Reflections and resources for lifelong learning for missionaries

Category: Mission Leadership Page 1 of 2

making decisions
Photo by Caleb Jones on Unsplash

Making better decisions

At the end of January earlier this year, my wife and I as well as my colleagues in Ukraine had to make some important decisions. Were we going to stay in Ukraine? Our embassies were warning us about an impending invasion from Russia and encouraging us to leave. If we stayed, what would be sufficient reason to leave in the future? If we left, where would we travel to? Bertha and I had tickets to leave Ukraine on February 20 for some training we had planned many months ago. Should we wait until then or change our travel plans so as to leave earlier?

Missionaries make life-altering decisions

Cross-cultural workers like ourselves have made many life-changing decisions over the course of our missionary career. Our initial decision to join a mission organization had significant and long-lasting consequences for ourselves, our families and our sending church.

The decision we made to transfer from the Philippines to Russia in 1998 was just as major a decision. My wife and I struggled for a couple of years trying to discern whether we should leave the Philippines, when would be the right time to do so, and where we would move to. The decision we finally made meant we were going to have to learn a very different language and culture. Our children’s future education was going to be impacted in a big way since we would not have a MK school in Far East Russia.

Our decision almost 10 years later to accept the invitation to head up our mission’s training department and move to Ukraine had similar far-reaching consequences.

Now we are faced with the decision of where our future ministry will be based, in light of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

organizational involvement
Photo by Camylla Battani on Unsplash

Resilience: What part does the organization play?

We have been discussing the need for resilience among cross-cultural workers. In the last post, we talked about how God develops resilience through suffering. But what is the mission organization’s responsibility in supporting their workers in these times of crisis and stress? How does the organization determine its level of involvement in caring for its missionaries?

These questions are not easily answered. Cross-cultural workers vary widely in their desire for and expectations of organizational involvement. Some only want their organization to provide receipts to their donors and make sure the missionary receives the support on a regular basis. Others want a full range of services, including health insurance, training, pastoral care, leadership, and supervision, conferences and retreats, risk assessments and security training, and IT support.

SEND International is one mission that has sought to better determine what level of organizational involvement it should provide for its members’ well-being. Here is the story of what one region in SEND has done to find answers to these questions.

A survey of field missionaries

In 2019 SEND International established a workgroup to study the feasibility of designing and implementing a regional “hub” structure for the Eurasia region. SEND had already worked in this part of the world for a couple of decades, but we wanted to strengthen the services we provided to our missionaries serving there. One of the mandates of the workgroup was to protect what works well in Eurasia (strengths) while improving what is not working well (gaps). To learn more about the strengths and gaps of our organization in this region, the workgroup created a questionnaire and a list of possible interviewees.

a challenging climb

Both invitation and challenge needed

A disciple-making culture?

In the past few years, we have talked a lot about changing our organizational culture. Back when SEND U (our training department) was being launched, we wanted to establish a coaching culture in our organization, meaning coaching will become a pervasive method of supervision, leadership development, and membership development. I think we have made a lot of progress in establishing that culture. In more recent years, we have talked about creating a culture of collaboration, intentionality, and accountability. Many missionaries long to break away from a highly individualistic orientation and work on stronger teams. But we are an organization that describes itself as a global movement of Jesus followers making disciples among the unreached.1https://send.org/about. If this is to be true, then we need to have a disciple-making culture within the organization. What does it take to create a disciple-making culture?

Book Review: Discipling in a Multicultural World

Ajith Fernando is the kind of person I want to listen to concerning Discipling in a Multicultural World. He is a thoughtful practitioner. The back cover describes the book:

Rooted in over four decades of multicultural discipleship experience, Ajith Fernando offers biblical principles for discipling and presents examples showing how they apply to daily life and ministry. He addresses key cultural challenges, such as the value of honor and shame, honoring family commitments, and dealing with persecution, and helps us think realistically about the cost and commitment required for productive cross-cultural ministry. This practical guide to discipleship will help us help others grow into mature and godly followers of Christ.

Book Review: Women in God’s Mission: Accepting the Invitation to Serve and Lead

Women in God’s Mission: Accepting the Invitation to Serve and Lead by Mary  T. Leiderleitner. Downer’s Grove: Intervarsity Press, 2018.

Women in God's Mission: Accepting the Invitation to Serve and Lead by [Lederleitner, Mary T.]This book is a summary of Dr. Mary Leiderleitner’s research into how women are serving and leading in God’s mission around the world. Her research was framed by two questions: 1) “What are diverse women experiencing as they lead in God’s mission? and 2) “What do they believe they need in order to do their best work as leaders in God’s mission?”  These questions were answered by 95 women from 28 countries through interviews, written surveys, and focus groups. She includes a lengthy explanation in the appendix of her research methodology.

Multi-tasking is a cultural trait

Over the past few weeks, I have been listening to a fascinating series of lectures by Dr. David Livermore of the Cultural Intelligence Center.  I purchased the lectures on Audible as part of one of “The Great Courses” that they offer. This course is 12 hours long and is entitled “Customs of the World: Using Cultural Intelligence to Adapt, Wherever You Are.” I would highly recommend the course in learning more about other cultures and as part of learning to work in other cultures and on multicultural teams.

In one of the lectures, Dr. Livermore talked about how different cultures view time. Besides contrasting a value on punctuality with a value on relationships, he talked about monochronic and polychronic cultures.

Wearing multiple hats

Today, one of my students wrote a note on their assignment about job descriptions, “I think I have too many jobs.”

I can identify. I have two mission job descriptions. Both of them are leadership roles. One of them is supposed to take up about 60% of my time and the other the remaining 40%. I have wondered at times whether they are not in actuality two full-time positions that have somehow both found their way on to my plate. Following that analogy, pieces of both do fall off the edge and slop on to the floor every once in a while.  Maybe more often that I admit.

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