I’ve recently met with a lot of people going through transition. Whether they are leaving a posting, parting company with their sending agency, closing a ministry, going to a new country… people in mission relocate frequently and are no strangers to change.
When we think of multi-cultural teams it is often tempting to focus on nationality or heart language, but there are also many other factors that contribute to the cultures that individuals bring into a team, like ecclesiology, socio-economic background, gender, marital status, level of education and generation. These all affect the often-unconscious assumptions people bring to how things should be done, and what is valued.Read more
“Give it a try. If it doesn’t work out, come back and we’ll try something else.”
How many of us have heard those words from the leader of our sending church or mission agency? Likely very few, because the possibility of failure is usually the elephant in the room, carefully tiptoed around as we discuss prayer, faith and strategy.
Why does Jesus call us?
Perhaps we’ve never really pondered that question before. We might initially think of reasons such as he needs us to be witnesses, to serve him, to worship him, to pray to him on behalf of others. And all these would be valid activities and not a waste of our time. And some of us have particular callings to these activities. But they’re not the primary reason why Jesus called us. Read more
Have you noticed that mission workers are often expected to be spiritually self-sufficient, able to sustain themselves by feeding on God’s word alone, with little or no access to relevant church or fellowship groups? Curiously, the people who assert this are often those who tell Christians that they cannot survive spiritually without regularly attending church meetings, Bible studies, home groups…. Why are mission workers expected to be so different?
The truth is that most of us are not different. We struggle to maintain our spiritual vitality without friends around us. Our spiritual disciplines can fail under the pressure of demands on us. We can become discouraged when we labour long in the mission field with apparently little result. We dry up inside, and our relationship with God can be little more than going through the motions.Read more
It has rightly been observed that the only thing that doesn’t change in the life of a mission worker is the presence of change! Our lives are constantly changing as we transition between different countries, cultures, roles, relationships, agencies, cities, ages, homes, family settings and churches. Yet for all the frequency of change, most of us do not deal with it well.
Change destabilises us emotionally. It removes the certainties that we rely on to maintain emotional equilibrium. We don’t know where to shop. We don’t understand the language. We’re not sure if people are staring at us simply because we look different, or because we’ve done something terribly wrong. Sometimes we recognise and prepare for the big things that change, but often it’s the little ones that trip us up. We can cope with eating different food three times a day but really miss our favourite brand of coffee.
Few would argue with the view that mission workers are sacrificially serving God. They move far from their homes, often to work in uncomfortable, unstable or unhealthy places. They risk health, career, family and wealth to follow their call into world mission. Thousands of mission workers worldwide work selflessly for the God they love and the people God has sent them to.
Or is it selflessly?
We all know the idea of safety in numbers, whether it’s herds of wildebeest sweeping majestically across the Serengeti, or shoals of mackerel avoiding predators like tuna. But we might not have noticed that trees do the same. A few tree species produce winged seeds that catch the wind and fly far away, but most, like the oak, produce heavy ones that don’t fall far from the parent tree, so that they can build up a forest around them for protection.
I recently stayed overnight in a typical British guesthouse where breakfast was an interesting experience. Not because of the food, service or facilities, but due to the interesting social interaction – or lack thereof.
In a small dining room where guests sat at separate but adjacent tables, conversation was curiously stilted, as people were aware that their private discussions were being overheard. A men’s football team tried to joke with each other about the previous night’s escapades without incurring the scorn of other guests. A harassed father tried hard to keep his disobedient toddler under control without losing his temper. A browbeaten woman took the opportunity to chide her husband at a time when he couldn’t answer her back.
It occurred to me that often conversations between mission partners can be similar. We often refrain from saying the things that we’d really like to because we are aware that others are listening. We don’t like to disagree in case we sow the seeds of dissent, or act as a bad witness in front of others. So we bottle up the things we’d really like to say, and if we don’t blurt them out in a fit of self-indulgence they can build up inside us to such a point of frustration that they contribute significantly to our levels of stress.
William Carey was a poor Northamptonshire shoemaker who is better known today as the ‘father of modern missions’. Despite his humble origins he was an intelligent though uneducated man, who taught himself several languages, acquired skills as a craftsman, and became a schoolmaster and a Baptist minister by the time he was 25.