The following is part of the Summer Spotlight series highlighting the unique, formative experiences of Fuller’s School of Intercultural Study’s faculty and students over the academic quarter. This edition follows the travels of Dr. Roberta King, professor of communication and ethnomusicology.
As a Fuller Professor in the School of Intercultural Studies, I have manifold opportunities to witness to God’s glory and salvation around the world on multiple levels. This last July, I had opportunities to engage in short-term mission with my home church in the Chiang Mai region of Thailand, to present an academic paper in Bangkok, and to visit my PhD graduate in Penang, Malaysia. Each visit presented diverse opportunities in ministry and mission.
I joined a short-term team from my home church, Lake Avenue Church, in a region just south of Chang Mai, Thailand. We visited two church plants up in the mountains. They are churches that have been planted since the Lake Ave. team has been visiting Thailand over the last 15 years. As I looked out over the beautiful terrain and listened to the local pastors share, I could not help but reflect on Isaiah 52: 7:
How beautiful on the mountains
are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings,
who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion,
“Your God reigns!” Isaiah 52:7 (NIV)
Returning back down the mountain, it was my privilege to preach in the Sunday service and share how God is bringing all nations to worship before Him. As a former missionary who worked in Africa, I included videos of how God is bringing people to know Him through local musics that speak the peoples’ musical heart languages. The following two days, I was the retreat speaker for boarding school teachers whose church leaders had asked me to speak on “Prayer.” The Lord’s prayer framed our discussions.
I flew down to Bangkok and put on my academic hat where I joined 680 ethnomusicologists from around the world at the 45th Congress of the International Council for Traditional Music. My paper focused on “Welcoming New Neighbors: The Dynamics of Building Sustainable Communities through Music Performance.” The paper presents a case study of a local southern California church welcoming new Syrian immigrants, mostly Muslim, into their neighborhood through a music concert in the church. The study witnesses to God’s love by showing how a Christian community is coming alongside new neighbors and raising school funds to help the families settle into their local context. A robust discussion followed, including a final comment by the session leader about the “uplifting” and encouraging nature of the paper.
Midway during the 7-day conference, scholars take a break to go on excursions to learn about the local venue that is hosting them. Buddhist temples abound in Bangkok. I took the opportunity to visit two temples and met new colleagues working in the Cook Islands, New Zealand, and Jersey. The richness of the conference was further enhanced through wonderful musical performances from across Asia, including the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Papua New Guinea, plus South Africa.
Finally, it was a delight to visit Fuller Alumna, Dr. Sooi Ling Tan, in Penang, Malaysia. Currently serving as Dean of the Asia Theological Association with her offices based at the Malaysia Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Tan directs this innovative online program along with mentoring doctoral students from across Asia. While there, we visited the “Arts in the City” program taking place in Georgetown, the historic part of the city and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
As I flew back into Los Angeles, I marveled at Fuller’s reach around the world. As SIS faculty, it was a joy to participate in short-term mission and an academic conference. I was especially proud to see our Alumna and Alumni thriving in the midst of doing scholarship and ministry.
Dr. Roberta R. King is professor of communication and ethnomusicology in the School of Intercultural Studies.