Tim and Hannah Flatman have been applying the concept of integral mission in Brazil, working alongside a local church and a non-governmental organisation.
Mission is not just about saving souls and planting churches. Yes, these are important, but mission is more than that: it’s about joining in with what God is already doing in reconciling and restoring all creation to himself. God is working everywhere and mission is not our responsibility, but God’s. So we, the Church, are God’s partners. As integral mission champion René Padilla explains, we must express ‘God’s purpose to restore every dimension of human life and the whole of his creation.’ That is integral mission. But how does that work in practice, in a ministry setting?
Gospel of transformation
Our primary work is with a small Anglican church in Gaibu, north-east Brazil, and with a recently-formed organisation called CADI (Centro de Assist?ncia e Desenvolvimento Integral – ‘Centre for Integral Assistance and Development’).
God is committed to the poor and vulnerable, and CADI seeks to reflect this commitment. Following Christ’s example, we work through transformative relationships. For CADI this means walking alongside vulnerable children and their families, facilitating their development in all aspects of life.
At the local level, we visit CADI-registered children at school and in their homes, offering advice and support to their families.
We provide activities to facilitate development in all dimensions, including spiritual, social, emotional, psychological, mental, physical and political. All of CADI’s activities include Bible-based devotionals which give children and teenagers the tools to interpret and transform their communities in the light of scripture. We love them, offering the possibility of emotional growth to those stunted by neglect.
Workshops on the Arts and the environment nurture the children’s creativity and their love and respect for God’s creation. Reading workshops and a homework club help develop their minds, confidence and life-skills. Projeto Ecosurf has produced regional champion surfers from kids whose horizons had been limited to the streets they were born in.
But CADI also fights for the rights of the children, advocating for individuals, participating in political processes, and engaging with public bodies and social movements. Soon we will start Project Rede Polis, which will help teenagers to influence public policy on issues of their choice, and to be agents of change in their own communities. This will develop their social and political consciousness alongside their understanding of scripture. In this way we will be imitating God in choosing the weak and undereducated of Gaibu to shame the strong.
Engaging the Church
One of the reasons CADI exists is because many Brazilian churches are not doing integral mission. Although integral mission has become widely accepted in ‘professional’ missiological circles, it is still controversial in many of the places it was first formulated. The resulting danger is that those who believe in this approach form their own organisations and act outside the Church, God’s primary instrument for mission. CADI faces this tension.
So although the two of us are involved in CADI activities, we spend much of our time behind the scenes trying to get more churches involved. This includes developing CADI’s support base so that its work is more sustainable and depends on regular support from Christians rather than one-off sporadic grants by secular businesses.