Monday, October 29, 2012

Going on Short-Term Mission? 10 things you must know before you leave...

I recently presented a workshop at The Forum, an annual gathering of the Fellowship of Short Term Mission Leaders.

As an on field host receiver, I was asked to talk about short-term mission from my side of border, or as one who receives teams.  Here was my somewhat lengthy title...

10 Things Every Host Receiver Wants You To Know Before Bringing Your Team.

So here they are... think of this as Dave's Top 10 for Short Term Mission Teams...

1. The pace here is different.  There are not many places in the world where the pace of life is as it is in the United States.  Stuff just doesn’t get done here on the same time schedule as it does back home.  And that is not necessarily a bad thing.

2. Make it about relationship, not project.  Come to be, not do... And generally, you’ll get to do.

3. Adopt the "When in Rome" attitude.  Be a local... eat, dress, & act like a local... Learn the culture...Be an American when you return home.

4. Don’t overwhelm us with people.  We need and want smaller teams for longer periods of time.  

5. It’s not wrong, just different.... Corollaries... You’re not in Kansas anymore and You are not all that!  Just because we do it differently on the field does not make it wrong.  Also, things are different here, because sometimes they have to be.  Finally, and this is hard for a lot of folks from the US, but many people from other countries are not quite as enamored with the US as we think they should be.  

6. We drive the bus... or what is important to you, may not be what’s important to us.  You read that right.  The field missionaries are the folks in the front seat.  We are on the front lines so trust us.  Need more on this?  Check out the US Standards of Excellence in Short-Term Mission.

7. Don’t be critical with us.  Offer us ideas and support, but remember, life on the field can leave us feeling pretty fragile, and vulnerable.  We know where we are failing and coming up short.  Just like kids, we sometimes need people to come alongside and love on us unconditionally.  Be a blessing!

8. Think creatively when you give.  If your host receiver has kids, offer to baby sit so they can have a night out, or a day without the kids.  Schedule your vacation in a way you can take us with you.  Our finances seldom allow us a break from ministry and many nationals are reluctant to use what little financial resources there are for this.  Get a time share from one of your church members and bless your missionary host once in a while.  You might also bring a few I-Tunes gift cards so we can get some new music the right way while we are serving overseas.

9. We will still be here when you get home.  When you get that plane for the ride home, remember, we will still be here!  Our ministry does not just happen when you are here, it is ongoing 24/7!

10. The major work has already been done!  That's right.  The book has already been written about our great missionary focus and we know how it ends.  God Wins!  Praise Jesus...

After I presented this list, I asked a few of the other receivers in the room if I had missed anything.  They said I pretty much got them all... at least the ones we could share publicly.

That list is probably another post...

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Adventures in Life Ministry... celebrating 20 years of short-term mission in Mexico...

Tomorrow on October 7th, Adventures in Life Ministry, a ministry I Co-founded with Grady Martine, will celebrate 20 years of mission in Mexico.

As I reflect, like many organizational founders, I wonder what our legacy will be.  I wonder how we will be remembered.  I wonder whether we will be remembered for our failures, or whether our successes will carry the day. 

In those early days, we had no idea what we were doing.  We were the poster children of bad short-term mission.  We were pretty sure we knew it all, even though neither of us could speak Spanish, generally pretty important in Mexico.

It was a good thing we had a loyal servant like Paul Lathrop alongside us in mission.  Because Paul, with his ability to speak Spanish and his knowledge of the culture of Mexico was a God send.  Paul was the guy who taught us how to order food, ask for the bathroom, and say con permiso and Dios le Bendiga, two central phrases for a Christian in Mexico.

It was Paul who was dispatched to literally be our eyes and ears, our window, into the culture of Mexico and her people.  In those days, short-term mission was just beginning to understand and talk about the importance of cultural intelligence.  Paul helped us start to be good at that even before it was seen as vital.

Paul was also the guy who had to make things good with locals when Grady and I, in our headstrong American way, overstepped the line, or just plain screwed up. 

One week, very early on in our ministry, we were working in a village called Santa Rosa, halfway between Tijuana and Ensenada, on the free road.  We were on our last day and the group with whom we were working wanted to have a campfire with marshmallows and hot dogs for the kids.

The First Church We Built In Mexico... Santa Rosa, Baja California
That's Paul on the far right

We gathered up a bunch of wood, built a huge fire, and the children of the village and our group had a great night together.  The next morning as we were cleaning up after the group had left, Grady and I noticed the father of Miguel, one of those kids, looking around in the tall grass for something.  

Naturally we sent Paul over to see if he could help.  A few minutes later Paul returned asking if we knew what happened to the big piece of wood that was laying in the grass over where Miguel’s father was standing.

As Grady and I looked at each other, we both knew the answer was in the ashes of the campfire.  We asked Paul why this piece was important and he said the hermano was waiting for a day off and was going to make a bed for his kids with the piece of wood that we had burned!

Thank God we had someone like Paul with us.  Someone who could explain that even when our ideas were wrong, our hearts were right.  Someone who helped us build the relationships necessary for 20 years of ministry.

When we needed to talk with pastors in those early days, Paul was there.  When our first ministry trip to Guadalajara was on the brink of collapse, Paul got on the telephone for two weeks to Mexico and pulled it together.  As our ministry grew to serve in Oaxaca, it was Paul who opened the doors and helped make that possible.

And it was Paul who taught us the value of relationship in ministry.  20 years after our founding, that is still a guiding principle of Adventures in Life Ministry.

Last night I was with a team that had served with us earlier this year and the team was going to be holding a yard sale soon.  To raise money to send to one of our ministry partners in Mexico.  Actually, to send money to one of their ministry partners in Mexico, because they went not to do something, but to build a relationship.

This weekend as Adventures in Life celebrates our anniversary, here is what our legacy looks like in Mexico… 17 churches built, 3 parsonages built, 2 Sunday school facilities built, kids and youth camps each year in Ensenada and Oaxaca, regular medical clinics held, a growing agricultural ministry, a local sewing ministry and much more.

But perhaps most important, are the thousands of interconnected relationships built on a foundation of Jesus Christ, not only in Mexico, but here in the United States also.  Just like those of that church that will soon be holding a yard sale to help their new friends in Mexico.

Thank you Grady for your help in founding Adventures in Life Ministry.

Thank you Paul for helping us see the value of relationship in short-term mission. 

Thank you God for 20 years of blessings in Mexico… may we have another 20 more.