COLUMBIA, S.C. (courtesy ciu.edu) — Columbia International University Intercultural Studies Professor Dr. Michelle Raven is leading the way to hope in the midst of crisis. Raven, director of the International Community Development and Disaster Relief/Emergency Management programs at CIU, is also co-editor of a new book of essays titled, “Practicing Hope: Missions and Global Crisis,” published by William Carey Publishing.
The book considers multiple perspectives on complex crises issues such as sustainability, empowerment, human rights, biblical principles, and missio Dei (mission of God). With stories of hope, the essays provide a reminder that crises are not the end; sometimes they are the beginning of something better.
Raven’s background includes serving in intercultural ministry for five years at the missions agency Christar as personnel director, mobilizer and special assistant to the president. She also served in the United States Air Force for 22 years, retiring as lieutenant colonel.
Her editing partner is Dr. Jerry Ireland who serves as department chair for ministry, leadership, and theology as well as intercultural studies at the University of Valley Forge.
Raven discusses the book in this Q&A:
Q. What has made you interested in a discussion about the church’s mission when it comes to responding to crises?
A. God piqued my interest in the intersection of the church’s mission and crisis response during a military deployment in which our task force was responsible for helping Iraq to rebuild its society. Because of our response during their crises, at least one Iraqi came to our worship service and then became a Christ-follower. People are in darkness. We have hope, faith, and God’s love to share with the world in times of crises — times when most are seeking hope.
Q. Why is this discussion important for the times we live in?
A. The discussion of how the church responds to crises and how the church is impacted by crises is very important. The COVID-19 pandemic and the current racial crisis have caused many to reevaluate the role of the Church in society. Are we to be change agents working alongside God in transforming people into worshippers and communities into Christ-honoring communities? Knowledge about disasters and emergencies equips the Church to care for and minister to our neighbors. We can share the hope we have, our hope in Jesus, to further the kingdom.
Q. What are some of the topics covered by the essayists in this book? / How are they relevant to our time?
A. There is a dynamic mixture of topics with case studies from around the world that cover topics such as theology, mission history, evangelism and church planting, contextualization, trauma ministry, and disaster relief and emergency management as they relate to a crisis. There is also content about ministering to refugees. Church leaders and the Church at large are grappling with these topics as they decide their involvement in mitigating the impact of crises. At the forefront now are pandemic and racial crises. The book provides practical steps that we can take to make an impact.
Q. Your personal essay focuses on your work at CIU in the area of Disaster Relief and Emergency Management (DREM). How do you integrate missions into this program?
A. The DREM program equips participants to minister in various roles. The courses incorporate practical exercises and tasks for intercultural ministry. Assignments include developing practical skills through active involvement in the students’ local community. Local and overseas opportunities are normally available for students to serve as DREM missionaries. We have focused on surrounding states and Puerto Rico over the last few years. We combine the knowledge necessary to provide effective leadership and management during times of crises, as well as spiritual development of the students so they can meet spiritual needs at the same time.
Q. What do you hope readers of the book will take away from their time within the pages that they may not have considered before reading it?
A. I hope that readers’ minds will be expanded to understand more about the role the Church can play in times of crises and how crises impacts the church. I also hope that readers’ hearts will be piqued to take action in time of crises to share the love of Christ in word and deed.
CIU is offering an online course, “21st Century Mission Amid Crisis” for credit or for free! Lectures will stream on Facebook Live, June 19-Aug. 21, Mondays and Thursdays from 1-1:40p.m. EDT. More info is posted here.