to joining up with us, and some of those histories even pre-date our own.
Apart from South Africa itself, SIM didn’t exist in Southern Africa at all until our merger with Africa Evangelical Fellowship (AEF) in 1998. For twenty years now, SIM has been sending new missionaries to this region, but there are still a good many here who were AEF before becoming SIM. Nathan and I were able to see and enjoy this history in a way that wouldn’t be possible short of actually visiting.
Serving with this old and diverse missions organization continues to be stimulating, challenging, and difficult, yet overall so very enjoyable. It’s a front-row seat where we can watch what God is doing around the world, but also a stage on which he invites us to participate. As long as there are people in this world who are living and dying without the gospel of Jesus Christ, we will continue to send workers into those hard places to bring them the Word of Life. Mary and I are filled with thanks that he allows us a place on this stage.
You who pray for us and who participate financially are also both spectators and participants, and we pray that you find the same sense of wonder and joy that we do!