Category Archives: short term missions

when you leave a ministry…

earlier today, i wrote a final email to the community that my ministry is in, reflecting briefly on the past almost-five years, thanking them for serving alongside me (albeit virtually, since we’re all in different fields), and saying goodbye.  it was a bittersweet email to write, but i did it.

and then i went into our office bathroom, sat on the toilet, and shed quiet tears for about a full minute.

sniffle.

sniffle.

nobody ever tells you there would be grief in leaving a ministry.

if you had asked me last year how i felt about handing over this role (as the short-term missions coordinator for our field), i would have said, “great.  i seriously cannot wait.  SRSLY.”  but that’s because after these few years, i was burnt out, exhausted, and just not doing well.  all i could think about was all the sleep i lost in the past few years.  all the frustrations that could never really be shared about.  all the hurt from people putting down support work (what my role was considered).  all the advice people kept giving me but who could never fully understand the extent of how complicated the role was.  not to mention, all my body functions that started shutting down – mentally, physically, emotionally, and yes, even spiritually, the longer i was in this role.

i secretly (and selfishly) used to hope that Jesus would return because heaven felt like my only safe place.

i thought i was so ready to finish my involvement in this ministry.

and yet here i am today, remembering the bitter, but also remembering the sweet.  i would not have thought about the fact that i would be putting behind me, four and a half years of my life, spent learning, living, (literally) bleeding, and breathing this ministry that God allowed me to serve in.  it became a part of me that was inseparable from who i am as a person, as a christian, as a missionary.  He taught me how to be content & at peace with being a nobody in ministry, in missions. to be faithful in what He has given me to work with, no matter how big or how small.   in many ways, God used it to further shape my outlook on missions, mobilisation, church partnerships, frontline vs. support ministry, and missions discipleship…among other things as well.  God also allowed me to be a part of various peoples’ lives, walking with them in their own missions journey, praying with them, and encouraging them.  all of those things are what made this ministry a joy to be a part of.

it was also a testament to God’s saving grace in my life – He showed me not only who i am, but even more so on days that were not good, in frustrating moments in ministry – who i would be without Him.  and that wasn’t a pretty sight.  haha.  i can’t even begin to tell you how many nights i went to bed so frustrated that i cried myself to sleep.

me when i'm being real.

me when i’m being real.

but now my time with this ministry on a formal level is over.  i am relieved, i am thankful, i am at peace, and i am content.

relieved that i can finally hand this ministry over.
thankful that God let me be a part of it the past few years, and for the many things He taught me.
at peace with how He will continue to use and move this ministry – His ministry –  forward.
content with how God led me, and continues to lead me towards the future.

as a missionary, i’ve learned to say hellos and goodbyes to people, places, and things.  but ministry has always felt like it’s just there, waiting for you when you get back from your hellos and goodbyes.  it seems silly, but i never thought that i’d be farewelling ministry – not ministry in general, but this particular ministry that i likely will not return to again in the future.  ministry often has it’s highs and lows, but to actually leave that ministry feels so jarring.  so in that sense, even ministry is not constant.  only God remains constant through all of life’s goodbyes.

God is good.  there is grief, but there is joy.  everything is going to be alright.  maybe not today…but eventually.

 

 

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flying monkeys and jerry maguire

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.

tumblr_lspznofs711qgvur0o1_500

i reckon gizmo would just be fun to have around but he’d pose the same problems.

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.

yes jerry, i helped you help me.

yes jerry, i helped you help me.  thanks.

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.

(i know, evil, right?! i seriously felt that way).

(i know, evil, right?!)

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)

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mission discipleship & why it matters: spaghetti, weird people & please-God-not-Africa

i’ll just cut right to it today.  in an effort to help people see just teeny bit of why there is a need for mission discipleship, i got my hands on these excerpts from a short-termer’s journal entries about their time on the field.  i present to you…

JOURNAL THOUGHTS FROM A SHORT-TERMER
(unoriginal title, i know.  but gimme a break, what else am i supposed to name it?)

“this first night, i stayed with a missionary lady who cooked me a spaghetti dinner. it was my first night in this country, and having just looked like a crazy person and cried my eyes out on the plane ride here, i was happy to be enjoying a meal with someone, even if i didn’t know her or understand her oddly accented English.  i asked her, “How long have you been in this country?”  She smiled and asked in return, “How old are you?”  i was 26.  she said, “i’ve been here longer than you’ve been alive and breathing!”  i was shocked.  26 years?  at least???  i couldn’t even imagine spending one year away from my family and friends!  man, i felt like such a wuss.”

{fast forward a few months}

“i’m now living on my own here and the reality that i am actually out here on the “mission field” has finally hit me.  i feel alone and i miss home.  but strangely enough, the thing i actually enjoy the most is the feeling i have when i am with these missionaries.  it feels like a family, yet i don’t really know any of them…not to mention they’re all about mom & dad’s age!  but each time they share a bit of their story with me, i feel their excitement and passion and all of this is being stored in my slowly-being-blown-up brain.  there is a closeness i feel with them that i don’t have at home – perhaps it is the feeling that we are all out here fighting a battle together.

i see their passion.  i see their heartbreak.  i see their overwhelming joy when a local friend begins asking questions about our God.  i hear their stories of pain, fear, struggles and triumphs in ministry.  most of all, i see their hearts, their willingness to be obedient to God to follow Him here to this country and go through all these experiences.  nobody said it would be easy.  it never is.  but i suppose that is the risk you take when you love God and are willing to follow Him wherever He leads.  i wonder if i could ever take that leap of faith?  am i cut out for missions work?  many of them have shared with me how they lived when they first came to the field 15-20 years ago.  surely if they could survive not just being away from family & home, but living without internet, tv & phones, then i could certainly do it WITH all those things??  i guess we’ll see in the long run.  well, at least God isn’t calling me to live in a hut in Africa.  i guess i should be thankful for that…or maybe i shouldn’t speak so soon just in case He does.”

{fast forward a few more months}

“it’s come to the end of my time here.  people keep asking me how i’ve changed – well for sure i’ve put on weight!  why is the food here so good??  but when i think back about the things i’ve learned, i can see how much these missionaries have poured into me, even though they might not realise it themselves.  i’m thankful that God gave me an opportunity to meet each of them, though some of them are a bit weird and in their own little world…but i actually think i enjoy my time with those the most!  when i struggled with living here, they shared with me how they could relate in every way.  in their sharing, i could see their honesty and openness – it was almost as if their first year was just last year; i had no choice but to believe them because they spoke with such conviction of how God met them in their struggles during their first few years.

what have i learned?  i’ve realised what a bubble i used to live in…my own little world.  as much as i served in church at home or wherever, i still always just fit into my own world.  these missionaries that i’ve come to know, helped me to maintain a kingdom perspective, which then reminded me that this life is not about me.  it helps me to see that in the big picture, what matters is God’s love and grace for all His people.  being out here made me realise not only how insignificant i am, but more importantly what matters in my life.  and i’d much rather be an insignificant nobody in God’s big picture, than a somebody in my own little world.  the missionaries all say that to leave their lives behind and come here in this foreign country to share the story of God’s grace hasn’t been a sacrifice.  perhaps one day i will truly understand that…”

——————-

mission discipleship matters.  walking alongside someone matters.  putting time into people matters.  helping them to have a kingdom perspective matters.

not everyone we disciple will become a longterm missionary on the field.  that’s not what i’m saying, and that’s okay.  there are so many different ways that being challenged to live a missions-focused life could play out.  sure, we’d love to see all the short-termers we get eventually become long-term missionaries  somewhere.  but, let’s face it – that’s most likely not gonna happen –  just keepin’ it real here.  however, since we never know where God leads each person, it doesn’t mean we don’t put in our all for each person that God brings to us.

if you’re wondering what happened with this short-termer and if she ever returned to the mission field, have i got news for you.   4 years after these journal entries, God led her first steps onto the mission field as a long-termer to serve alongside the very missionaries who discipled her.

hallelujah.

this entry lacks a pic/gif of some sort, so here ya go:

wombat

i hate to disappoint.

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