In June this year, the Asia Gateway Residential Training, held at the Seminari Theologi Malaysia, brought together a colourful combination of cultures and personalities from seven nations across Asia.
Tirtsa Liefting has an untamed spirit of adventure and a fiery passion to understand cultures beyond her own – all wrapped beautifully inside a heart that yearns for God’s Mission…
If you looked past her light-coloured hair, classic European looks and accent, you’d easily assume that Tirtsa is either Asian or has lived extensively in this region. She is so immersed in the Asian culture that it is easy to forget she is actually from The Netherlands!
Tirtsa joined Asia Gateway because she wanted to learn more about (holistic) mission and what it means to work in the mission field. “I also wanted to know whether this would be something that I would like to be involved with in the future,” she said.
She was also particularly curious to learn more about Mission within an Asian context, with its many different religions and different cultures. “Important questions for me were the relations between culture and Gospel and the relation between witnessing and engaging in dialogue,” she added.
After a month at Asia Gateway, Tirtsa found herself more aware of the missional focus of the Bible and how we can read the Bible with a missional hermeneutic. “I’ve learned that mission is so much more than what we do; instead mission begins with God. This is mission in a holistic way. Asia Gateway has helped me to discover what that means,” she said.
“The courses also helped me to look for the engagement of divine revelation and human life (with its sorrows and struggles). There are often no clear-cut answers and we need to be careful about how we use the Bible; we need to get involved. We need to share our hopes and together with others, strive for the fullness of life. That is what holistic mission is about – fullness of life for everyone,” Tirtsa added.
Through Asia Gateway, Tirtsa delved deeper into learning how to adapt and relate to a new culture, and people with a different (cultural) background. “Something that has been helpful to me in this, is the concept of prophetic dialogue. According to Bevans and Schroeder, God meets us where we are but He also wants to bring us to the full light of his love and grace. A mission of prophetic dialogue can be useful to work towards this full light,” she said.
One significant influence that Tirtsa is taking home with her is her awareness of God’s mission and His call to us to join in mission – in various ways. “This will influence the way I read the Bible and inadvertently, my sermons and Bible studies as well,” she said. “This program also reminded me of how important it is to listen, be open and take the time to get to know and understand one other,” she said.
“Asia Gateway has laid a base for further thinking about mission and considering my own role in this. Besides that, my time at AGT has enriched my understanding of God, faith and the church. I think this will again influence and enrich my own contributions in my work and study,” she said.