Category Archives: Global Community Development

Global Community Development:

What do you get when you unleash a vibrant global community into shared local missions?

Today God is forming a world-wide church, who for the first time ever is aware of one another through instant technological access. Yet, I believe that God is also preparing this church to do no less then enact their global vision in their local communities. After all, we do not need to travel the world over to serve people in need. They are all around us. And we are around them.

I invented the term Global Community Development to describe how an example vibrant global communtiy can become a transformative agent in any local community. In “Global Community Development” you never let global concerns outweigh local responsibilty. Yet, at the same time, you never let the weight of local concerns veil a needed global sensibility. And (here is the secret recipe), I believe that a vibrant global community can diffuse deeply parochial and historical injustices in their local communities while at the same time provide the interpersonal context needed to enact intercultural embrace within the same community. Vibrant global communities are formed only when its individual members reverentially cross the various barriers and boundaries veined throughout. What better way is there than putting our hands together to serve others?

What do you get when you unleash a vibrant global community into shared local missions? Perhaps a small embodiment of God’s vision for earth as it is in heaven (Revelation 7.9).

Can You Hear the New Immigrant Saying, “You are so welcoming, but do you see me”?

In 2006, when I arrived into the world of student services, the international student scene had just found equilibrium after 9/11.  The homeland security system had heightened the requirements for incoming exchange students, and what was then the role of international student services became too large for the one director.  Asbury did what few other schools designed: to move government and visa work into Financial Aid and keep the care and concern piece with Student Services.  The office for International Student Services provided basic transition support, culture shock, academic success, tax workshop, and a variety of other miscellaneous services to international students.  The DSO oversaw financial aid and visa work.

The ISS, at that point, had been characterized by an assumption: a majority or “normal person” reached and cared for the marginalized rest.  Or in similar institutions an “other” reached the marginalized rest.  The model presupposed an in-group and an out-group. The benefits of this way were clear: you ensure localized care for specific needs, crises, and emergencies, and there are clear boundaries.  The impulse was to offer hospitality baskets to new visa students and to put on culture shock and tax workshops.  And after two or three years many international students begin saying things like, “you are so welcoming, but do you see me?  Do you want all of me?”

Why Young People are Starting to Travel the Globe

Every generation has to rethink their world.  Today, young people everywhere have to grapple with new peoples arriving from all over the world…who will not give up their culture.  That’s our new dynamic.

For the last six years, the American Council for Education, has examined the link between internationalization and diversity/multicultural affairs.   Some forward thinking institutions agree with what A.C.E. has been saying: “Synergistic efforts between these areas can assist institutions in education more effectively for global connects and local commitments.”[1]  The point: we are no longer dealing with Black vs White in America.  That day has passed.  Yet, with all these new people around, we can never lose the lessons we have learned in our American race struggle.

The A.C.E’s, At Home in the World Initiative hopes in the end bolster cultural competency in the American graduate as,

“the job market globalizes, and the workforce continues to diversify. In order to become responsible, productive citizens, our students must understand their own cultures and those of their neighbors at home and afar.   For institutions to fulfill their service mission in a globalized society, they will need to advance the analytical frameworks, pedagogical enhancements, diversification strategies, and innovative solutions to societal issues that the work in this intersection affords.

Older generations are wary about us young people liking to travel the globe.  What they miss is that any competitive professional in the mid to late 21st century will have to have not just knowledge about other folks but exposure to their world as a minority among their everyday life.  Young people should be traveling and more than we first might proscribe.

[1] See the American Council of Education’s initiative seeking to bring together the historic missions for diversity/ multicultural education and internationalization on U.S. campuses. See: http://www.acenet.edu/Content/NavigationMenu/ProgramsServices/cii/current/gap/index.htm

A Morsel on Injustice: The Role of the Oppressed

As we think about transforming historical injustices, we see first that we have to let the genius and experience of those who have experienced the brunt of the injustice lead the way.  Vincent Harding says it well:

“In the land of our captivity, subject to a host of attempts at dehumanization and humiliation, how and why did we [Black Americans] become the nation’s foremost champions of human freedom and social justice, creators of many of its most native rhythms of life? And what now is our future, and this nation’s destiny, if those costly, creative black visions of hope, long nurtured in the fires of persecution, should be broken and bastardized– or meanly forgotten– in a ruthless and unprincipled process of Americanization”?[1]

And not only should we enter into a new relationship with one another forged with the wisdom from the oppressed, we need to take down the dividing wall of hostility by braiding together and transforming the histories we tell.  As another way of admitting our own powerlessness to solve any of these historical issues, we listen carefully to how our narratives perpetuate the dividing line.  In her study on Native American history and how the history is told in the Canadian elementary, Susan D. Dion quotes Georges Erasmus, “The roots of injustice lie in history and it is there where the key to regeneration of Aboriginal society and a new and better relationship with the rest of Canada can be found.”[2] Noting the propensity to romanticize the mythical other, Dion sets forth a vision for an equal future. Ultimately, she concludes that the telling of history reflects deeply the motivations and assumptions buried deep within the human heart, and that by (re)telling stories from a creative lens that will bring honor to both parties, they can restore harmony between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples. How can we continue to bring down the dividing wall of hostility by transforming historical injustices?  How can we let the voices of the oppressed past speak to us and help us remember the burden of oppression?  How can we narrate the past in ways transformative for our futures?  In the end, I wonder: how can we let the genius of the marginalized lead the way to saving many people through what was meant for evil?


[1] Vincent Harding, There is a River: The Black Struggle for Freedom in America (Orlando: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1981), pp. 32.

[2] Susan D. Dion, Braiding Histories (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2009), pp. 3.

Global Hosptiality and Spiritual Formation

The communities and institutions which will help produce brighter futures will embody a global hospitality and engage in a robust lifestyle of spiritual formation.  Global Hospitality will encourage its participants to always keep their attention fixed to global news while never losing sight of local events.  When new faces appear or marginal voices speak up, global hospitality will make room for the fullness of the new face and voice.  And global hospitality will be evidenced by an outpouring of relational and physical support given on the part of a diverse set of hands.  Positively contributing communities will do everything possible to fund global hospitality.

They will also engage in a robust lifestyle of spiritual formation seen in the image of the Good Samaritan. The Samaritan Heart reflects Christ’s integrated heart.  It is easy to smile and hide a bitter resentment.  It is easy to harbor stereotypes.  It is not easy to become Christ. Like the Samaritan, Jesus’ heart continually led him across uncomfortable ethnic and socio-economic borders of his community.  Similarly, the call for Samaritans to “Go and do likewise” continuously presses us to care for others in need (c.f. Mt. 25).  Our experience of His divine forgiving love roots our concern. Our call to Christ-like care for our local communities motivates our activity. And the promise of God’s constant transformative work inspires us to joyful peace amidst a dark world.   As the philosopher and theologian, Thomas Kelly, wrote: “God plucks the world out of our hearts, loosening the chains of attachment.  And He hurls the world into our hearts, where we and He together carry it in infinitely tender love.”  Nothing less than a robust spirituality will do.  If a discipled community or institution is necessary to form our particular person, we must invest in the spiritual formation of its members and engage in the mutually transforming work of Global Hospitality.

The World is In your Parish: How The Changing World will Touch You

A Group of University Students Share Smoky Mtn. National Park with Tourists from India

Take a long walk today around your city.  Discover anew the emerging culture in your malls. Look around at the rest stops of our highways and on the farms of our byways.  A bike ride would be even better.  Keep your eyes open.  Our globe is changing.  The world’s population is on the move.  And with them is coming a change in business as usual for our historical communities.  Once we lived under the “West reaches the Rest” paradigm.  Our goods, our shows, and our military benevolence used to be world’s oyster.  Now, we are moving into a demand for greater mutuality.  For Christians, this means that the whole gospel will now be delivered from angles of the globe.  For North Atlantic societies, we can forget about our values informing the rest.  We must be ready for the clashing and swirling of different ideas about the good life.  We stand to loose much, but the gains may be worth it.

For the West, there are more changes afoot.  We are moving from Christianity dwelling at the center of society to Christianity living at the margins (just look at today’s national news headlines.  You don’t even have to read between the lines).  We are moving from encapsulation inside our provincial theologies into a cacophony of global theologies.  The questions we used to ask about God no longer are the only ways to see things.  We are moving from “ministry for us/ missions to them” to “Missions for us and them (local church planting, influx of missionaries to the West).   Where values are concerned, we are moving from dominant Western Values to Western clothes, technology, music filled with local values.  A recent issue of the magazine “Today: India” lauded Western educated youth who deeply retain the value in arranged marriage.   In the arena of hospitality we are going from “expressions of Western forms” given from a few hands to varieties of local forms given from a multicultural community.  That’s a big shift.  In terms of inclusion, we will be moving from a norm community with orbiting marginal communities to tribal realities woven by clusters of Diaspora peoples.  And in terms of aesthetics, we are shifting from, “exhibiting strange sights, people, and artifacts” to exposure to the “other as integrating inter-formation.”  This means that if I don’t learn to let the world’s people shape me, I am in for a rough future.  These are turbulent times indeed, which confuse everyone who has a pulse.  Whether or not we are positive contributors and pioneers, that’s another story.

No More Diversity Sessions Please

In the summer of 2011, the most diverse group of Christians ever to be gathered found their way to Cape Town, South Africa for the Fourth Lausaunne World Congress.  More than 4,000 men and women gathered to talk about community and faith and to explore the shape of Christian life in the 21st century.  Imagine the logistical and cultural nightmares.  For any who have sat in a stuffy conference room wading through a session on diversity or multiculturalism— or for those who have laughed through the ridiculous diversity training scenes portrayed on NBC’s The Office–, you can imagine that it would have taken more than the same old, “every body’s equal” speech. You will know that for an epic world congress or even for the diversifying liberal arts campus, we need a whole new vision for global community.

In his opening speech, Executive Director of Lasaunne stressed the importance of authentic community and the formation of hearts.  Imagining the multi-leveled challenges in our world day, he suggested that, “authentic community is a precondition of authentic prophetic witness in our world.”  And for authentic community, he knows that we need hearts formed with “integrity, humility, simplicity—as bridge builders and peacemakers.”  He also brought up the idea of an “international gift exchange.”

Despite the idea sounding like a nice little diverse Christmas Party, Birsdall had something more epic in mind.  He envisioned a world, full of communities, full of individuals who are willing to share their glory with one another in a dance of mutual service. He envisioned a globe where former colonists and former colonized will work together each giving out from the gold of their cultural and personal strengths.  He envisioned a place where historical minorities and historical majority peoples could both lead and follow one another into bright futures, co-forged with the arms of brotherhood. It all sounds nice.  But you, like me, are probably thinking: man, this guy has no clue what it’s like in my community.  We have a long way to go.  Or, you may be simply wondering: how does this all pertain to me in my cozy North Atlantic town?  What do you think?

Guest Post by Harvey Cozart: Knowing GOD’S LOVE — Part II

Knowing GOD’s LOVE — Part I

Knowing GOD’s LOVE — Part II

…As I stepped down from the table, the crowd stepped back and parted. When the young woman reached me, she just stood there and wept uncontrollably. Without any words or even much thought, I stretched out my arms toward her. She crumpled into my arms and continued to weep. As her tears continued to flow and my arms surrounded her, I couldn’t help but feel God’s arms surrounding the two of us. In that moment I began to feel the overwhelming sense of God’s love—for both of us.

She looked up at me with tears and said, “I was laughing at you because I thought you were one of those people that was going to preach at me and tell me what a bad person I am. Then you began to talk about love and Jesus.” She hesitated and then went on, “I’ve been involved in a homosexual lifestyle and I want to change. Can Jesus love me, too?”

As God’s love flooded my heart, the only thing that I could say was, “Child, Jesus loves you so much. So much.” She prayed and asked Jesus into her heart that day. Many of the Christian students that were there cheered for her, encouraged her and prayed for her as she found her new life in Christ. Many more people came to the Lord that day as hundreds of people gathered.

Words cannot describe the love I felt that day while sharing the gospel with that young lady, but one thought kept pounding me: Why do we so often swim around in the shallow pools of God’s love (if there is such a thing) when he beckons us into its depths? It’s in the depths that we find freedom from fear and compassion for people who are lost and hungry for love. When we understand the width, depth and height of God’s love, we can see through the window of compassion straight into a person’s heart. Ephesians 3:17-19 says, “And I pray that you being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide, and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge; that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God”.

[You can learn more about Harvey Cozart at his website: Life Awakening Ministries]

[You explore more of Harvey’s teaching at YouTube]