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All for Jesus, Jesus for All

The Ninth Quadrennial AWF Assembly

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Imagine more than 300 Alliance leaders from more than 50 countries meeting in just one place. It was the Ninth Quadrennial Alliance World Fellowship (AWF) Assembly, held in Santiago, Chile, April 8–12, 2008. Pastors, missionaries and church leaders from 47 AWF national churches met under the banner “All for Jesus, Jesus for All” to celebrate what the Lord is doing around the world within the Alliance family.

The purpose of the event was to foster fellowship and to stimulate missions engagement of all national churches. Several international speakers took part in the program that included devotionals, plenary sessions, workshops and trips to places of interest. Meetings took place in the Sheraton Hotel and the evening services at the Cordillera Alliance Church. The Trio Mar del Plata provided inspirational music during the week.

The AWF is a fellowship of churches and ministries related to the C&MA. In 1975 national leaders from all over the world met for the first time in Nyack, New York, and the AWF was officially formed. From that year on, national church delegates have been meeting once every four years to support and encourage one another in the task of missions and evangelism, share mutual concerns and insights relating to the various issues of the church and provide opportunity for fellowship.

At the Seoul Quadrennial in 1995, a mission statement was adopted: “The mission of the AWF is to facilitate cooperation amongst its member churches as they work for the fulfillment of the Great Commission.” And at the 2000 Hong Kong meeting, it was decided to strengthen the emphasis on missions by expanding into a global strategy that led to the creation of the Global Mission Fund in order to enable AWF members to initiate missions projects.

In gatherings like this, it is always a joy to meet with friends and colleagues from other parts of the planet after four years apart. “Hundreds have come to know Jesus Christ as their personal Savior in my church lately,” a pastor from Southeast Asia said to me during a meal. Another pastor from Africa told me that, despite the critical sociopolitical situation in his country, a good number of students had registered in the Bible seminary this year to prepare to better serve the Lord. These testimonies confirmed the fact that churches in the Global South continue to experience explosive and dynamic growth, showing once again that the center of Christianity is no longer in the Western nations.

A highlight of the week was the visit by the national church leaders to Michelle Bachelet, Chile’s first woman president. Bachelet and other dignitaries had been invited to the ceremonial dinner. Unfortunately, she could not be there due to official engagements, but she received the Alliance leaders in her office at the Palacio de la Moneda. Her vice president, ministers of state, ambassadors and other authorities attended the dinner, where the vice president addressed the delegates. The importance the president and her staff placed on this event affirmed that the C&MA of Chile has a place in Chilean society as a result of more than 100 years of work in the country.

The AWF Assembly unanimously approved the creation of a sixth region where the C&MA will be focusing its missionary efforts in the years to come. Some of the most restricted access countries are located in this area. The Santiago Declaration, a document written at the conference, endorses this initiative: “We resolve to seek to deepen and harmonize missionary vision among member churches by inviting the five regions of AWF to cooperate in reaching the unreached peoples (‘6th Region’).” (http://www.awf.nu/)

Arie M. Verduijn, reelected as the eighth AWF president, is the man behind this vision. His passion for missions comes from his days as a missionary to Africa 30 years ago. Now, all AWF church members follow his lead in what could be one of the C&MA’s most promising missionary journeys.

The Santiago Declaration contains another challenge for global missions: “Encourage churches in the south to accept the vision to take an active part in the re-evangelization of Europe and North America.” This is what missiologists call missions in reverse. Africa, Asia and Latin America are ready to take up the challenge, and we hope the churches in the north will take them as partners in ministry for the sake of the Church.

After the event, some delegates went to visit other C&MA churches outside Santiago. In March 1910, almost 100 years earlier, A. B. Simpson also had visited the Chilean territory to encourage and support the Alliance missionaries who had just planted the first C&MA church in that country. This time the delegates saw the fruits in the growth and expansion of the church there.

The AWF will meet again in four years. It will be in another place and another country, but the purpose will be the same: to give the glory to God for letting us be part of this great family and the couriers of the eternal message “All for Jesus, Jesus for All.”

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