Article By: Suzanne R. Holsomback
The Missions and Global Christianity emphasis at George W. Truett Theological Seminary is thriving. If you meander through the Great Hall or wander the corridors, you will see students donned in colorful ethnic clothing chattering about mentorships from Alabama to Algeria. Others will be immersed in discussions about missions texts with names like Donovan, Kraft, Hiebert, or Bosch on the spine.
A few years ago, you would have found *Silas Bishop passionately discussing mission theory and practice with his fellow Truett students. Silas entered Truett with a missions emphasis in 2001 and dove into an intentional small group community in a local church, which had a passion for the country of Turkey. For several years, this group grew together, working toward a time where they could minister cross-culturally as a community. After time in prayer and preparation, Silas and several others moved to Turkey to experience mission in community.
Silas spent two years in Turkey before returning to the United States. Upon his return he married his fellow teammate, Anna, and began working in a church in Houston, Texas. While in Houston, Silas and Anna received video message from friend, fellow Truett alumni, and a Turkey teammate inviting them to come and join a ministry in Northern Iraq. The video and personal request prompted a six-month discernment process for the Bishops that involved families, friends, and the small group community at their church. This time concluded with the decision that Silas and Anna would leave their jobs in Houston and move to Northern Iraq to live and work among the Kurds.
Through their experience in Turkey, Silas and Anna heard stories of the receptivity of Kurds. Silas says he discovered that Kurds are not as suspicious or defensive with religious conversation as the Turks, but that they are "are spiritually seeking and eagerly pursuing some sort of answer for themselves and their people...." He also said that the team would have opportunities in the Kurdish territory to pursue ministries in serving and blessing the poor, which was welcomed by the local communities and fulfilled the desire of the team.
Early in 2008, Silas and Anna will move to Iraq and begin working with the local Kurdish populations. Silas will be the communications and public relations director for an NGO and will relate stories about the work of the NGO to the main support office in the U.S. for financial supporters and constituents. He will also interact with local government officials, other societal leaders, and organizations such as the UN, USAID, and non-governmental international relief and development organizations to find ways for these individuals and organizations to build relationships and partnerships.
Silas says the NGO he will work for provides compassion to people who are in difficult circumstances and helps them gain skills that will lead to sustainable development. He further says, "[W]e are not just immediately treating the symptoms of problems, but we are also looking to the future in treating the underlying causes of those problems." The NGO will also regularly bring doctors and dentists from Europe and North America to Iraq for a week or month to provide medical care for the Kurds. While in the community, the physicians will be paired with local physicians to have a personal connection and provide continuing education for the Iraqi physicians.
The NGO focuses on educational programs for the Kurds as well. As part of the NGO, Silas and Anna will participate in English programs at local universities and help facilitate literacy programs for women. They also hope to initiate micro-enterprise development that would provide culturally appropriate avenues for women to contribute to the financial well being of their families.
The NGO work will be difficult as the Bishops experience culture and language shock and the difficulties of daily living in the developing world. For Silas, mission is "a disposition, an intention of life." He says that mission is language learning, cultural blunders and mishaps, and "entering into the life of another people with the intention of loving Christ in their midst and exemplifying the love of Christ in their midst and inviting them into that love and a God-centered life through Jesus Christ."
*Due to the sensitivity of ministry location, pseudonyms are being used in this article.