What is “Glocal”?

By: Scott Armstrong

Have you seen what God is up to in our region lately? Despite a worldwide pandemic, our ministry of Global Missions has seen hundreds of students enrolled in online missions training, and this very week we are holding the first-ever online Cross-Cultural Orientation (known as “Explore” in some regions).

Perhaps more astounding is that in December and January, we are mobilizing dozens of volunteer missionaries from various countries who will impact their cities through an event we are calling Mission Without Limits. We have consulted with Nazarene Compassionate Ministries and the authorities in our countries to make sure that interested participants will be able to creatively minister in communities that have been affected adversely by the pandemic, without putting anyone in dangerous situations or risking the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

You’ll be hearing more about that event in the coming months for sure. But for now, I’d like to write a little bit about the idea behind Mission Without Limits. We have billed it as a “glocalized” event, and that has proven confusing to some. “Was there a misprint on the logo?” some have asked. Others texted us to say, “It should say ‘global,’ not ‘glocal.’” Well, it’s not a typo, folks, although I admit I probably need to do better at explaining the concept of glocalization.

The term has been around for a while. The idea comes from the Japanese word dochakuka, which means global localization. It was popularized by businesses in Asia in the 1980s, and then sociologists like Roland Robertson and others made its use widespread in the 1990s. Glocalization in a nutshell is the presenting of global knowledge and perspective within a local context that respects human rights. Scientist and academic Alan Leshner says that glocalization is “taking a global issue and making it meaningful to society at the local level.”

You may be wondering what any of this has to do with the Church in general, or our missions event in two months. We have used the following phrase in our promotion, a phrase familiar to many who operate “glocally”:

“Think globally; act locally”

Our ministry is typically characterized by enormous amounts of people in our region being mobilized from city to city and country to country in mission. That’s just what we do. So how can mobilization happen during a worldwide pandemic? Mission Without Limits is one answer.

As regional coordinators, we have consulted with every field on our region to see if some sort of ministry could be possible on a localized level even during varied levels of lockdown, curfews, and quarantines. Almost every district and country has said “Yes” to some degree and outlined the parameters that need to be followed. Impacting a city in north Mexico will be different than a city in the south. Nicaragua will be different from Haiti or Barbados. But we can all do something. After talking with leaders from different ministries and countries, we have come up with a list of nearly 50 things that can be done to impact your city during a pandemic. If your tendency is to focus on what you can’t do in these days, open your eyes to a new reality. Even if you literally could not do 45 of the 50 things on the list (highly improbable) due to government restrictions or health concerns, that still means you could do five significant things to reach your community!

Mission Without Limits will be local: no volunteer will be traveling more than 90 minutes from their home in order to minimize travel in public transportation. The ministry in each city will look different according to the needs and parameters in place. Certain requirements to participate have been adapted from country to country.

At the same time, MWL will be global: all participants will be mobilized on the same dates in 10+ countries and potentially 30+ sites. We will train volunteers all together in various languages virtually beforehand.  Each site will be paired with another and will be praying for each other before and during the event. Devotionals written by current and former missionaries will be shared each day of the event.

The idea of MWL is to provide a platform for our churches to embrace a GLOBAL perspective even while they put it into action on a LOCAL level.

All of this is, frankly, just good missiology. It’s what we should be doing as a Church all the time, not just in one event. What would happen if every Christian around the world were to think globally and act locally? I get excited just thinking about it.

Our next article on this site will be a reflection on the term “glocal” written by one of our amazing young leaders, Mitzi Villegas. I hope you enjoy – and are challenged by – it.

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