Kurt’s Introduction: Some of you may already know, I’m currently preparing for a trip to Israel/Palestine. Not only is it a dream come true to get to walk where Jesus walked, but this trip is quite intentional – learning from peacemakers in the region to become more of a peacemaker myself.
For the past several years, I’ve blogged about my journey of embracing nonviolence as a Christian teaching. Teaching – it becomes easy for peace to stay exactly that – as an abstract idea driven by various hypotheticals. But, when Jesus taught to love our enemies and to not return violence to our oppressors, he did so within his specific context. In other words, Jesus’ instructions in the Sermon on the Mount applied directly to the situations of those listening. They were not abstractions up in the clouds, they were meant to be applied in real life.
As I’ve prayed and wrestled with the real life implications of Jesus and the early church’s teachings on peacemaking, I’ve asked God to open doors to take the next step in dealing with this conviction in a practical manner. That is where The Global Immersion Project comes in – their mission fits my longings (and many of your longings too, I suspect):
The Global Immersion Project is an international, humanitarian non-profit organization that cultivates everyday peacemakers through immersion in global conflict.
The past month and a half I’ve participated in a learning experience to prepare our team for the trip. I’m learning about peacemaking in my neighborhood and peacemaking in the context of Israel/Palestine – honestly amazing!
In this blog post, I interview the founders of the Global Immersion Project – Jon Huckins and Jer Swigert. These are guys I plan to know for a long time and an organization I plan to stand behind. Why? Because I believe in their cause. After reading this interview, I think you will too…
What is the mission and vision of The Global Immersion Project?
The mission of TGIP is to cultivate Everyday Peacemakers in the Way of Jesus through immersion in global conflict. Our vision is to see the Church embrace peacemaking as central to God’s Mission and embody its vocation as God’s instrument of peace. We hope to mobilize an entire generation of men and women who move toward conflict transformatively and season the world with the things that make for peace. These men and women won’t view peacemaking as a soft, euphoric ideal, but as the gritty, subversive and costly work of discipleship.
Why did you start it?
Although apart of faith communities on opposite ends of California, we (Jer and Jon) are first and foremost neighborhood practitioners who are adamant about forming people in the way of Jesus. As we’ve encountered the life and teachings of Jesus with our communities, while simultaneously immersing into the areas of brokenness, division and isolation in our own neighborhoods, we’ve realized how poorly equipped the Church is for the everyday work of peacemaking. Bottom line, our world is terrified of conflict, but each day, as we moved toward it as agents of reconciliation, we began to experience the heart of God more tangibly than ever.
Simultaneously, we understand ourselves as global citizens, learners, and practitioners who have been deeply formed by our friendships with peacemakers in the Middle East. Having done part of our graduate studies in Israel/Palestine, we were able to learn and build friendships with some of the most remarkable peacemakers in the world. Because we felt called to form our own communities in peacemaking, we thought, “Why don’t we just start bringing our friends from the US to learn from our Middle Eastern friends who are actually practicing peace in Israel/Palestine?” The response to that simple question gave birth to The Global Immersion Project.
What “problem” do you hope to solve through your work?
Peacemaking has been disintegrated from the Church’s understanding of God, His mission, and our vocation. As a result, we misunderstand who God is, what God has done, and what God is seeking to do here and now. So, rather than embracing peacemaking as central to God’s heart and critical to who we are as His family, we tend to speak of it as an esoteric theory or a subjective feeling. Rather than embracing peacemaking as an everyday, costly way of life, we both contribute to and run from conflict while outsourcing the work of peace to politicians and power brokers. In our churches we place Reconciliation in our values, but have no idea what it looks like nor how to lead, train, or disciple to it.
What “good” do you seek to create through your work?
The “big picture” way to answer this is to say that we are reintegrating peacemaking into our understanding of God, His mission, and our vocation. In so doing, we’re seeking to activate the American Evangelical Church into its destiny as the world’s foremost instrument of peace. Simply put, we’re tangibly training men and women to navigate the everyday spaces that they inhabit (home, neighborhood, region, nation, world) equipped with the practices that make for peace. The result? As we learn to practically join God in His mission of reconciliation as everyday peacemakers, families flourish, strangers are embraced, neighborhoods are flipped right-side-up, nations humbly extend grace to other nations and, we, together, co-create a more beautiful tomorrow.
What are tangible ways for people, churches, universities and other communities to get involved in the offerings of TGIP?
Currently there are four ways we are cultivating Everyday Peacemakers: (1) Learning Labs; (2) Integrative Workshops; (3) The Cohort; (4) Speaking/Teaching.
- Learning Labs: We curate 3-Phase Learning Labs that culminate in 8-day immersive experiences into international and domestic conflicts and into the lives of the Everyday Peacemakers embedded within. By the end of the Learning Lab, you will be equipped to engage any conflict compassionately, creatively, collaboratively, and transformationally. Our Learning Labs are currently set in Israel/Palestine and on the US/Mexican border around the Immigration Crisis.
- Integrative Workshops: Through one-session workshops or multi-day intensives, we equip individuals, teams, and faith communities to embrace peacemaking as the mission of God and vocation of God’s people, and to practically shift peacemaking from esoteric theory and aspiring value to costly, embodied reality.
- The Cohort: Over the course of 4-6 months, our cohorts develop leaders into everyday peacemaking practitioners and trainers through ongoing, collaborative instruction and experiential learning. This forum is designed for individuals and churches that are seeking to leverage their influence in our world as compassionate, intelligent instruments of peace.
- Speaking/Teaching: Both Jon and Jer are sought after voices in the following areas: peacemaking as the mission of God, peacemaking as discipleship, fusing the local with the global, theology of place, and neighboring. Whether in a keynote address, a sermon, or a seminar, we employ creative, engaging styles of communication to connect people with God’s heart for peace.