The smoke of ten thousand camp fires rise from primitive villages and green jungles mingles with the heat and gasoline fumes from snarled traffic in innumerable, economically booming and yet humanity-crippled urban mega-centers, while locusts and flies swarm over the endless, rich plains of the former “Star” in the Crown Jewell of the British Empire; and before that, the Taj Mahal-inspired-brutal-passion of the Mughal Empire—and this is the enigma that is India. And India represents the clash of ancient and new, mysterious and yet opening lands of the Indian Ocean.
I was reading the book by Robert D. Kaplan — “Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power,“ when I heard the news report in my hotel room. India has launched an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of sending its nuclear arsenal as far away as Europe or to a more likely scenario—Iran. The news report came, literally, as I was reading Kaplan’s report on the shift from the Atlantic, beyond the giant sapphire Pacific, around the rugged African Cape, to the “embayed” Indian Ocean. I slowly laid the book aside as I watched the video, in astonishment, of this latest illustration of Indian engineering genius shooting through the riddle of Indian poverty and Indian economic prowess, into the cloudless sky with all the menacing events this might portent. The visage before me became a metaphor for Kaplan’s proposition. But the news didn’t stop there. There was more news coming out from China. There is now always news about China. The Communist-market titan, another dialectical puzzle in the Indian Ocean frontier, dominates the economic news, the military news, and the geo-political news, but invariably competes with more peaceful, democratic India for attention. Whether it is financial buoyancy, or industrial espionage, or the projection of its naval might in the region, we are witnessing, in my view, the ascendancy of Kaplan’s forecast. Even as the Bay of Bengal receives the great southwest monsoon in the early summer, so we steer our way deeper into the blank-page annals of the 21st-century, and the unrestrained waves of the Indian Ocean crash against the pylons of the older Atlantic nations. The Monsoon is not coming. The Monsoon is here.
Our Seminary is setting a course of prayer, asking God that He would show us the great global cities and regions where we should be; where we should leverage the theological and Biblical tradition, legacy and resources, to reach what Philip Jenkins has now famously called the Next Christendom. The Christendom that Jenkins sees arising in the global South in the global East is better understood, I think, by reading Kaplan’s book. Indeed the Indian Ocean and the great arc of its sweeping extent, from the horn of Africa, up the dangerous Somalia coast, past the pirate lanes and through the Arabian Sea, over and down to the Asian Subcontinent, then through the treacherous, billion dollar oil lane, the Strait of Malacca, into the scattered, burgeoning population centers of the Indonesian islands on the South China Sea, finally merging into the Pacific ocean at the Philippines and Taiwan, is now the new dramatic setting for an economic clash of the titans—of China and India—with other players, like Indonesia, seeking to take the stage with them, appearing all but certain to draw in new colossal armies, air forces, and especially, the naval forces that will make the Royal Navy and perhaps even the American Navy seem like ghost ships of a far-flung past. Yes the Monsoon is now here. As American and British and Western powers come to grip with the reality that globalization has shifted like a great Southern hemispheric gust of warm wind, blowing new-born influence and agitated unease to the Indian Ocean, so, too, the opportunities for ministry — for preparing pastors and evangelists and missionaries to bring the Gospel to their own people – are rising like the “mountains of hibiscus and bright orange mangoes” in the Bay of Bengal.
This is one of the most exciting times in history to be a believer. It is a time to seek strategic alliances with other ministries on the ground in the Indian Ocean nations, to use both necessary residential seminary ministry (which are committed to) along with technology (which we embrace as a new “Roman Road”) to deliver the repository of two millenia of faithful pastoral preparation to mentors and students on the shores of these great 21st century nations. It is time to deepen our own committment to residential theological education at home while handing off the sacred treasures of faith to a new movement of God in a new place. It is not one or the other. The missional thrust of our seminary will enhance the residential ministry in the United States.
With the historic shift taking place before our eyes, shall we believe that Christ the Lord is not in, with and under the Monsoon? Is this not His own sovereign occasion to convey His Kingdom rights over the Indian Ocean even as He would, we pray, revitalize the Atlantic “Old Christendom,” and then prepare for His ultimate sweep across the earth? Oh, let us not be blind to the days we live in or stagger, benumbed by the fast-moving currents of the white-foamed sea that is mostly divided on our maps; as remote and strange as the moon, and yet is now before us. This is also our time; for it is always His time. And do we not see the image of One walking on the waters through the misty reach of the Indian Ocean? Is He not the Lord of the Monsoon? It is time to deploy for places unknown to us but not to God.
 Philip Jenkins, The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002).
 Kaplan, 135.
- When God Comes Down (Isaiah 64) (michaelmilton.org)
- US admiral says Navy forces are prepared to confront Iran (foxnews.com)
- Book: Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power (jameskennedybeijing.wordpress.com)
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- Pollution Playing A Major Role In Sea Temperatures (npr.org)
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- Indian Missile Launch (wmmbb.wordpress.com)
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