Conference crosses borders to birth book

By July 30, 2013
Photo courtesy of OMSC.

Photo courtesy of OMSC.

South Korea (MNN) — It’s one of the best kept secrets in missions and only a three-minute walk from Yale University.

The Overseas Ministries Study Center (OMSC) started over 90 years ago as a house one block from the beach in New Jersey where missionaries on furlough could rest.

It has bloomed into a ministry where Christian leaders, missionaries, scholars and pastors can recuperate and study.

Beside the IBMR resource, OMSC offers conferences and seminars. In the mid-1980’s OMSC moved to New Haven, Connecticut for a more scholarly environment near Yale. While not a part of Yale, many at OMSC utilize Yale Divinity School. It has one of the most extensive set of Christian world mission resources and archives in the world.

Recently, OMSC saw a transition of leadership. Their former executive director Dr. Jonathan J. Bonk retired. J. Nelson Jennings was instated as OMSC’s new executive director on July 1.

Newly appointed Executive Director J. Nelson Jennings. (Photo courtesy of OMSC)

Newly appointed Executive Director J. Nelson Jennings. (Photo courtesy of OMSC)

Jennings shares, “My wife and I were missionaries for over a 13-year period in Japan. We raised our three daughters there. Then in 1999 we moved to St. Louis, Missouri and for 12 years then I was professor of World Mission at Covenant Theological Seminary. Then two years ago, was invited to come here to OMSC to have a two-year leadership transition to succeed Dr. Jonathan Bonk.”

One theme over the course of two OMSC conferences is Korean missions. The most recent conference last month focused on Korean missions in regards to accountability in missionary families. The first of these conferences was held in February 2011 looking at accountability in Korean missions.

Jennings explains, “It came out of our hosting a number of Korean missionaries every year. We usually have about four or five Korean missionary families as residents throughout the year. Through various other connections with Korean churches and mission agencies, a number of people thought the Korean sector of the world mission movement is at a point now to where a number of themes need to be discussed and considered together.”

Reverend Jin Bong Kim was a key player in both of these conferences. Kim says this conference is to address missional topics in the Korean Church. “Among Protestant missionaries, Korea sent so many missionaries to the world after the United States, [that Korea is the] second largest sending country. But still, Korea is not mature in terms of many things. One of the biggest challenges is an accountability issue.”

This conference with OMSC stood out in the minds of the 60 conference participants last month. “They said this is kind of a unique forum. It’s not a one-way conference. There are many, many conferences in Korea. Thousands of Korean missions leaders and church leaders just invite one, two, three Western leaders,” Kim says. “Our forum [was] not a one-way conference. We [had] an equal number [of Korean and non-Korean guests]. This time we invited 30 Korean leaders and 30 non-Korean leaders. Also, we asked more than 24 participants to prepare papers. The papers’ responses and Bible studies will be published as a book in both English and Korean.”

Why a book? Yale Divinity School’s library is packed with thousands of books, but it’s difficult to find one in English on Korean missions by a collaboration of both Korean and non-Korean authors. OMSC’s forum on Korean missions seeks to meet that need with their book.

According to Jennings, “The book is focused on case studies involving Korean mission agencies supporting churches and missionaries. We took that approach because it doesn’t answer every question, but these are the sorts of issues that all churches and mission agencies need to confront.”

Jennings goes on to share, “For example, we have a case study of a large Korean church in Toronto fully supporting certain missionaries in Central Asia. What were the pros and cons of a church taking on that major responsibility? We have a church case study out of Boston revising their mission support system to more substantially supporting fewer missionary families. What have been the pros and cons of that sort of decision?”

The book also deals with questions concerning missionary families like counseling, emotional health, and retirement. Jennings says it ultimately emphasizes the fact that “the Christian world mission movement is more worldwide and more multi-directional than ever before.”

OMSC needs help with funding to continue on their mission providing rest and learning for Christian leaders. In commemoration of Dr. Jonathan Bonk’s retirement as executive director, OMSC created “The Jon and Jean Bonk International Fellowship Fund”. This special funding initiative will allow pastors and leaders—often in persecution situations—to come to OMSC for rest. Click here to donate.

You can also sign up for OMSC’s quarterly International Bulletin of Missionary Research (IBMR). The IBMR features articles that look at historic episodes of missions, themes, legacies and book reviews by authors around the world. It’s free for download, or you can get one year of the IBMR quarterly print editions for $23.

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