i need elves. or flying monkeys.
as i’ve mentioned before, my role here on the mission field is to coordinate short-term teams and individuals who come to our field. i’ve spent the past couple days preparing some things that i’ll be using during orientation for our summer short-term teams, but after a conversation with a friend today, i realised that flying monkeys probably won’t be of much help to me with some of the more tedious things i do – cutting/pasting/laminating/taping…because their fur is going to get stuck on everything and then it will just be even more trouble than it was before.
i’ve been thinking a lot about this role and the short-term missions ministry that i am in, and wondering what other people think about it. do they think i just sit behind a computer all day answering emails from around the world? or spend my time coordinating schedules for short-termers and setting up accommodations and budgets? or spend time discipling the individual short-termers that come through? it’s all of these (and much more!), though on busy days/weeks/months, it’s more of the admin stuff – which i don’t necessarily like, but have to do in order to get to the discipling part. i guess there are always ups and downs to different responsibilities, hey?
one of my favourite things about my role is exactly that discipleship part. if we want to see our short-termers make the most of their time here, we have to do our part as the field. the rest, well, that’s up to God. and that is why this is my favourite part – b/c there is really something amazing about seeing God work in someone’s life, and seeing them find out wondrous things about the mission field and mission work…and seeing them have their eyes opened about where they could possibly fit in in this picture.
yes, that is indeed my favourite part!
however, if i’m too busy doing all the admin stuff that my role requires, i might easily miss out on taking the time to sit down and chat with these short-termers and hearing what they’re learning and also challenging them to take little steps.
last year when i started this role, i began thinking about how not to bog down our own missionaries and myself with a load of short-termers all the time. as well, i wanted to see more of our short-termers return as long-termers. as for me, if i’m spending all my time doing paperwork and behind my computer answering emails all day, then i’ll never get to the discipleship part. lo and behold, as i was watching Jerry Maguire one day, it jumped out at me. if you’ve seen Jerry Maguire, you’ll know the “mission statement – or memo” i’m talking about.
in the movie, jerry is a sports agent, and he is so busy handling all his many clients, when he suddenly realises how far he had wandered from why he originally started the job:
“…i was remembering the simple pleasures of this job. how i ended up here after law school, the way a stadium sounds when one of my players performs well on the field. the way we are meant to protect them in health and in injury. with so many clients, we had forgotten what was important…i was remembering even the words of the original sports agent, my mentor, the late great Dicky Fox, who said, ‘ The key to this business is personal relationships.’ Suddenly it was all pretty clear. the answer was fewer clients. less money. more attention; caring for them. caring for ourselves, and the games, too…”
this is what i wanted. so i pretty much took jerry’s idea and made it my own, which i eventually called my Jerry Maguire Motto: Fewer Short-termers. More discipleship.
Fewer short-termers. More discipleship.
that’s what i wanted to see – our missionaries and myself putting more time into short-termers and spending time journeying with them during their time here – but this can’t happen if we’re always bombarded with heaps and heaps of people. so we’re going to have to cut back. it’s harder to do this when it’s a whole team of people, but at least with individuals who come, i could be more picky about who i cleared to come. mature, ready-to-understand-God’s-place-for-me-in-missions short-termers (hopefully. but i can only tell so much from a paper application).
so far, with the exception of a couple people (who unfortunately came at a time when i was going bezerk with admin and simply didn’t have time for anything else), i’ve had the wonderful privilege of consistently meeting with most of the individual short-termers who have come through. just this past month, i spent about 3 hours talking to one of our short-termers in person and one over skype and i’ve realised howwwwww much i enjoy being able to witness God working in them.
i gotta admit, i sometimes almost feel…and evil cackle coming on (?) when God is really challenging them in their direction in life and are at a crossroad about what to do next. i think partly it’s b/c they are willing to see the actual crossroad that God has put there for them (whereas others may just deny seeing it) and partly it’s b/c i love that they are considering it! for example, one of our short-termers who already has plans to go back to get her masters is now considering switching to seminary instead. when we talk, i can hear her really questioning whether getting a masters would be beneficial if God is leading her to be a long-term missionary. and i found myself…gleeful. or maybe excited. it’s all very mixed up.
but here’s the thing. more discipleship doesn’t guarantee a return short-termer for the long-term. that’s not the point, though we’d love to see that happen more. more discipleship is so that we can walk with people as they follow Jesus, but not just follow Him to be a more mature Christian, but to follow His leading in living a mission-focused, mission-driven life. even if they don’t return to our field (or any foreign field) for the long-term, i still want to see people moved into action by God’s heart for the lost. that means when they go home – they intentionally change how they live, how they spend their money, how they make their decisions, what they spend their time doing. of course, more discipleship doesn’t guarantee a change like that. neither does time spent on the field. however, i trust in God and i trust that He will work in peoples’ hearts when they come out here, and assuming they are mature Christians already, will be open to the things God is beginning to do in them.
so how’d i get from flying monkeys to jerry maguire?
well, getting back to my role (and many people who play similar roles in their respective fields/countries), if we spend all our time doing the admin stuff and processing a million people to come, we will never get to the discipleship part. so how do we make sure we’re not always doing the admin part? well, i guess it depends on why you’re doing it. how nice would it be if we had those
flying monkeys elves/sprites to do all that stuff for us? but we don’t, so in order to balance it out, make sure you put in the time to meet up with your short-termers. perhaps it’s time to cut back and focus.
i can honestly say that during those hours when i’m sitting there talking to one of them, i’m not thinking about the stuff i need to do (which oddly enough, i do think about even when i’m on vacation). sure, will there be situations where i won’t always get to meet up with someone – of course. but that’s why some also have their own disciplers assigned to them (a fellow missionary on your field). in those situations (usually when the short-termer is part of a ministry team that is not in my city), i’m just here as a separate option and i make the effort to go visit them once every month, if possible. if that’s not an option, phone/skype calls can do the trick, too. either way, the point is that you are taking the time to keep up with them. (i find that they’ll also be much more responsive when they get back home!)
all this to say – this is a hard role to play, and others may not realise it, but i understand the frustration and disappointment that is part of it. oftentimes the issues on the admin side of things weighs everything down and may ruin your day when you least expect it. however, it’s those moments when you get to sit with a short-termer and talk, encourage and pray with them that makes you feel that all the frustrating and possibly horrific (yes, that’s how i really feel sometimes) admin you get put through is worth it. because despite all those emails, application forms, “let’s-skype-to-resolve this” calls – God is faithful and wants to see us all awakened to what He is doing around the world so that we can be a part of it.
as for the short-termers, God will shake them awake.
our job? help them out of bed once they’re up (figuratively speaking, of course). don’t get so bogged down with admin that you don’t have time to walk alongside your short-termers. walk with them. teach. pray. encourage.
then let Him show them which door to go through - and be on the other side to greet them when they do.
here’s proof that discipleship is important: Spaghetti, Weird People & Please-God-Not-Africa
also for ref:
(click here to see the jerry maguire clip: http://youtu.be/zDbV2-tZgbg )
(click here to see This is Discipleship clip: http://youtu.be/rk8ERxqCZqQ)