A Muslim man joined us recently for our regular communion service at the place where I live and work. Which made me think hurriedly about how to do communion inclusively and build bridges rather than barriers. I could of course simply have said “This is not for you, but you’re welcome to observe”, as indeed you might, but as part of a community that is trying hard to get along well with our ‘cousins’, I knew this wasn’t how we would want to treat a visitor. So I improvised.
I have written many times about the need for mission workers to be actively supported by their church, agency, family and friends – all of whom are very important for the resilience and fruitfulness of the mission worker.
However, the provision of intentional, pre-emptive, supportive care does not absolve mission workers from caring for themselves! With millennials in the mission field, who are accustomed to more attentive parenting, workplace nurturing and personal mentoring, there may be an expectation of higher standards of support than were previously considered appropriate. We need to lovingly remind mission workers that they are not children, they have been selected for their ability to thrive in the mission field, and have been trained to withstand the challenges of life in demanding places.
Change, it has been observed, is the only constant. And that was pointed out 2500 years ago by a Greek philosopher.
Many of us in mission struggle to keep up with various aspects of change, whether it’s organisational structure, new technology, government regulations or the constant coming and going of co-workers.
Most of us are not particularly disposed towards change, and the accelerating rate of change seems ever more bewildering. So how can we learn to survive in a world where change is guaranteed, to continue apace? Here are our top tips:
I have commented before on the challenge of being distinctively Christian in an environment which requires certain legal and administrative practices of us.
Not only do we find ourselves forced to comply with legislative practices (often good) imposed on us by secular authorities, but in order to be seen to be delivering on that we often adopt secular business practices. This is all too easy for those of us who were trained in management in secular employment before we joined the mission field. And those of us who are already equipped with management and administrative skills are the ones most likely to be selected for senior leadership, which then reinforces further the use of secular practices in our organisations.
We have written about the challenges of re-entry on a number of occasions but so far we have not introduced our readers to the RAFT. This helpful analogy was introduced by David Pollock who was an expert in transition. His point was that the RAFT helps us leave well, so that we don’t feel we have unfinished business when we arrive back in our passport country.
Conflict is one of the principle avoidable reasons for mission workers leaving the field, whether conflict within their own team or with their agency leadership. This issue is a chronic festering ulcer in the missions world, which has existed since the dawn of missions nearly 2000 years ago (Acts 15:39), and will in all probability continue till its end, though that is no reason to not to try to resolve the situation.
Continuing the horticultural theme we started recently with ‘re-potting‘, today we’re going to think about pruning. All of us who are mission workers will be no stranger to sudden losses in our ministry. Whether we are being evacuated, losing a work permit, finding a key supporter withdraws funding, losing a key colleague or having a ministry closed down by our agency, we all know what it is to find our plans thwarted.
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.