Late To The Party

I love to be the first one in line, even if it means cutting. I love to know new information before anyone else, maybe because I caught it on Twitter, or maybe because I am higher up on the gossip chain. I love being in the know.

I love new information. I love anything new, and I love being able to share that with others. I like to be ahead of the trends and not behind. I love to ride the wave and not miss it. But mostly, I just like to be a part of the party, whatever key party that is. I just like to be in more than out, a part more than left out, included and not excluded.

So it can be pretty hard to impress me with something new, or something that I did not already hear about elsewhere.

Now, knowing that, I don’t mind being fashionably late to a party, but this week, I feel like I have been super late to the party.

What party?

For the first time in my life, even though it always sounded like a good place to be, I found my way to the Foursquare Missions Press Banquet. Before going, I often thought it would be a nice place to network and eat good food. I love missions and am open to anything mission related. However, I seemingly never allowed the Press to rise to any priority on my radar.

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Why?

That is a good question, you ask me. Well, to not beat around the bush, I thought the Press was antiquated. Even as a missionary, I just did not see what the big deal was as I hadn’t seen it applicable to my situation. Furthermore, I saw the print medium as going the way of the buffalo. The idea was nice in a former time, but with newspapers going out of business, magazines closing down, and everything moving online, I simply figured this was nice but not essential any longer.

Boy, oh boy, was I ever wrong.

Watch this video, and you will see.

Innovation captured my heart immediately when I caught what the Press was up to. They are looking for new ways to utilize the print medium, working to get posters printed, books published and disseminated, training materials and gospel tracts available in formerly difficult places. The current levels of creativity at FMP are beyond my wildest imaginations.

This thing (FMP) birthed out of a retired man’s vision a generation ago and full of retired volunteers today has such creativity and cutting edge desires to help get the gospel into the hands of local people, I am blown away. This is something I can get behind. This is something I wish I had been behind for a long time. My question this last week has been a consistent and constant one. Why didn’t I know about this? Do others know, and if not, how do we get the word out.

My heart was gripped as statistics were shared, as milestones were celebrated and most of all salvations piled up in large part due to the faithful work of the Press. People are getting the word into their hands and finding God. This is more than incredible. This work is life changing.

And then there were stories, and stories. People are working hard to meet the urgent needs. The church in one nation is looking for ways to minister to the 1.5 million refugees that have shown up on their doorsteps the past couple of years because of the Islamic State. And the stories kept coming, the urgency could not be more clear, and the people at FMP couldn’t be more diligent and creative to meet the need they were called to meet.

When I heard another national leader from a closed country talk about how this will help them since the materials that get shipped to their island nation never make it farther than customs. Well, they might make it a little farther as they get dumped into the ocean never to be used much less seen by the vibrant church of that nation. What doesn’t get used? Tracts: In a nation where sharing the gospel is illegal and cause for the police to drag you into an interrogation or even an enhanced version of rendition with or without due process, a tract can be covertly passed from friend-to-friend. When people see these Christians living the gospel and exuding joy, they ask questions, and an inconspicuous tract passed from one hand to another allows opportunity to continue the dialogue after some reading has been done.

But evangelism is not the only call for printed materials. Leadership development often hinges on having resources to study. There is so much more benefit to seeing these materials passed around in a cost effective and safe way but I think enough has been said at this point.

If you have more questions, look up the site for the Missions Press. If you want to contribute, click here.

What captures your heart about innovation in mission?

Ready and Willing: A Church That Serves

serveI would like to be ready when called upon. Ready to serve that is.

I notice that we call the military the uniformed services; implying a strong sense of servant inside the colors of the Army, Navy, Marines or Air Force.

Also: The police are known by a motto: To serve and protect.

Serving is valued and admired in many parts of our society. However, I wonder if it is valued by many as it should be in the church. Are we known by serving the way the military is. Do we get people coming up to us regularly saying, thank you for your service. Well, maybe that is taking the analogy too far. We don’t do it for public recognition.

But shouldn’t this same attitude of serving be emblematic of the church. Shouldn’t we be known by our love and not our divisions, Our charity and not our self-focusedness, compassion and not our protests, mercy and not condemnation, by our good deeds and not our holier than thou attitudes, our graciousness on  social media posts and not our complaining or divisiveness, by our serving and not our preaching? Shouldn’t this be what defines the people of God. I know it did define many of those in the “Hall of Faith”. God called David his servant, Moses his servant. Even Jesus said he came to serve and not to be served.

Now, I know the stereotypes are not true of every church just like codifying a generation as the Millennials likely poorly defines any one individual in that generation. And yes, there are many churches and good Christians who embody what it means to be Christ-like and serve their neighbor, their family and their community.

I am fortunate enough to be part of a church that has this as their ethos. #LoveServeConnect

The Connection Church in Lake Forest has worked hard to not only serve but earn a reputation of serving. When two years ago, we tried (before my time here, I was still in Thailand as a missionary) to get into city events to serve our city, we were told no. We tried repeatedly, but continued to get a closed door. Finally, we simply served by picking up trash after city events, quietly living out our value of serving or being Christians In Action (CIA).

Eventually, after doggedly working to serve the community God placed us in, the city called back. Another club could not fulfill their commitment, and the city event had become shorthanded.

The city told us we could serve under one condition. No preaching. This is a city event. And rightfully so, we would come alongside what the city was doing and serve the people of Lake Forest.

One event turned into another and another until we started getting a reputation with our bright orange Connection Church hats which pegged us as the church that cares for their city.

At a recent city council meeting where one of our staff pastors gave the invocation before the meeting, the Mayor stopped the meeting to tell the 100’s of people waiting to receive their prizes from the 4th-of-July parade that this pastor was from the Connection Church, the church that serves in all the city stuff.

Now, here is the kicker. Last weekend was the Autumn Harvest Festival. Yes, the event that happened to be the first event we tried to get into. We tried again last year, and again we were told no. The city had begun allowing us into some of the events, however, this one had plenty of volunteers from the different clubs at El Toro High School. But this year, things were different.

Scheduling conflict. Uh oh, and the city was scrambling. Why?

The Homecoming dance fell on the same night as the Harvest Festival, so the city was down some 40+ volunteers. With only a few days’ notice, they called us. They called us. I thought I should write that twice for effect.

Out of the clear blue, unsolicited, and without any notice, the city called us to ask for our help. When they were in a pinch, who did they turn to? They turned to the church. The church who has earned a reputation for serving. Isn’t that simply the coolest thing ever.

They called us, a church. Yes, a church and asked for help. These are the same people who used to tell us no for whatever reason. I tend to think  it was likely not trusting churches to be about serving anything but themselves now called on us, a church. Why, because they have grown to know we are about serving God in every way he asks us. Whether it is cleaning the parks, the waterways, being a part of events that we could be ambivalent about, or being a part of everything else they do. The city knows we care genuinely for the well-being of the city and not merely what gets us butts in the seats at our services or events. They know we are selfless and trustworthy.

They called, and we rallied our forces as best we could do last minute. Sure we wish we had more people available or could have done more, but what people wouldn’t want to always do more to serve the kingdom of God and the community in which they live.

All we could do is be ready and available for when the call came. We could simply be obedient servants of Christ to our world.

Sometimes God meets us at our point of obedience. And sometimes he doesn’t. We are simply to be obedient.

We might serve our heart out and say, what was the point. Often it is hard to quantify the point of serving. We just serve. We serve with the reality there is a balance that we do not run ragged or exhaust people in the process. We serve strategically and to our fullest capacity and not beyond.

All that to say, we served and saw some big wins:

  • We have gained great favor from our city. The future benefits cannot be imagined. God has opened a door for us that rarely gets opened to any church in any city.
  • We had people come to serve who saw a rough day turn into a good memory as they served their hearts out. They can see that the church and God are connected to them being a blessing to their city.
  • We connected with people in our community that we have lost relationship with. But because we were there, they saw us and reconnected relationally.
  • We allowed the city to keep their event open. At the end of the event, I talked with the city’s point person, their recreational specialist (a title I would love to obtain one day). I told her as our church’s point person, I apologize for not getting more people to turn out. Last minute, we just had a ton of scheduling conflicts with our people. She was more than gracious. What she said in reply warmed my heart more than words could say. She said, because we came, they could keep the activities open. Let that sink in a moment. They might have had to close down parts of their big harvest party that draws out tons of families from their normally isolated, individualistic  suburban rhythms. Children and parents might have walked away disappointed or worse.

But because a church had earned the reputation they had, the city could rely on the Connection Church to be there when needed. It takes a lot of work to earn a reputation, and sometimes when it feels like what is the point, God opens up an opportunity. It is our responsibility to step into the void and answer the call.

Let’s be people who embody the core value of Jesus found in Phil 2—a servant.

What are ways that you work to serve people?

Language Is The Key To Understanding Culture

Recently, I was teaching my class on multi-cultural evangelism when we came to the section on Contextualization.

I could get into this murky, and yet fascinating topic of contextualization for days and days, but here we were taking a helicopter level overview as we scanned the topic.

Now, how does language factor into understanding the culture. Can’t you just read all the best books out there to know the culture, what not to do to easily offend the host culture? Can’t you just talk to people to find out what all the new things and customs you are observing mean? Surely, there are plenty of English speakers in most countries to let you get by at this.

And yes, you can skate by with a basic knowledge of the culture. But language matters so much. Language matters for communication. We know it is important to speak to people at a heart level. We can’t do that even if they learn English really well. Language communicates love. As we attempt to learn the language of the host culture, we demonstrate great love to want to know their language. But these are issues of cross-cultural communication.

How does language matter for contextualization?

It should be self-evident that we need to know the culture to the best of our ability if we are going to contextualize the faith into a new place, shouldn’t it. But still, so many missionaries resist language learning.

Again, language is the key to unlocking the mystery of cultural differences.

If we want to establish Christianity as a natural, indigenous practice within a given culture, we first must learn the culture. And learning the language provides a pathway to deeper understandings of the culture. So I am giving yet another reason to go for it. Language pays off with great dividends even as it slows one down in the beginning.

Let me give an example, which comes from the most simple of devices used every day…the clock.

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The clock, What? … wait a minute, you need to know language to know what the clock says? Isn’t that universal.

Wait, wait. That is what I am trying to say. We must leave all assumptions behind as we learn language and culture. They go hand-in-hand.

In Thailand, they tell time very differently than we do. And we did not understand this immediately, because telling time comes a few lessons after learning the alphabet and basic survival words like where is the bathroom.

As we talked to our friends who had nominal English skills, we began learning about their life, their routines and their patterns. Often, our conversations were quite basic, like when did you go to bed last night, when did you wake up, and what did you do today?

We were always shocked when we frequently heard young people telling us they went to bed so late at 5 o’clock. We thought, whaaaaat? This cannot be. That is late indeed, but why are so many people getting so little sleep.

We racked our brains for weeks, thinking something is off. Maybe Thai people really only need three hours of sleep and when they only get two, they struggle. We just did not see what we did not see until we knew more about the language.

And sometimes, you just don’t see what you don’t see until it smacks you in the face. And that just takes time as you learn a culture, a people, a language.

The light bulb went off when we came to the lesson on telling time a couple of months into Thai lessons. Without getting too technical, the way Thai people tell time is completely different than the West tells time. Rather than the military clock or the 12-hour am and pm clock, Thai people break their day into six hour increments—essentially: morning, afternoon, evening and early morning. 5  o’clock really meant 11 o’clock at night. Hmmm, their clock is very different than ours, we thought. But things started falling into place when we understood how they talked about the day, which was quite different than how we understood the day but similar enough. The gears turned rapidly as language began to unlock some of the mysteries we had.

Now, things started clicking. And it took many language lessons to get to an easy answer, but without language lessons, we would be dependent on others giving the answers.

Another issue for language being the key is illustrated in this post about grain jai which is the basis of much of Thai culture. This word is untranslatable into English. One must learn the concept which can only come through learning the language.

Are there times that not knowing the language matters, what if it is only youth language?

Things that make you go hmmm…Dress Shoes

I want to begin a category on the blog that maybe answers no specific question other than those little things in life that make you go hmmm.

Let me illustrate through this post.

Dress Shoes.

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What is the deal with dress shoes? I am not talking about the dress codes or formal events that bring the requisite nature to these shoes. I don’t even mind dressing nice or looking the part. Well, I should not fully say I don’t mind. I like looking the part, but by the end of the day I loathe my shoes, or at least my feet do.

This has gotten me wondering, wondering several things in which all come back on the maker, proprietor or inventor of these shoes. And ladies, don’t even worry. I know you have it way worse with your shoes than us men will ever have it.

Nonetheless, I want to ask the question on every medium I can, or at the minimum this one, who thought dress shoes was a good idea?

For starters, I can’t even fit my foot in my shoes without cramming, jamming and even using extra utensils (shoe horn) to get my foot squeezed into these fashion-conscious, dress-appropriate footwear.

Who thought it was a good idea to make a shoe that takes such vigorous work to get onto the foot?

Okay, but good things come to those that wait. I get that. Having a difficult time getting into something should not on its face make it a bad invention or creation. I get that. But the lack of ease to sliding on a dress shoe only begins the questioning.

Beyond the fight to put on the shoes I don’t like, once it fits onto my foot, the clock starts ticking . With my silly feet and chicken legs, I only have so much time I can wear them. I choose not to say comfortably as it is not a limited time of comfort I have. It is a limited time of well-being. I am starting to think of how I can utilize the stool more in the classroom, sit more often in the office, or simply stay off my feet that do look so handsome with these fancy shoes. My feet and legs just can’t take too much. The other day, after changing out of my shoes into my flip-flops, I wobbled around for about 10 minutes as the strength came back into my muscles and ligaments and stability into my joints.

Is it possible that the man or woman behind the dress shoe is really a sadist? Surely, they are a capitalist.

No one can deny the money-making that flows in from dress shoes. Who do “they” aim the dress shoe market at but business people, professionals, and fancy-pants men of all makes and models. In other words, they aim the shoes at the people who can afford to pay for the shoes that have little practically to offer beyond fashion and appearance of professionalism.  Thus, they are not marking down prices to help the blue-collar worker, or the student scrapping by. No, they mark it up for the white-collar guy. Interesting that the clergy gets the white collar even as they make far less money, but that is a story for another day.

Here is one way to illustrate what I mean about the ability to afford shoes. My dad worked for Motorola who suggested a professional attire. However, most people wore comfortable tennis shoes or loafers. When my dad asked if they would provide dress shoes that looked the part and wore comfortably (a rare find indeed) he was told no. When he countered that they provided work shoes for the factory workers, they did not budge. The factory workers boots needed to be up to specifications for safety sake. When safety gets involved, corporations will spare no expense. But dressing up can be afforded by those who make the money to look the part.

So with the reality proven sufficiently that the designers of dress shoes are sufficiently capitalist, I still wonder if they are just messing with people.

Do they laugh at home behind closed doors at what uncomfortable shoes people are willing to wear day-in-day out. Do they collaborate with one another on how to make it worse and not better. So many questions and so little time.

Maybe I am just a professional in a beach bum body wishing to get away with flip-flops. Maybe, I just need to shop more to find better shoes? Or maybe as I am getting older, I am feeling the aches and pains more.

Finally, WWJD? Would Jesus have worn dress shoes?

Well, I think I have sufficiently scratched the surface of one of those things that makes me go hmmm.

Help me understand this thing called dress shoes?

When God Surprises: Our God Is An Awesome God

Prayer is important, right? We say this, but do we believe it. Do we live it and breathe it?

I know I struggle with this. Let me share a recent story.

andyclassroomI teach at Life Pacific College. In the class we have 40 bright-eyed, curious students ready to learn. Now, before we get into the academics of the class, I start the class with prayer. I want to model the value of prayer not to mention that if we do not know how to pray in missions, we will get beat up spiritually rather easily.

In my last class, I started the three-hour, afternoon block according to our routine of devotion and prayer. But let me share a little secret, I was going through the exercise for the sake of the principle of prayer. My faith was not exercised in the slightest as I knew we had a lot of material to get through. My mind was on the material, and the material was on my mind to quote Snoop Dogg.

As the students began to share their requests, I started to think this is different. I wondered what is going on. The first few weeks, we had one or two requests, maybe three at the most. Today, the requests just kept coming. One of the half-dozen requests stood out to me. A student in the back of the class, Josh, asked for us to pray for his friend, whose dad had a skin disease causing him to no longer be able to walk. I thought, whoa, this is big, but my faith was little.

I hoped the students who prayed might have big faith as all I could think about was a lecture that was running out of time. But pray we would. If we didn’t get to all the fun extra facts and stories in the lecture, so be it. Prayer would happen, even if my praying heart was distracted. So internally, I mustered up the fortitude to pray. I started off the prayer, touching on unreached peoples (the topic of the day) and handed the rest of the prayer requests to the students.

To begin praying, my passion to see all peoples reached with the love of Jesus shined through. However, as the other prayers began to be lifted up by the students, my mind wandered. I couldn’t help but think this will take a long time, and we have too much material (*lecture notes) for the time we have. It was like we were trying to pack three weeks’ worth of clothes into a bag that could only fit a few days’ of outfits.

I went to my computer to check our time, maybe that would calm me down. Perhaps we hadn’t gone as far into the hour as I feared. Hopefully, time was moving slowly, and it was just my mind racing. But no.

We were 22 minutes into the class. I was so tempted to use the time of their prayers to prepare for the next thoughts I had to give in the lecture. My mind was elsewhere, but I fought myself internally, saying: this time is valuable, I have said this, I must model it. So, we prayed, and I joined my heart to the prayers being lifted up. Sometimes, you are not the perfect professor you aim to be.

And sometimes God surprises you anyway.

After the lecture and the break, we reconvened in the library to learn how to research for the research project they would have. While sitting along the wall next to my students, listening to the lecture on research from the librarian, Josh turned to me and whispered this story.

He texted his friend to say we prayed. His friend texted back to say her dad began walking this afternoon (within the hour of our prayer) and has been healed.

Whaaaaaat!!? That is incredible I thought. This is like the Centurion’s servant who was healed within the hour of Jesus’ authoritative prayer. This is Biblical stuff happening in our midst. Happening in America. Flabbergasted, I was.

I responded, amazing out loud, while inside I felt so much awe and shame at the same time. I had no faith to see this happen, and our awesome God did it anyway. Now, the students exercised faith, so faith was in the equation, but the biggest part of this healing is a healing God who loves to show how he is on mission.

A little background: This friend’s dad is a total unbeliever. He came down with psoriasis which progressed so badly that he couldn’t walk. When his daughter prayed for him, he tried limping around, saying I am healed in a mocking tone.

The next day when we prayed, there is no doubt in his mind he was healed by a God on mission, a God desiring to show himself real.

I am simply blown away. Mind blown. This is awe-inspiring stuff. When I think about this, I know I will not minimize the time we have to pray next week.

It is great to be surprised by God every now and again. Has there been a time you were surprised by God?

Partnering With An Inner-City Ministry: A Little But Powerful Church

What we see is not always what is seen. I found this out this weekend when we went up to work with a church we are partnering with in South Central LA.

The story of how this partnership started is fantastic and deserves a place on this blog in the coming days. However, it is incredible to see a little church plant like what we are part of reaching into another community to serve the under resourced. Our church has started partnering with an inner-city church, Faith Community, down the way from where the Rodney King riots climaxed 23 years ago.  Faith Community is a little but powerful church with a great history. Two churches with similar hearts to serve their community have joined together to see Jesus’ name lifted up. Both churches have such passion for the people in their neighborhoods, yet the two churches look and feel super different.

One church resides in South Orange County while the other sits in the middle of urban blight with liquor stores dotting the neighborhoods, and metal gates surrounding most properties. Safety and security are held at a premium in the neighborhood of Faith Community Church while South Orange County is known nationwide for their high ratings on being safe towns to live in. Furthermore, the two communities couldn’t be more distant on the poverty/wealth spectrum.

Nonetheless, the two churches have the beginnings of a partnership because of a common vision to be a blessing in the place they have been located. Both churches strive to care for those less fortunate, to serve the community, and to proclaim Jesus’ love. Both churches have felt a common call both in their community and for each other. What we have to offer is some expertise in some small ways to help Faith Community take steps toward a long standing vision. All we want to do is help them become more of what they are already doing.

Some of the things I love about partnering with this wonderful church include:

New relationships. I love the young and old. I have met talented young people who can sing, dance and ball. I have met tough, indomitable deacons who just cannot be held back. One man, Frank, is out there working every time we come. Either he is painting, or putting in flooring, or helping fix odds and ends around the building. Frank Faith Community Frank recently turned 80, but I think he could put many an 18-year-old to shame with his muscles.

Learning from others: Each and every time I go, I learn from the stories of these people. Their faith, their prayers, their passion is incredible. To a person, the people of Faith Community have a story worth telling. I wish we could all get to know them and where they have come from. 

Vision: In the midst of overwhelming circumstances, the pastor of this church has incredible vision. The building is old and quirky. It comes with its challenges. The neighborhood wreaks with despair. The members have their own burdens. Hope is not a commodity in reserve, yet the pastor sees what God can do to transform a church and through this church to transform a community. I’ll close with a story that illustrates this. 

In partnering with Faith Community, we wanted to help them see their vision become a reality. Pastor, which essentially is his name around the church as it is spoken with such honor by his people, says he wants this church to be so relevant that the community could not live without them. One way that they desire to be relevant is in tutoring students from the middle school across the street. Literally, the middle school is 100 ft. from the church building. Faith Community hopes to turn one of their rooms into a tutoring center. The rooms are small, and the building is old and in need of tender loving care. And this is happening now as both churches move forward in this vision to help kids as young people in the inner city have less than ideal structure at home for help with school. Faith Community would like to fill this void and be a blessing to young people.

Now, when we found the church, their room was unusable. The electrical had issues, the ceiling needed help, and on the list went. Pastor, a gifted minister and artist in his own right, came with no skills, only a vision. However, the vision seemed impossible as the skill set to renovate a room was not within the church. The people did not know how to make the room into what they wanted. Second, the church had little to no resource to make this happen.

When we were connected with the church, we immediately caught their vision and hoped we could play a role in remodeling this room into a safe, clean and sharp looking tutoring center—a blessing to the neighborhood. Now, through a few workdays over the year, we have made some progress. But we are going at the pace that the church can handle in order to make this their project. We do not want to simply do it for them. Our goal is to come alongside of them. We want to facilitate what they want to see happen. And it has been awesome watching the two churches work side-by-side in this endeavor. A real partnership is forming.

On our last work day this weekend, we were able to put up a drop ceiling, which was the highest hopes that pastor had for this room. However, he did not even ask for that specifically up front as he thought the price was too high. As we dialogued over several weeks, and this idea was suggested Pastor, never short on words, became speechless as he tried to tell how much he had wanted that specific idea but hesitated to ask. We knew it was costly, but also knew we could find a way.

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As a church plant, we need to be creative in where we find our materials as our budget is slim. Long story short, we were able to salvage materials from an office building that was going to be torn down in order to make brand new, beautiful apartments in Laguna Niguel. We donated these pieces for a drop ceiling to our friends in LA.

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But what seemed like a simple task of installing drop ceiling quickly became a challenging task as the walls, ceiling and floor were anything but level. Nothing went at 90° angles. Nothing seemed straight. No matter, that did not detour guys from finding a way.

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When our day was wrapping up, the workers were feeling a mix of satisfaction with finishing a difficult piece in the project and disappointment that lights were not installed yet. This does not even include the experience we had to know how much nicer things could look. This is what happens when we bring our culture into a situation. We see what we see in comparison to what things could look like in South Orange County or in Newport Beach.  This is not what the people of Faith Community saw.

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Pastor came in at the end of the work and gushed with gratitude. He saw the vision beginning to come into focus. As he put it, we were putting shape to their vision. This warmed my heart, as our goal all along has been to be a true partnership. We do not simply want to go into the city to do something that makes us feel good. We want real partnership. What we can offer is helping a wonderful, little church have a pathway to their vision.

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While we worked together, we each saw things differently; good but differently. The people in LA were so appreciative of the steps taken forward, while we thought we could have done so much more. We know access to money and materials is not hard to come by for us if we put our minds to it, but the folks in LA have a completely different world to compare with what they saw happening.

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Pastor concluded by saying he can start to see what the room can look like when it is finished, painted, and decorated. He told of how he could see students being tutored by people from Faith Community. He believed that kids would say one day that their life was saved because of this tutoring room. Stop, and pause here. Read that again. Kids’ lives can be saved, because of this little room. I believe it too. I believe it deep in my bones.

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Sometimes we see one thing, while those living in the place see something totally different. Perspective can be so helpful.

In conclusion, I love learning from my friends in LA. I love asking them to tell me what they see, because they see their situation so differently than we do.

Has there been a time that you have had your perspective changed or learned from another culture?

Mission Training

I want to follow up on a post from last week regarding passion for missions.

I posed the question, has passion for mission diminished? I still wonder. However, a follow up question was sent my direction by a mentor of mine.

This mentor asked the deeper question, is it interest in missions that has gone down or interest in mission’s training.

Oh boy! Receiving questions like this really get the wheels turning. Not that a probing question negates the first hypothesis. These may not even be mutually exclusive.

Nonetheless, I couldn’t wholeheartedly agree with his presupposition that interest in mission’s training which would include intercultural studies at the university level or training within any mission organization has gone down. My mentor, added this little nugget he received from a peer who does mission’s training.

Those with more mission’s training stay on the field longer.

So many experiences began to flood my mind when I reflected on this maxim. As a missionary in Thailand for six years, we ran into quite a few young people passionate to help with one thing or another. We heard it all, or at least close to it all. Maybe not close to it all, but a lot. I remember hearing many a young missionary talk about why they would choose one organization over another. Many times the bottom line in making their decision came down to which organization gave them the least hoops to jump through, mostly the least training, and the least prerequisites.

What began as a passion to just get out on the field quickly changed into tensions as they confronted a set of circumstances the young and inexperienced missionary was ill-equipped to face. Often, this meant the missionary did not last as long as they might have with better training, or simply more training. Issues of culture shock, homesickness, pressures of ministry, expectations that didn’t meet with reality from both the host nation and the missionary merely begin to scratch the surface of the barriers to a long-lasting time of service on the field. I’m not sure if the further training actually gives significantly better skills in handling the pressures of missionary life. Rather I believe it can be a tempered set of expectations and willingness to persevere, or maybe just the discipline it took to get through the process that helps people make it longer. I don’t know. The skills matter, but the training adds in so many more intangibles including stronger relationships with those that have gone before that can encourage along the way.

I am beginning to see why training matters. Those without it tended to produce the results expected by limited training.

On the flipside, our friends who worked in organizations that required substantial training and pre-requisites, even thorough follow up while on the field tended to actually last longer on the field.

So if training can be incredibly valuable as it builds into the missionary a capacity for longevity and perseverance, why are so many with a passion for mission displaying a disproportionately low passion for training?

If we train our body for athletics, why not train our mind, soul and body for ministry?

When I think of training, I think of Rocky, who never thought he could simply roll out of bed and win a prize fight. No, he trained his guts out in order to be ready.

What is it today that has caused people to think they can shortchange the process? Is it that Paul simply went on mission’s trips all around the known world, so why can’t I? Is it a sense of invincibility that young people have matched with their zeal and a calling.

Now, calling is important, but so is preparation. It is important not to shortchange the process as we desperately want to get out there and “save the world”. If God has called you, he will make the way and the timing work according to that very calling.

Sometimes, God calls us long before we are ready, and he is okay with that. He is willing to wait as he develops us and prepares us. On that note, I wrote about the space between the calling and the sending here and here.

But I can’t imagine it is just unbridled zeal and youthful naivety that causes people to forego more mission’s training. Maybe we could throw impatience into the mix. Do we think we are so eager to see our life calling come to fruition that those tasked with the training and equipping are simply roadblocks in the way of God’s call on our life. Is that just one more thing aimed to slow us down or detour us from accomplishing all that God has laid ahead for us. Pretty interesting when we think about it like this, huh?

Perhaps the instant gratification of our culture has caught up to this facet of training as well. If I can find info on Google about anything, why do I need to go through a process of training. If I can have Amazon send me packages by drones, why can’t I find some hyper speed way to accomplish my goals? In a moment, I can have a meal, in blink of an eye, I can have a library downloaded onto my hard drive. In a fast-paced world, one can easily lose sight of the Longview. It is easy to get lost in the now.

What are a few more weeks, or a few more books read, a few more meetings with mentors, a few more classes in the grand scheme of a lifetime of service to our missionary God? If we have 90 years or so to live and serve God, what could a little more training hurt? It seems too easy if we put it in those terms.

But the pressures of this world get us going. There are people dying, sick, malnourished, stuck in poverty, or war torn villages, in bondage to false religion or beliefs, and the list goes on. We can’t wait a moment to get out there and help people. But what if we could wait, wait just a little longer to be more prepared and better equipped to have longevity and sustainability.

Here is the rub. Mission’s draws out so much from any person willing to leave this world behind to live in a completely different world. Youth adds so much potential to the mix. there is something precious in the heart of a young person that is willing to risk it all. But as time goes by, the capacity for risk narrows. Age and often a growing family cause us to minimize risk rather than increase it. So how do we preserve in people a capacity for great risk while also equipping them for great effectiveness and longevity. These must be the questions that mission’s trainers wrestle with.

What do you say?