“The first of May will always be remembered as the day the world grew 11 countries smaller for 11 young individuals that crossed the bridges constructed by the Council of World Mission (CWM) connecting different cultures and backgrounds to work for the purpose of God’s mission,” said Timasi Bird from the Solomon Islands who participated in CWM’s flagship Training in Mission (TIM) Programme this year.

TIM Programme is part of CWM’s efforts to develop capacities of our member churches, while concurrently enhancing the scope for the church’s public witness. Among other initiatives, TIM positively influences, enables and empowers a new generation of leaders to explore and be witnesses as disciples of Jesus Christ in service to the church and for the enhancement of God’s transformative mission.

This group of young adults aged between 18 to 30 who are not ordained yet kicked off the first leg of the journey in Auckland, New Zealand in May, and will be undergoing seven months of mission learning in theory and in practice through classes, exposure visits, projects and hands-on work in various contexts. This will offer them a Diploma in Mission Studies with accreditation from Trinity Theological College in New Zealand, a qualification that recognises leadership skills in mission and education that creates greater volunteering and employment opportunities.

One of CWM’s themes of “interfaith relations” was worked out through the programme through exposure visits to a mosque. For Bawi Bik Thawng Tha from Presbyterian Church in Myanmar (PCM), TIM provided the opportunity for him to meet Muslim people and hear them preach for the first time. Visiting Al-Mustafa Jamia Masjid changed his views on the Rohingya issue and his perspective of how Christians should embrace people of other faiths in Myanmar. He now believes that the root cause of the conflict between the Rohingya and Rakhan is not religion, but racism, and oppression and discrimination from the government. As such, the Church should stand for the marginalized in the society and community.

After experiencing a student street protest for climate change, Huang Jinghao from Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (PCT) felt that it differed greatly from the many protests she attended as a college student in Taiwan as it was “not intense but peaceful” and participating students were younger, with many in elementary school.

With the Christchurch tragedy fresh in their minds, Jinghao also posed a question about whether the New Zealanders have heightened suspicion, or are working towards repairing relationships. She was moved to hear that even though security measures have been stepped up, people and religious communities are more willing to understand and interact with one another. She felt that if faced with a tragedy of such proportions back home, people might not be willing to confront the issues and mend relationships. “As I saw the people on the square with hope in their eyes, I started to believe there is still hope for healing,” she said.

The programme also included an immersion visit to the Mitai Maori Village that exposed them to Ancient Maori Culture. “It taught us that even before Christianity, Maori people believed in a supernatural power beyond their existence, a power that directs their lives and the nature around them. We may not share the same culture as them, but we also believe in an entity beyond us, called God. It proves to us that God may manifest in different ways and may be felt differently according to the context in which we are,” said Tojoniaina Andriambololona from Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar (FJKM).

Tojoniaina summed up his experience with the quote “I look on all the world as my parish”, by John Wesley on 24th May, or Aldersgate Day, which commemorates Wesley’s experiencing assurance of his salvation, his subsequent preaching ministry, and the growth of the Methodist movement. Besides the duty of declaring the “glad tidings of salvation”, Tojoniaina reflected that distractions arising from fun activities they engaged in “should do more good than harm to our faith”, and to “not limit God to our own comprehension, because others may experience God differently”.