A letter from Tom Harvey serving in England
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Dear Friends and Partners in Mission,
Diaspora is a term with which you might not be familiar. It means “dispersion” or “scattered.” Biblically, it often referred to the Jewish communities scattered through the Roman Empire that Paul visited on his missionary journeys. It is a term used by Peter in his epistle written to God’s chosen migrants in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia (1 Peter 1:1).
In mission work and mission studies today “diaspora” refers to the massive migration of people globally that is rapidly changing the nations, societies, and churches we attend. Migration experts have estimated that there are now over 214 million international migrants and over 700 million internally displaced people. This means there are close to 1 billion scattered peoples across the globe. At Oxford Centre for Mission Studies (OCMS) we now have a whole group of scholars, including myself, who have begun to specialize on the modern diaspora movement of people around the globe and how this impacts the church and mission.
I recently returned from Manila, where I served as an organizer and speaker at the Global Diaspora Forum. This forum brought together 300 international missions and church leaders, scholars, ministers, and workers to assess the current status and set a future agenda for reaching, discipling, and multiplying churches among “people on the move.” As a member of the Global Diaspora Network Advisory Board, I also served as an editor and author of the Bible and Theology volume of a new groundbreaking textbook on the emerging mission discipline of diaspora missiology that was launched at the Manila forum. At the forum the delegates were distributed the initial draft of the six-volume set. The section editors and authors presented their work to the assembly and then met with delegates in smaller settings to hear from them as to ways to enhance the volume before submitting the compendium for final publication. Though we weren’t sure how this would all turn out, the result far exceeded our expectations. The conversations and input into the volume allowed the gathered delegates to share their wisdom and insight before the final draft is completed. I will now work with the other section editors to complete the compendium, which should serve as the first multi-volume textbook on diaspora mission globally.
It was good to note the tremendous impact the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies (OCMS) had in this endeavor. Two of the section editors and several of the authors are from OCMS. Further, many of the delegates are now interested in attending OCMS to enhance their own understanding and ministry in diaspora mission. Also, I was able to meet up with many of my former colleagues from Singapore.
In other news, OCMS has now been approached by a leading university in China to begin an exchange programme whereby our scholars will be able to travel to China to work with the university in preparing their doctoral programme in Christianity and the history of mission in China. At the same time they will send scholars to OCMS to work, study, and share their own work with us at OCMS. Do keep this in prayer for it represents a tremendous opportunity for OCMS as the door to this great nation is opening. Many people do not realize how significant the church of China has become. In 20 years China will be the most populous Christian country in the world. Secondly, key church leaders in China have committed to raising up a mission movement to rival any in history. Given that reality, sound understanding and practice in mission will be essential.
In terms of the family, we now are looking forward to April when our son Joseph will be wed to Susan Gayk. Susan is a pediatric nurse at Duke University Hospital. They will be married at the Sarah P. Duke Gardens on April 25, and Judy and I are working hard on our waltz and quickstep so that we will be able to tear up the floor at the reception. Over the holidays we were able to be with them both in California and later in Durham, North Carolina, in between visiting churches. We are also excited that Joe has been accepted by the University of Colorado to do doctoral research in Behavioral Economics. Joe and Susan will now move to Boulder, Colorado, over the summer to set up their new home.
Paul is now completing his M.A. in counseling at University of North Carolina. This includes working at a middle school in Cary, North Carolina. Paul is applying for positions overseas as well as looking at positions in North Carolina. Emma continues her work at the University College Christian Fellowship in Oxford, and we are enjoying having her home with us this year.
As always, we covet your continued prayers and support. Beyond all the matters mentioned above, Judy and I will need to find a new home in Oxford in 2015. Given the spike in the price of homes in Oxford, the owner of our flat has decided to sell, and purchasing a home here is well beyond our means. Pray with us that we may be able to find a suitable, affordable home that will allow us to carry on our ministry in North Oxford and won’t require us to move again anytime soon.
For those of you who may be reading about our work with OCMS for the first time, may I invite you to come alongside us and support this important ministry through your prayers, encouragement and financial support. We know these are challenging times economically and financially both for individuals and churches. So do know that we are in prayer for you even as you keep us in your thoughts and prayers.
Tom and Judy
Address: 25 Hayfield Road
Oxford OX2 6TX England
The 2015 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 322
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