For the next several months, our immediate circle of the Academic Team will be smaller – Tim, who is one of our Course Leaders, is due to have his sabbatical. Below you will find his ‘farewell’ reflection. Tim, we wish you well in completing your doctorate and will be looking forward to you sharing some of your thoughts and experiences from Amsterdam!
As I write these words, I am preparing for a three-month sabbatical break in Amsterdam, hopefully to complete my doctoral studies. Part of the prepreparation for the sabbatical was a trip to Brazil. I previously studied theology there and needed to collect material for my writing.
Both the trip to Brazil and the forthcoming time in Amsterdam have led me to reflect on the importance of roots, of the contexts from which we do mission as well as those in which we are sent as those who live and proclaim the Good News of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
In Amsterdam we will be living just over the road from the conference centre where next summer Baptists from all around the world will be celebrating the four-hundredth anniversary of that first small group of believers who met in the bake-house in Amsterdam. Our engagement with study will in some sense mirror that of John Smyth, Thomas Helwys and the others who wrestled with the meaning and import of the Word of God for them in their lives. This encounter with the Word is the deepest root, the one which reaches down to the source of living water when everything else has dried up. If we forget to nurture it and care for it, all mission, all Christian life will become an empty shell.
Brazil is, for me, the place where my own sense of mission developed and was encouraged. I studied there and worked in a community for four years at the beginning of the 1990s. It was a time which was and remains deeply important for me at all the levels and dimensions of my life – spiritual, emotional, intellectual, even physical (it’s easier to go for a run when the sun is shining on your back!). The people I met there taught me how to love and, perhaps more importantly, how to be loved. I came to understand the need and the meaning of Christian ministerial service in a way that had been much less clear to me before.
Returning there after some seven years was a real gift. I was much more deeply moved than I had expected by the visit to the community, who had sent me at the end of my studies as a missionary to Europe. The missionary mandate comes from God, but often it is expressed through particular communities. It was good to be able to share with the community how here at IBTS I am living out what they sent me to do, bringing from them what they taught me, and at that moment able to bring to them some of what I have learnt here.
The roots which nourish us in our mission are also, then, human. People, places, encounters, combine to enthuse and enable us to go out with joy to the world to bring the gospel in so many different ways. These roots also need care, so that they may support us in what we do. Thus it is that we find ourselves always “rooted and grounded in love”.