Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Epic Fail... the danger of doing missions with an IKEA mindset

Why does everything take so long? 

Why can’t we just do this, or that, or change this, or move that, or…

If you are like me, slow, methodical, step by step instructions drive you crazy.

I mean, you just got back from IKEA where you purchased that fancy 84 shelf integrated entertainment center, in lovely maple veneer.  Some assembly required.

So the first thing you do is open the box and throw out the instructions, because anyone can put one of these things together, right?  Really, how difficult can it be?  There are only 26 pieces of fake wood and 53,000 assorted screws.  They even give you that universal tool that everyone must use to put furniture together, the L-shaped wrench.

After about an hour during which you have cursed everything short of the Virgin Mary, you give up and admit defeat.  And then, if you are like most guys, you humbly ask your wife if she knows where the instructions are, and beg her to help you.

Missions is like that.

Nothing is ever easy; nothing ever gets done fast enough, and seldom does anything go as planned.

Take the well rig Adventures in Life Ministry bought early last year to use in Oaxaca.  Once we got all the funds collected to buy it, it took another 4 months to clear customs and get it on site.  Even today, we are still adding tools and supplies to make sure the rig can do all that we need it to do.

It takes a long time to build the types of relationships necessary for effective mission.  It takes time to understand the issues overseas that indigenous pastors have had to struggle with all of their lives.  Sadly, it is time that many in short-term work either do not have, or choose not to take.

I just heard today that a church that has never served in Oaxaca was heading south to serve without an in country partner.  It seems the person they thought was going to be there to help them bailed out.

That type of thing does not happen when you take time to walk along side your ministry partners and build a relationship.  That type of thing does not happen when you invest in people who are already connected to the Missio Dei, the Mission of God, in the area where you are going to serve.

That type of thing does not happen when you take time to actually read those IKEA instructions before you spread all the pieces parts across your living room floor.

Unfortunately, far too often, just like in our living rooms, we think we can do missions better, cheaper, faster, and easier on our own, without the investment of time, or money necessary for success.

Pastor Robert Guerrero of La Red del Camino and author of “Short-term Missions within Relational and Empowering Partnerships,” says that any direct partnership between a US church and a church “over there,” without an intermediary, is doomed to failure. 

Hear what he is saying… if you try to do it alone, you will fail.  Except in this case, we are not talking about a poorly built entertainment center; we are talking about the lives of real people.

The church I mentioned earlier contacted me about serving in Oaxaca.  But they did not want any help from Adventures in Life.  They felt that, despite having never served in this part of Mexico, they understood the issues and had the experience necessary to “get ‘er done.”

We were either too expensive, required too much prep, too much training, or moved too slowly for what they wanted.

When you get ready for your next mission journey, heed the words of Robert Guerrero, and have an intermediary.  Someone who knows the culture, the people, the area and understands who you are too.

If you don’t, and you choose to toss those instructions aside, just as Robert says, you are doomed to fail!

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Key to Hands Clasped in Prayer... you tell me...

I am a big fan of Jacques Ellul, a French theologian who wrote a great book titled "Prayer and Modern Man."

I am sure he would agree with the sentiment of this cartoon...

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Ministry and the Sin of Envy...

Okay, I admit it.  I struggle with envy.

Adventures in Life envy.

No, I am not envious of my employer and mission, Adventures in Life.  I am envious of other missions.  You know the ones.  The bigger ones.  The ones that reach more people, do more things, touch more lives, get bigger donations and seem to have arrived.

I first noticed it one day years ago when we were part of a mission week at a local college in Southern California.  We had all of our brochures on a table along with a few pictures in Plexiglas frames purchased from Staples. 

What we did not have was one of those fancy backdrops common at a lot of conventions.  I think that year we had a foam core board backstopping us.  What we did not have was one of those fancy tablecloths that said Adventures in Life Ministry, complete with our logo.

We had no fancy web site, no IT department and no free gifts to give away.  We also had no stories of thousands of people coming to Jesus around the world through the work of our ministry.

What we did have was a genuine love for the people of Mexico and a hope that with Jesus we could make a difference in the small corners of the world where we believed God had called us.

But I was still envious, as I was reminded last week in Mexico.

Each year we cobble together a small team of medical people to visit the villages where I work in Oaxaca.  This year, one of the members of the team was from a large, okay, really large church in So Cal.  Last year she was part of a medical team that took over 70 people to treat people in another Latin American country.

I was nervous.   

I was nervous because I know there is no way we will ever have a ministry like that.  I was nervous because I feared that in comparison to that other ministry, we’d look small and insignificant alongside all the great things that they did.

As we headed out for our first day of ministry, those feelings of envy and inadequacy started to roil inside of me.

It is not unlike the feeling many pastors have when they look at their congregation of 125 people and wonder why they are unable to reach people like Central Christian Church does here in Las Vegas.

Each day we had about 30 people come through our clinics.  We treated colds, pain, the flu, and even did a few small surgical procedures.  Mostly, we provided people assurance that they were not in serious danger, and we prayed a lot.

Every single patient we saw received prayer, either from us, or from the pastor from our local partner church.  

At the end of the week, the woman from that large church came to me and shared.  She told me how much the week meant to her and how much she appreciated seeing how our ministry partners with locals and connects people to a pastor and a church.

My heart leapt with joy.

AIL Ministry will never be that huge ministry.  We will never have a team of 70 people serving with us.  We will never have the bucks needed to spend thousands of dollars on big conventions, and even if we had the money, we’d probably spend in Oaxaca anyways. 

Our ministry is small footprint stuff. Relationships.  Personal greenhouses.  Medical clinics where we pray for every patient and even make house calls if needed.

Ministry is hard stuff.  When you are a single pastor of a small church, or a lone missionary on the field, you live in a world of what if.  Envy is one of your biggest enemies.  It eats at you from the inside out.

Today, do those missionaries or pastors you know who work in small sometimes under-appreciated ministries a huge favor.

Send them an e-mail, a Facebook post, call them, or send them a text.

Let them know you are in their corner, that you appreciate them, and love and support their ministries.

You will cause their hearts to leap with joy and help strike a blow in the battle against the sin of envy!

Friday, April 06, 2012

He is Risen Indeed!

We serve in mission because when Jesus said "It is finished" it was really just the beginning!

He is Risen Indeed!

Have a blessed Easter holiday and celebration of our Lord and Saviour. 

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Mission, Ministry, and Relationships... the key to effective long-term impact from Adventures in Life...

Okay, here are some of the stats from our recent medical ministry in Oaxaca, Mexico...
Over 100 patients seen.  
3 different villages, [San Baltazar Guelavila, San Felipe Guila, and San Pedro Amatl├ín] served.  Lots of medicine dispensed, nerves calmed, seminars on sexuality and home hygiene given and a few decisions made to try and and live for Jesus.
We awarded our first greenhouses, to be installed next month.  We made some important decisions on our ongoing water well work in the area.

And, through MISSION Focused, we took, and presented, hundreds of photographs and portraits for the people of the villages we are serving.

All that is stuff that excites our supporters and those who serve on short-term mission.
But let me share what excites our mission partners in Oaxaca even more.
Relationship.  That’s right.  Relationship.  Because in the end, only those relationships, built on a foundation of Jesus Christ will remain.
While all of the stuff US churches do for others is cool, needed, and in some cases sought after like the golden goose, it is the day to day interaction that is most coveted.
Now, please understand that I know there is a place for both relief, and development.  In fact, Adventures in Life Ministry is actively, and has been for over 20 years, in both.  

We have given food away, rebuilt homes, paid necessary expenses and helped out in emergencies.  We have built churches, trained leaders, and are currently working agriculturally to help locals in Oaxaca, Mexico put food on their tables.

It is just that what I hear time after time from our ministry partners, and from other leaders around the globe is that what really matters long-term is our time.
We are social animals.  As such, we crave interaction.  It is what we feed on.  If you are pastoring over there, where ever there is, chances are you are feeling pretty alone, so a week or two or three with fellow Christians helps you feel connected to the larger body.  

Also, when you visit, you are able to see first hand the need.  This, along with the ministry of the the Holy Spirit helps direct you how to pray more effectively and boldly for the people and the ministry where you are involved missionally.
So next time you are on short-term mission, think about this... are you trying to be a human doing, or a human being.  
The future of effective short-term mission might depend on it!