I love it when a plan comes together in a serendipitous way. Some might say it’s when all the stars align. Others say it’s all by chance. For a few men sitting down for a meal, the synchronicity of the Holy Spirit emerges through a simple conversation, sparking an idea around discovering new and fresh ways that express the nature of God and His Kingdom Work. At this encounter, Donald Miller and Tetsunao Yamamori begin to consider researching what growing churches are doing in developing countries around social issues. Stories of individuals and ministries in the chosen cities reflect commonalities in diverse places such as Buenos Aires, Cairo, Addis Ababa, Calcutta, Nairobi, Manila, Warsaw, Soweto, and many more developing cities (exception is Hong Kong and Singapore). The result is their book Global Pentecostalism:The New Face of Christian Social Engagement which articulates the new reality that 85% of the most successful programs in these places are being done by what Miller and Yamamori describe as Progessive Pentecostals.
For a liberal Episcopalian and noncharismatic Evangelical respectively, their discoveries surprise them. In story after story, the Progressive Pentecostals offer a fresh expression of the power of the Holy Spirit that seeks to bring about change holistically for the Kingdom of God. The work of the Progressive Pentecostals reflects how all “are made in the image of God; that all people have dignity and are equal in God’s sight; and that therefore they have rights – whether they are poor, women, or children.” For these authors, they confess to thinking their results would bring about a different answer, perhaps one that reinforces liberation theology or another less body-spirit oriented religious focus. That’s the point that surfaces for me: the msyterium tremendum (Rudolf Otto) of God’s work that refuses to be reduced to a formula or box. God chooses to work as He sees, and in this case for developing countries, something as simple yet profound as experiencing the Holy Spirit right where people are. For the researchers, they cannot refute the stories, even in their own self-confessed doubt.
As we now stand in the middle of researching our topics for our dissertation, these authors teach me something, not only about the value of seeing indigenous leaders following the movement of the Spirit to meet the needs of the people, but also how to approach my own subject. In my research, I will have my biases. If I’m honest, there’s nothing I can do to rid myself of them other than recognize they are there. However, they do not need to stop me from proceeding forward in the interviews, the research, the desire to know what is versus what I hope it to be. As I read the discoveries of Miller and Yamamori, I reflect on their willingness to be changed, heart-soul-mind-body. One of their historical mentors, William James, says this: “A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.” After acknowledging their prejudices, they no longer have to rearrange them, instead be informed by them, making themselves available to something that might surprise them. In their tender stories of both success and failure, the authors appear to be different people at the end of their book than when they started with the idea at that first meal.
Going back to the original subject of Global Pentecostalism, I am encouraged by the Progressive Pentecostals in their “attempting to build from the ground up an alternative social reality.”  They seem to look at what is given to them with an attitude of abundance of God’s power and presence, rather than seeing a developing country as one dealing with scarcity. In fact, while I would probably not identify initially as a Pentecostal, I must confess with Miller and Yamamori’s definition, I’m inclined to believe I am one. By hoping for lives and communities to be changed, I find that I’m inclined to assent to “This ‘something more’ is what Christians call God and what Pentecostals identify and interpret as being the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives.”
We can gain much from the work of the Spirit in places we would perhaps discount because of their lack of resources. Perhaps it’s not resources that provide the synergy and movement that we long for as we hope for God’s work on earth to be done. It might have more to do with what the Spirit is about…or Aslan who doesn’t let us categorize him into a neat tidy description. “Is he safe? No, but he is good.” May I sit in the mystery of God who works in places I might least expect, all the while recognizing that His work, whether in social action or writing a dissertation, is about changing the world as it is about changing me…if I’m willing.
 Donald E. Miller and Tetsunao Yamamori, Global Pentecostalism: the New Face of Christian Social Engagement (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007), 5.
 Ibid, 13.
 Ibid, 4.
 Ibid. 13.