Study Leave in Western PA

The Quad at Westminster College

The view from the bench where I did my morning devotions.

Last week I was away on what for me was Study Leave, and for my family was vacation. We went to the New Wilmington Mission Conference. Held on the campus of Westminster College in New Wilmington, PA, this was the place I became a Christian. Raised in the church, but never really personally believing in Jesus, it was here in 1985 that God revealed to me that Jesus died for me. So it is a special place for me. I went for 5 years back then, 4 of those with my future wife. We started attending again a few years ago, now with four kids in tow! This was our 4th year.

Today is a different day than when the conference first met 109 years ago as part of the outgrowth of the “Great Century” of Western missions. But you can still feel the vibrancy and energy of those old evangelical camp meetings. Crowds, music, a concern for the salvation of the world, calls to trust and obey, and of course, missionaries sharing their stories are the order of the day. It’s a great place. And my kids have been greatly blessed, as my wife and I were and are.

You can find out more here:  www.nwmcmission.org.

 

Being a Church History buff, a highlight for me was attending a study led by Andrew Walls, the eminent Church History Scholar and Missiologist. He spoke about the spread of Christianity in Africa, specifically in North and West Africa. He himself taught in Sierra Leone for a time. It was fascinating, at least to me. He used no notes, yet talked for 45 minutes each day telling stories and sharing facts. He is one of those teachers who you know has never met a question he hasn’t thought of and hasn’t answered. He is also one of the first scholars to point out the rise of Christianity in the non-Western world and the shifting geographic center of Christianity. This was in the 1970’s. It’s now a commonplace observation.

I got his book, “The Missionary Movement in Christian History: Studies in the Transmission of Faith,” from the library wanting to learn more. In it he tells the story of how he went to Sierra Leone to teach Church History, having studied at Oxford, only to realize that rather than teach about the spread of Christianity in the early centuries, he was actually witnessing the Gospel spreading through Western Africa in the same way. He shifted from teacher to observer. That book, a collection of talks and essays, is the fruit of his observations.

I was also happy to have met Russell Smith, who blogs at horizonsofthepossible.wordpress.com, and taught one of the adult Bible classes. He focused on the current American church context and how we are now in what he calls the Age of Design, passing on from Postmodernism. Go here for a full paper on this. I appreciated getting to talk with him to about church stuff.

And every year they have a big used book sale on the library. I did well this year (see?) bolstering my Greek and Roman section, all for $7!  The best find was “In Defense of History” by Richard Evans. It was highly recommended by book I am currently reading by Carl Trueman, “Histories and Fallacies”.

It wasn’t the same this year, though, because our oldest two daughters weren’t with us. Instead of going to the Missions conference they were off doing missions in Costa Rica, with our local Lutheran Synod.

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