Old Oak Nat Ayling reflects on the story and symbolism of the mission tree, planted by the first 7 ‘Theology and world mission’ graduates at Oak Hill in 2009.
The Oak Hill mission tree was the sign of something new, a way of commemorating something different with the hope it would grow and bear fruit. At this time the ‘Theology and world mission’ course, introduced by Ray Porter, had its first graduates after three years. Myself and six other students had signed up, understanding we were the guinea pigs but also part of something exciting that was also hopefully going to grow into something significant.
I had intended to study for 2 years, keen to get myself into the mission field as soon as I could. But during that time at Oak Hill I felt like a lot of my assumptions or preconceived ideas about theology and the Bible were being dismantled (in a good way). The building blocks of my theology were being put back in place from the foundation up. I ended up staying for a third year which was particularly helpful in both building upon that foundation and going deeper. One of the highlights for me was doing my dissertation. I could really focus on how to contextualise the gospel in the country I later served in as a missionary; Japan.
The dynamics within lectures were great, the 7 of us were regularly joined by other students who credited or audited our modules. This wasn’t necessarily with the intention of directly serving the Lord overseas, but learning how best to be supporting and equipping missionaries in future ministries as well as best reaching the nations in the UK. These diverse perspectives brought a real richness to the classes.
The course started with the 7 of us and as the years have gone by, the number of people leaving Oak Hill to serve overseas has gradually grown, the impact of that is being felt across the globe. Over the past 15 years the number of Oak Hill graduates that have been sent 'into all the world' has now reached 60.
I’m reminded of the picture Jesus painted of the kingdom of God, the mustard seed that grows into the large plant that even the birds can gather in the shade. It seems appropriate somehow, this tree we planted at the start was small, but is now blossoming out. It seems symbolic of the impact the course worldwide, reaching the nations.
After serving as a missionary in Japan, Nat Ayling is now working for OMF as part of the mobilisation team. Using the experience he had on the mission field, he has recently taken part in missions classes at Oak Hill, helping teach the modules he himself benefitted from.
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