We are wending our way across the Pacific today. Yesterday afternoon and evening, we viewed some of the sites of the phenomenal city that shapes so much of the culture and identity of Southeast Asia. Of course, it is always good to travel with a person who knows the city well, and Dr. Gravley narrated the vistas of Hong Kong with gusto. The city is dazzling with its architectural grandeur; the city bustles with commerce as well as the "longing for beauty" that N. T. Wright suggests is an "echo of a voice" of God. Aesthetic pursuits are, at bottom, a spiritual quest, and we would do well to honor them as such.
I left Hong Kong first this morning; Dave and Kate left a bit later. As they make their way home to their families, I am grateful to them and those who shared them so generously for this good work. John Gravley will leave on Wednesday after he completes some further visits for the seminary. Central is very blessed to be making connections around the world. This coming spring, Racquel Contreras, President of the Union of Baptists in Chile, will be our commencement speaker. It is my hope that we will find ways to develop relationships in South America, also. I am sure that this will please the Dean of the Seminary, Dr. Robert Johnson, who spent 16 years in Brazil as an excellent missionary teacher/pastor. The more we can understand the global reach of our ministry preparation as a seminary, the better prepared our students will be to serve in this increasingly "flattened" world, to use the metaphor of Thomas Friedman.
The flight up from Hong Kong to Tokyo this morning was rather bumpy as we experienced the coming of the rains along the coast of Japan. Rain reminds me of the faithfulness of God who grants rain for the "just and the unjust." Surely we could no more manage without rain than we can manage without the mercy of God. The "latter rains" of God are pouring down on the people of Asia, in my judgment. There is openness to the proclamation of the gospel as persons find contextually sensitive ways to express the grace they have come to know through their acquaintance with the Triune God. Spiritual hunger is every where in evidence, yet the challenge of humanity schooled in materialistic culture for nearly three centuries, is to identify their true hunger. Too often we seek to assuage spiritual hunger with more purchases, more experiences of the human quest--yet this "perishable bread" (John 6) does not satisfy the deep hunger for relationship with the holy.
So we head home with new understanding of the mission of God in the world. We are grateful to participate in it as the Spirit beckons. Participation in the life of God grants our lives their highest dignity--and makes us useful! Thanks be to God.
Molly T. Marshall, Ph. D.