Posted on February 5, 2024 Cloud of Witnesses – Feature Wati Longchar

Cloud of Witnesses – Celebrating 210th Anniversary of International Ministries

Rev. Dr. Wati Longchar

Executive Director of the Foundation for Theological Education in Asia and the Pacific

I belong to the Ao-Naga tribe from Nagaland.  My wife, Limatula Longkumer is the Registrar of the Senate of Serampore College (University), India. We have been teaching ministry for more than 30 years in different institutions such as Eastern Theological College, Jorhat, Bishop’s College, and administrative positions in the Senate of Serampore College. This involvement has given us immense opportunity to promote contextual theological thought, education, and the formation of Christian leaders in Asia and the Pacific.

International Ministries (IM, aka ABFMS) has been the backbone of my theological journey.  I was awarded an IM-CBCNEI scholarship for my Master’s and Doctoral studies. Without IM-CBCNEI’s support of my higher studies, I cannot imagine I would have achieved what I have today. Education has empowered me to articulate various contextual issues. This enabled me to get the opportunity to serve on different Committees of the World Council of Churches, the Christian Conference of Asia, and many faith-based organizations.  Education has also given me the opportunity to serve God in different institutions, both nationally and internationally.  I was hired by the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) to serve as the Joint Consultant for Ecumenical Theological Education for Asia and the Pacific.  After my tenure ended with WCC & CCA, I got the opportunity to serve as  Dean of the Senate Centre for Extension and Pastoral Theological Research (SCEPTRE)  for eight years. I was invited by the Yushan Theological College & Seminary in Taiwan to help start a Master’s program in Theology and Culture accredited schools of the Association of Theological Education South East Asia (ATESEA).  From 2019-2022, I was appointed to serve as IM Associate Missionary in the area of Theological Education in East and South Asia.

Affirming that the incarnation of God happened outside of an unjust power structure, and God chose the ‘margin’ – the people on the underside of history, I decided to be the voice of the marginalized people. If the God of the Bible took sides with the people in the margin, then it is clear that God continues to take sides with the marginalized people even today. Therefore, to make a lasting impact among future leaders of the church, I have been involved in developing HIV & AIDS and Inclusive Community, Disability Theology and Gender justice curriculums in theological education. In addition to the introduction of new courses, I was able to transform the existing curricula by integrating the marginalized issues. Today, I am delighted to see much change in the attitude of the students and church leaders.

ABFMS gave me the opportunity to be actively involved in addressing the issues and problems that emerged from the COVID crisis. Along with year-long virtual leadership training on “Christian Witness in Times of Covid-19 and Beyond” in partnership with North East Christian University (NECU). As part of the training materials, I authored and co-edited six titles relating to COVID issues. This is a milestone achievement in the global fight against COVID-19. It unfolds new problems and the plight of vulnerable communities, such as poor health systems, one-sided economic systems, unjust economic distribution, unmindful use of God’s creation, and the use and misuse of the Bible, etc. The books are well-received and widely acknowledged by scholars, lay leaders, and church workers.  This certainly adds to the contextualization of theological education in the global south.

Realizing that Christians are the poorest in many parts of the world and need economic sustainability, I was also involved in training young people on “Christian Social Enterprise” – an IM & NECU leadership empowerment program in 2022. This training module was designed to help trainees become agents of community transformation and contribute to sustainable economic and social development.  I am delighted that it is bearing fruits.  Thanks, IM, for empowering me to be a transforming agent of God’s mission.

*Ben Chan: Special thanks to Cathy Holmes for proof-reading the article.