Equipping International Leaders
When Jean Gill (MAGL '06) first came to Fuller in 1996 "for just a year" after her 17th year of ministry in Japan, she never dreamed that she would graduate from Fuller 10 years later with a degree that did not yet exist--nor could she have anticipated that her vision for equipping Christian leaders across the globe would ripen right in Pasadena.
Gill has been involved in international leadership development for a long time. Before coming to Fuller she helped to initiate a Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) program in Japan, and was so successful in identifying and training leaders within the fellowship that the program was turned over to full Japanese leadership within 8 years. She relished the international flavor of the study groups; one group she worked with included 13 women from 12 nations and 5 continents. "Bible study in a monocultural setting is like looking at the Word in black and white," she says, "but the varied insights of a multicultural group is like seeing Scripture in Technicolor." She often communicated this idea to BSF participants by giving each group member a different color of crayon and explaining, "Unless you add your color to the picture, it will be incomplete."
While studying at Fuller, Gill nurtured her own development as a leader by working to deepen her understanding of the gospel. The more individualistic Western approach that can tend towards the idea that "it's all about me and my salvation" just did not fit in the Japanese cultural context, so she drew on resources in the Fuller community to rethink this concept. For Gill it was refreshing to discover anew the inherent connection between the gospel in the New Testament and the Kingdom of God. "How freeing to be released from the primary focus on me and my salvation," she says. "Rather, it's truly about God, his Kingdom, and his glory. It has been like being born again, again." This understanding of the centrality of the Kingdom in Christianity transcends cultural barriers: "Every culture can focus on the Kingdom, taking part in gathering before the throne--and what a great invitation that is," Gill says.
Thus enriched by her own experience of continuing education, Gill is now seeking to create structures that would make opportunities for lifelong learning available to ministry workers around the world who might otherwise miss out on this kind of experience. "Not every missionary has the opportunity to return home for extended periods of time, as patterns of furlough are changing and shortening," she explains. "In addition, missionaries from developing countries often lack the resources necessary to take off time for big chunks of study." The result is that missionaries can burn out and leave the field--or end up stuck in a rut, doing the same actions repetitively without critical reflection as to their effectiveness.
It was precisely these sorts of challenges that prompted the establishment of Fuller's MAGL program, which has enabled Gill and many others to pursue continuing education through online courses while continuing their ministry work at locations all around the world. She now hopes to develop ways to make similar benefits available within a less formal educational setting. Gill is on staff with Church Resource Ministries (CRM), an international organization dedicated to empowering leaders, working to design a program of lifelong learning for leaders serving in cross-cultural contexts. "More than isolated workshops are needed," she says. "There needs to be an extended investment in order to form a network and establish a learning community in a particular place."
Gill is currently leading a pilot project in Cambodia to make these educational resources available to staff working with mission and Christian relief and development agencies. She sees the increasing international mobility in today's world as a great opportunity for the church to embrace people of every nation and invite them to join in the Kingdom of God, and desires to equip those who minister internationally so that they may work more effectively to that end. "How do we as a Church see God's purposes in globalization?" she asks... and for Gill, pursuing the answer to that question has become a compelling passion.