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!

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