Missions Development… #4

I was in process & in conflict – & knew that I didn’t want to take another mission to Mexico like we’d done with the “Johnsons”… knew that I didn’t want to go & ‘serve’ American missionaries, people that were seemingly working the system for their own financial gain…

I remember trying to explain to others what I was feeling, & being frustrated by it… knowing that the person listening to me was frustrated too. Felt misunderstood, seen as a hard-hearted person who didn’t care for those less fortunate that me… I was a youth pastor, after all, a person who’s job it is to go on missions. And to take others with him. It seems that I was asking questions that others hadn’t considered, or worse, considered to be meaningless, asinine, stupid, irrelevant. Looking back, I recognize it as God doing something creative in me – birthing something – at the time, though, I felt conflicted & frustrated in a way that I couldn’t explain.

The more I thought about it, the more I wondered: if we were going to do a mission trip somewhere, what would we do? (vs. just knowing the “not do’s”. ) This thinking was a little too abstract or hypotheticalfor me – an idea hit me – personalize it. What would I want someone coming to my town to know/ask/be:

  • Be people that I’d want to spend time with – & enjoy, completely out of the context of missions work.
  • Ask: what can we do that would be a point of help for you? Are you planning on doing anything in the next year that we could be a part of, with you – vs. coming & telling me what they’re going to do in my town, to the people that I get to ‘live’ with & around – basically being confronted with people that would be considerate, take the time to know us, our values, what we’re like, & have a desire to truly help with the long-time work & life of us & our church family – not just coming to do their thing, & have their experience at our expense – wondering if we’d done that?
  • Living with a consideration, thinking about other peoples’ feelings – & what we’d do if the shoe was on the other foot – treating people like we wanted to be treated…
  • Come at a time that works for me & mine too, not just give a date & say ‘we’ll be here then…”
  • Be willing to have a mutual relationship – don’t want to be a notch on somebody’s missions belt – will you still love me tomorrow, after the mission is over?
  • SIDE NOTES: How much damage occurs to the local context when a group comes with no vested interest to do their thing – leaving WHAT in the wake of their visit? Why would a group come to a place & expect to be shuttled around & doted on while there – at the expense of the local staff’s own work & vacation?

    After the fiasco with the “Johnson Family”, Big Brick #2 in the foundation & development of my own ‘missions’ philosophy is the infamous (so famous its IN-famous) trip to Romania.

    The district youth director for our area wanted to lead a district wide youth trip to Eastern Europe – & his boss, the district supervisor asked me to be a part of the planning & preparation – & also to go as a support for the district: I said yes. Some pertinent info:

  • He’d been part of another denomination for a few years, & was loosely connected to a parachurch missions organization, led by an acquaintance of his, “Stefan” that he wanted to go through – to go to Romania!

    Over time, I learned & observed that some church & parachurch organizations functioned with their own agendas & programs (almost) completely independent of the people & places they wanted to visit. These agendas & programs were exported by the youth/students that the organization recruited (at a pretty high cost) to foreign countries & foreign peoples… the foreign nationals often ‘took the forced agenda & program’ because with it came very much needed money & resources, even though the mess & chaos left AFTER the church/parachurch group went home was often overwhelming & even destructive.

    So I went down my on-the-fly formulated checklist of questions to ask about missions:

  • I asked why Romania? It seemed like the thing to do, as Romania was big in the news because of the tremendous number of orphans.
  • Was there any possibility for long-term relationship? Don’t know.
  • Were there any churches from our tribe? Nope. None in the whole country.
    -Then where & why are we going? Stefan knew of a church we might be able to work with.
  • Any connections there in country? Nope. Its an opportunity to go – it’s a country in need (I knew this to be true, as post-Ceaucescu, the fall of the Berlin Wall, & the ‘failure’ of communism, Romania & its government were in shambles & chaos; quite a bit like many of the areas we’d been in the 3rd world sections of Mexico.)
  • Would there be a scouting trip to check out the lay of the land & get a plan? Yes. YES! Details on it? I’ll get back to you – 10 days long… We leave from SF & I’ll let you know more when I find out… (mistake not finding out in advance.)
  • Who’d be a part of the scouting trip? Me, you, & a guy from the National youth office – been a part of missions with a parachurch organization in the past ☺ – see note on parachurch organizations.
    -Found out after the fact that there were two more people that would come on the trip & would ‘appear’ out of nowhere – they were masters of disappearing at the most inopportune times. Like in the airports. And when there was work to be done. And when the possibility of an upgraded seat on the plane came available.

  • So the day finally came – I left my wife home with 3 kids, all under the age of 5, with theWeez as a baby less than 4 months old. I also left her no itinerary, no contact information, no nothing. Except a leaky roof. Ooops. Got on our plane & flew from SF to… London? Isn’t that in the UK? Umm. I thought we were going to Romania.

    We are – but we’re going to be in England for a couple of days first…

    Turns out there may have been a plan or an itinerary after all – but only our leader knew it. We went from connection to connection in a manner that seemed completely random to me – but that may have been the jetlag… Day 1 we rented a car & drove a couple of hours to Birmingham… & stopped by to meet with a couple of guys from a church we may or may not have had an appointment at. Ate Indian food. Went to a youth/college meeting where we sat on the floor in the dark with about 25 Brits – & worshipped to the sound of a keyboard… it was the first time I’d ever heard/sang “I Could Sing of Your Love Forever” & Deliriou5? Amazing – as was our time with our new friends.

    Spent the night at the house of the youth pastor, Pip. It’d make you laugh to say “Pip,” if he wasn’t such a burly dude… I was surprised to see him wearing the same clothes he’d had on the day before. I truly was learning something new everyday – like the cost of showering & washing clothes was high, so high that people were economical with the use of water. Hmm.

    We were leaving for the next leg of our trip, (finally to Romania!) & left some of our bags at Pip’s house- as we were on our way out, he asked if he could pray for me. He prayed a couple of things that still linger in my consciousness:

  • God’s given you a pastor’s heart – & it’s a good heart that fits you.
  • You’ll be pastoring people – a church – soon. And leaving the place where you currently are to do it.
  • God’s not going to send you to a school where you can get a piece of paper, a diploma, that validates you. When people see you & your life, they will know that you’re just a normal person, a person that has been with Jesus.
  • First off, I never wanted to be a pastor – & secondly, this guy didn’t know me at all… which is why it bugged me that he prayed it – not that he was putting a trip over on me, but because… I didn’t want to be a pastor. And had no desire to ever become one. I knew too many of them, & they didn’t look like they were having that much fun. I didn’t ‘fit’ the mold… & really didn’t want to try to cram myself into the mold, to become something different than I felt that I was.

    We left Birmingham & drove to… Newcastle. So much for our trip to Romania. Turns out our fearless leader had a contact through his former church & a ministry called CI & there was a CI meeting happening that night in Newcastle. And we were going.

    The meeting was based out of a college lecture room – the worship was raucous & the people were mostly of college age, & were all over the place. Literally bouncing up & down, rolling on the floor. One of the more exuberant mid-renewal meetings I’d been a part of. What stood out to me the most were two things:

  • The leader of the meeting pulled us aside during a portion of the worship that was really on the edge (esp. from my past experiences) & said: “There’s stuff happening right now that is people acting in their flesh… & I would like to correct, direct, & shape – and I’m so glad that they’re willing to give their all for God, even if their zeal is out of whack… because its easier to instruct the living than it is to raise the dead..” (meaning: at least they’re here, they’re involved in what’s happening, & they’re giving God their all… vs. those that are doing their best impression of the “frozen chosen.” )
  • One of the students, couldn’ta been more than 18 asked if he could pray for me; he prayed: God has given you a pastor’s heart, but you don’t need to worry. He’s made clothes that fit just you, & He’s made you like you are. You can be you, & still have this heart. And be a pastor.
  • By this time, I was pretty amazed, blown away even. 2 strangers on 2 different days telling me the same thing – maybe this part of the trip, chaotic & seemingly unplanned, a challenge to me on my most basic levels of preparation, was actually being used by God for another, different, formative purpose for me.

    We drove back down to Birmingham to take a flight for… Frankfurt? Turns out, there was a Foursquare Europe event taking place at a camp ‘somewhere’ outside of Frankfurt, & seeings as we were this close, we should probably go & check it out, to see if there were any people we could connect with.

    At this time, we’d been in the UK for 3 or 4 days – I hadn’t communicated with theBean at all – didn’t know how to make a call, didn’t know where I was, really, & knew nothing of where we were going, or where we’d be tomorrow.

    This ‘scouting trip’ both birthed & confirmed something in me about missions:

  • Everyone on the team needs a copy of the itinerary; this includes family members back at home – so they can be in the “know” & be praying. And also to set their minds at ease.
  • We need to be prepared & take time to communicate with each other while on the trip – what’s happening & why? Where are we going & what are we trying to do? Daily communications are a KEY to navigating through the proverbial curve-balls that inevitably arise on trips.
  • Phoning home isn’t something that is just for ET. It must be done.
  • Knowing where we’re going, who we’re meeting, & what we’re looking for when we get there must be known – & confirmed. And reconfirmed. Leave nothing to chance. Prepare, re-prepare, & prepare again. Because with jet-lag, language & culture differences, travel discomfort, & opposition from the dark one, the details & potential challenges MUST be worked through…
  • Next – to Frankfurt…

    5 thoughts on “Missions Development… #4

    1. Wow . . . Great stuff . . . Interesting that you didn’t “want” to be a Pastor . . . Interesting how God can still accomplish things in the midst of human weakness/failings/flesh, etc.

    2. TPT – yep. Had a pretty small view of the role/office, & was still working through the fact that it didn't need to be a copy of what Jack did/does..

      Murdoc – why brother? Because its such a wordy, long post?

      theBean – hmm. Mine did too. Not one of my finer husband & father moments. Thanks for loving me anyways…

      Erica – yep. I'm not huge on dwelling on regrets, as there's nothing that can be done to change the past. Yet, I did & have done what I could to repent for mistakes, mess-ups, & glaring lapses in priority, value & judgment on my behalf.

      There are a series of situations related to 'ministry' that are at the very top of my 'regret & repent' list. This one is in the Top 3.

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