The mission organization Word Made Flesh is unusual in several respects. Founded 15 years ago, it is a young movement, with nearly all its 200 staff and volunteers well under 35 years old. Focused on serving Christ among the poorest of the poor, its staff are notable for the degree to which they move into the urban slums, red-light districts, and refugee camps where they are called to serve. They also work together in small intentional communities, a model that looks back to monasticism and forward to the quest for richer expressions of Christian community. Here, Word Made Flesh's international executive director, Chris Heuertz, responds to our big question about global mission for 2007: What must we learn, and unlearn, to be agents of God's mission in the world?
Several years ago, I made my first trip to Freetown, Sierra Leone, just as that country's civil war was winding down. One of my first stops was a camp for the war wounded.
During the war, nearly 250,000 people had their arms or legs amputated by rebels, militia groups, or government soldiers. The mutilations killed the great majority of victims. But a few survived: Those who had the presence of mind to run to safety with their bleeding stumps lifted above their heads to avoid fatal blood loss.
Late in the day, I found myself on the front step of a young woman's slum-like camp home. She looked able-bodied and healthy. Yet her story was as terrible as each of the others'her village had been attacked, her home burned to the ground, and her husband killed before her eyes. Finally, she had been brutally raped.
As she was speaking, I looked over my shoulder to see her 3-year-old daughter, Grace, picking up a handful of peanuts with one hand. As a 2-month-old baby, Grace ...