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newurbanworldThe bi-annual journal New Urban World is published by Ash Barker, representing the International Society of Urban Mission (ISUM), and edited by Stephen Burris. The theme for the November 2013 was “Money and Urban Mission.” [1] It is comprised of four feature articles, each followed by responses from various authors and practitioners, 10 columns and 11 book reviews. Authors hail from various continents around the world, therefore making the journal truly global in content and context. Burris writes, “This edition of New Urban World underscores the necessity of looking seriously at all of our purchases and the lifestyles we live.”[2] It is meant “to challenge you, even make you uncomfortable at times, as we work to bring shalom into the growing urban areas and among the urban poor of our world.”[3]

New Urban World lives up to its promise with articles that provoke the rethink how urban practitioners spend money—theirs and their organization’s funds. Jonathan Bonk, author of the book Missions and Money, states “that the Christian Scriptures draw a sharp distinction between the righteous who are prosperous and the rich who are unrighteous, and that the distinction between the two is determined chiefly on the basis of their respective dealing with the poor.”[4] Bonk proposes “that missionaries serving in contexts of urban poverty accept the status of “righteous rich” and learn to play its associated roles in ways that are biblically informed and contextually appropriate.”[5]This distinction and perspective is fair and honest and helps the cross-cultural urban practitioner to deal with the obvious divide in status & wealth.

Michelle Kao, with Servant Partners and a student in the MATUL program at Azusa Pacific University (both founded by Viv Grigg, see the review on his book Cry of the Urban Poor), reflects on the lessons learned in Thailand from Christians who collaborate in cooperatives. Since banks are inaccessible by the poor and no institutions like the Grameen Bank exist in Thailand, people have no options but to borrow from loan sharks. For Christians to establish a successful cooperative, I “must be formed on a non-financial platform and members should be initiated on the basis of a common positive circumstance,” writes Kao.[6] Circumstances in Vietnam may be similar to that of Thailand. Knowing that Christians there already have experience from which Vietnamese believers can learn is useful information.

I found the journal to be inspiring in its theological discussions, pragmatic in its applications, and global in its scope. It is encouraging to feel like I belong to a world-wide movement of urban practitioners and that through this resource and network we can learn from one another. In January 2013, ISUM held its first summit in Bangkok. My church sponsored several local Vietnamese practitioners to attend without one of us foreigners going with them. The next ISUM summit will be held in Kuala Lumpur the end of June 2014. This time I have booked for myself to attend and since have been asked to share briefly the Love Hanoi story. I have offered to be a contributor to the journal and hope that I can become an active participant.

By Jacob Bloemberg


[1] Stephen Burris, ed. New Urban World, Volume 2:2 ed. (Bangkok, Thailand: International Society of Urban Mission, 2013).

[2] Ibid., 5.

[3] Ibid., 6.

[4] Ibid., 15.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid., 29.

 

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