Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Presence of God Defeats a Hopeless Mad Max World!

Like about 47 million other folks, I went to the movies Memorial Day weekend. Which means in addition to the movie I wanted to see, I also saw significant portions of movies I'll likely never see. You know what I'm talking about... the previews.

One of the previews was for Mad Max Fury Road. As the trailer played on suddenly the screen filled with the words, WITHOUT HOPE. A few seconds later another message flashed on the screen, WITHOUT MERCY.

The Mad Max movie series, being redone from the Mel Gibson 1979 original is all based on a world gone mad. It is a world where literally there is no hope and no one has, or shows any mercy towards anyone.

Years ago when I went to San Dionesio Ocotepec in Oaxaca for the first time, I sat down with a group of children, all under 12. I asked them about their plans for the future. The answers stunned me. Almost all of them, boys and girls alike had a variation on the theme of going to the Estados Unidos, the United States.

When I asked them why they would want to leave Oaxaca, they had all sorts of reasons. No work. Too hard to raise a family. Little, or no opportunity to advance in life. And then one of the kids said the words that I'll remember all of my life... "there's no hope here."

Think about that for awhile. No hope. Or as the movie Mad Max would put it... A WORLD WITHOUT HOPE! How could you live, thrive, or even survive?

That's a major part of the ministry of Adventures in Life in Oaxaca. Working to bring a holistic emphasis to ministry, we are striving to address not just spiritual hopelessness, but economic hopelessness as well. We are trying to bring hope, and live mercy for today, and eternity.

One way we are doing this is through our Vocation Camp Week. We are expecting about 40 teenagers this year. They will be studying Photography, Agriculture, Science and Culinary Arts. Each of these disciplines will begin the steps to help the students at camp learn a skill that will enable them to make a real salary in Oaxaca.

Every village needs a photographer. Part of the culture of Mexico revolves around photos of family events, just as it does here. So, if you can shoot, you can work. Our agriculture classes will help people understand better ag practices which will increase crop yields and allow them to better care for their animals, increasing food output. Our science track will hopefully instill in people a love for experimentation and exploration that is so central to entrepreneurship. It may also inspire a few of our kids to become scientists.

Finally, our culinary arts track will be totally hands on giving the kids a chance to develop some of the skills necessary to succeed in one of the high end restaurants prevalent in Oaxaca, the gastronomic capital of Mexico.

Perhaps most exciting about all of this is that it is a ministry of the local church! 

Every person attending our camps will know and understand that the church, and Jesus, stands with them, and wants to be a part of giving them hope, not just for eternity, but for today, tomorrow, next week and beyond!

The people of the Mad Max world are living in a hopeless, merciless world, a world gone mad. For me, and AIL Ministry, mission is most effective when it is holistic. Because that holistic style gives witness to the mercy and love of Jesus and his power to transform and bring order to our lives. Both for eternity, and for today.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Long Term Missionaries... is the clock winding down while the church stands by?

Quick, when was the last time you heard someone in church encourage a young person, or anyone for that matter to consider spending their life as a cross cultural missionary?

I’ll wait.

Okay, time’s up.

It’s been awhile hasn’t it?

Years ago, that was a call we heard regularly from the pulpits of churches across America, especially on Mission Sundays and in the almost extinct Sunday evening services. The world, we were told, needed people to step up and boldly answer Jesus call to share his love on mission in some far off land.

Africa, Asia, South America… it didn’t matter. Jesus needed us and our spiritual leaders made sure we knew it. But they did more than that, they encouraged us to answer that call, get trained and go. For the sake of the Gospel.

It all seems so quaint now.

One of the by products of the short-term mission [STM] movement is that it has, in a sense, demystified missions and missionaries. That’s both good, and bad.

Here’s why…

The good has been our ability to open eyes. Missions is no longer seen as the providence of a few. 

Regular, everyday folks are as likely to get on a plane and serve overseas as those who study for years to prepare for professional ministry. There can be no doubt that the cross cultural exposure literally millions of people have as a result of short-term mission is changing the way people view and interact with the world. 

However, our current emphasis on short-term mission, and with it the sugar like rush people get from serving, is giving us a false belief that we truly can share Christ effectively in one week micro ministry bursts.

We can’t, and in fact, effective short-term mission relies on dedicated long-term missionaries in the field. 

The bad is that the current emphasis on STM in our churches is pushing long-term missionary recruitment to the back burner. Add in the current rage of programming every minute of our weekend services tightly around a specific theme, and we literally have no opportunities to share the need for people to go overseas full time.

Gone are most Mission Sundays, gone are services where missionaries share their stories, gone are the messages calling people to forsake the comforts of home, take up the cross and share about Jesus around the globe.

In our efforts to identify everyone as a missionary, we have robbed that term of its power to call. No longer is the overseas missionary seen as having potential for an individual or a young couple.

A few years back I was asked to say a few words at a local denominational missions conference. I was excited when, after I spoke, they announced they were commissioning a new couple to go to field. The new couple was in their mid 60’s. 

Now I am not saying people in the 60’s, and beyond cannot be effective. I’ll be there myself soon, but I was saddened that the new couple was not younger. The reality is that the clock is ticking towards retirement for an entire generation of long term in country missionaries and the church does not seem to have a Plan B in place for when those folks return home.

Cross cultural missions work is hard, heroic work. The Kingdom needs new blood in the field. In all of our ministries, be they youth, women’s, men’s or pulpit based, the church needs to once again take up the mantle of recruiting and sending not just short-term teams around the globe, but long term in country missionaries as well.

What say you?