Oh what a difference a few months and a huge natural disaster can make in the mission of a theological seminary. Roughly a year ago, Mario Matos (Center for Transforming Mission Dominican Republic Director) and I sat around a table in Haiti with the leadership of a prominent seminary who called us into a meeting after a presentation we had been asked to make of the CTM training process for grassroots leaders to about 100 students and Haitian leaders. The seminary campus was surrounded by an ominous wall separating its tranquil learning environment from two expansive urban slums that literally sandwiched the campus on either side.
In an office with the seminary president and the rest of the executive team we learned about considerations of moving the seminary from its current location because of the rising delinquency and violence around them. In reference to our presentation on incarnational mission that we had just concluded, they held up their mission statement that said something about their call to train pastors and Christian leaders for community transformation and stated that if they indeed fled from their current location they would in effect be turning their backs on the very mission they had committed to instill in the students they served. They poignantly asked, “Can you help us learn how to engage and connect with the slums around us that are threatening to choke out our existence here?”
Shortly after that meeting, we received a tour of the beautiful seminary campus and were invited to visit a local pastor by passing into one of the two slums adjacent to the seminary. We entered the slum only after passing through a metal door painted red that was locked and guarded by a security guard.