Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Adventures in Life Ministry, Oaxaca, and Short-Term Mission Success

I feel like Adventures in Life Ministry has won the lottery.

At least, never having ever bought a ticket, I feel like I think people feel when they win the lottery.

Let me explain.

Pastor Steve checking on the progress
In 1999, AIL Ministry went to Oaxaca to talk with a group of pastors and leaders to talk about coming alongside their ministries.  We were hoping to help them realize their dreams for ministry.  We did not go there to tell them how to do their ministries or to tell them what we were going to do.

We went to listen and offer our help in any way we could.

For the first couple of years we were essentially in a dating relationship with our new friends.  We helped a couple of churches in their outreach plans and then one day Pastor Saul asked us to help his church build a training center for Zapotec Leaders and Pastors in the Tlacolula Valley, 25 miles east of the capital city.

We broke ground on that training center in 2005.  This October, the National Baptist Convention of Mexico will be holding the first official training event there.

It is part of the national strategy of the Baptist denomination to reach the indigenous people groups of Mexico and teach cross cultural mission strategies to young missionaries for worldwide evangelism.

Let me put this in practical terms... The largest Protestant denomination in Mexico is now using the facility that Adventures in Life Ministry built in Oaxaca to train national leaders not just to reach the indigenous peoples of Mexico, but to inspire and send missionaries around the world.

This is a really big deal, and here’s why.  That little facility that AIL Ministry built with the tithes and donations of people and churches in the United States is set to train and empower a new generation of missionary leaders.

I cannot think of a better example of effective short-term mission.

From the US Standards of Excellence for Short-Term Mission, to which Adventures in Life belongs, lets see how our STM in Oaxaca stacks up to the 7 Standards....

1. God Centered... The entire idea of this project was centered around sharing the love of Jesus Gospel message in a largely under-reached population and extending God’s Kingdom here on earth.

2. Empowering partnerships with a focus on local initiatives... The center was the dream of local churches that were already working in the area.  They were looking for a way to improve their mission.  AIL Ministry came alongside them and helped make that dream a reality.

3. Mutual Design... Both local leadership and AIL Ministry worked hand in sometime difficult hand to get this center done.  It was a team effort all the way through.

4. Comprehensive Administration... AIL Ministry worked hard to raise the funds necessary for the center and together with our local leadership, strove to be good stewards of both the people and financial resources God had entrusted us.

5. Qualified Leadership... Again, together with locals, AIL worked to make sure that participants in this project had the tools, training and resources needed to successfully complete our portion of the project.

6. Appropriate Training... We made sure that when people took part in our STM, they saw how it was connected to God’s larger plan in Oaxaca, were prepared culturally and came with an attitude of a learner-servant, respectful of the local church.

7. Thorough Follow-Up... This is where we are now.  The ministry is now in the hands of local indigenous leadership in Oaxaca and the National Baptist Convention.  We will continue to work together whenever and however we can, but this season of work at Tlacolula has been completed.  It was a short-term mission for Adventures in Life Ministry and that mission is now over. 

One of our teams working on the water system at the training center

 But while our mission is over, the ministry moves forward.

Some of the strongest criticisms of short-term mission are a lack of long-term impact and a focus on projects designed by Americans for American ministry.  From the start, this project was birthed, fed, and nurtured to completion by the local church in Oaxaca.

It was not easy.  There were times when like any married couple we fought.  I remember one particularly bad day when I was literally yelling at Pastor Saul insisting he was wrong.  But we got it done.

Together... in Christian partnership.

And now that little ministry center in Tlacolula, directed by local Oaxacan leaders, will begin training cross cultural missionaries to share the Gospel of Jesus in Mexico and beyond.

I feel fortunate, blessed, and incredibly honored to have played a part in making this happen.

If you’ve ever contributed to Adventures in Life Ministry, participated on one of our Oaxaca teams, or prayed for our ministry, you should feel likewise... because this is the fruit of your ministry and investment in Adventures in Life.

Thank you for being part of extending God’s Kingdom not just in Mexico, but around the world through your investment in Adventures in Life Ministry.

Short-term mission... long term impact.

Photos courtesy of Mission Focused, a ministry partner of Adventures in Life... check them out here!

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