Reflections and resources for lifelong learning for missionaries

Category: Spiritual Disciplines Page 1 of 2

staying on top of things
Photo by Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash

Staying on top of things

A few years ago, I was planning for an upcoming “boot camp” for new field leaders. Our boot camps are two full days of training but hardly “a place or undertaking that resembles a military boot camp especially by requiring one to endure intensive training or initiation”.1 Merriam Webster definition #3 for “boot camp. But then maybe we should ask the participants, not the trainer! In preparation, I asked these new field leaders and their directors what topics they would want us to cover. I gave them a list of topics we had covered in previous years. Someone suggested “how to stay on top of things”, something not on my list. In subsequent years, participants have almost always selected this topic as something they want to address at boot camp.

The difficulty of staying on top of things

This suggestion initially surprised me, but it immediately made sense. New field leaders have a steep learning curve as they move from front-line ministry into more administrative roles in missions. One of the challenges in this transition is how to manage the myriad of expectations, tasks and messages that come with their new role. See my recent blog post on the paradoxes of leadership. But regardless of whether you find yourself in a new leadership role or not, we all struggle to “stay on top of things”. As mission workers, we all end up wearing multiple hats, filling many different roles because of a shortage of personnel.

In this blog post, I want to briefly summarize what we talk about in this hour and a half session at boot camp. These are the principles and tools that have been most helpful for me to “stay on top of things”. I recognize that you will need to adjust my system to fit your personality and work style.

feeding your soul

Feeding your soul in a time of crisis

In my last post, I reflected on our new status as refugees from Ukraine. I talked about some of the ways that God had prepared me for this crisis and was helping me process this new reality. The processing continues. We have not given up on the hope that we may be able to return to Ukraine and resume our ministry there. But we are seeking to deal with the possibility that we may not. Today, I want to reflect on what has sustained me through this time of crisis, even when the future is so uncertain, and answers to my questions seem so far away. How do I feed my soul when God does not seem to answer our prayers?

A personal crisis

Without a doubt, what all of us see depicted on the news is far more catastrophic than my personal crisis. Yet the possibility that our cross-cultural life and ministry may have come to an end on January 30 has created a significant amount of stress and anxiety within me. As many of you know, my wife and I have made Kyiv, Ukraine our home and base of ministry since 2009. In order to facilitate a training program for new missionaries, we traveled to North America at the end of January. We had planned to be in North America for about 10 weeks, with return tickets booked for a few days after the completion of the training program.

But the day I opened the online course was also the day that Russia began its “special military operation” in Ukraine.  One of the first residential buildings in our city to be hit in the conflict was about 200 meters from our apartment building. Since then, most of our friends and all of our missionary colleagues have left Ukraine or at least evacuated out of Kyiv.

Dealing with many questions

We pray daily for peace to be restored in Ukraine and for the safety and protection of friends that remain in Kyiv or in that country. When will the conflict end? Will we ever be able to return to our home? Where will we live if we are not able to return? We are currently staying with relatives in Canada but know that this is not a long-term solution.

How does God’s calling on my life to develop leaders intersect with the need of the refugees pouring out of Ukraine? I know so little about working with refugees. I am still struggling to understand what it means for me to be a refugee. How can I train others to work with them?

Spiritual disciplines requires effort but provide great benefits.

Exploring Spiritual Formation: Discipline

The Problem

I hate discipline. But I love what it does for me. When I see the word, I think of how I felt each time my parents punished me for my transgressions. Yet those episodes helped me learn right from wrong. And when I heard the gospel, I knew I was a sinner in need of a Savior. Though it was painful to admit my sin, I’ve loved what repentance and seeking the forgiveness of God have done for my life.

Despite the benefits of discipline, the word itself can cause discomfort. As I talk with others about engaging in the spiritual disciplines, many say they feel an inner resistance to the concept due to the connotations of the word. There is, however, more to discipline than punishment. Here is a brief review of some concepts attached to “discipline.”1Kurian, George Thomas, Editor, “Discipline,” in Nelson’s New Christian Dictionary (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2001) 241-242. The following concepts are included in the definition of discipline: “Teaching of precepts and commandments that help Christian growth and discipleship….Punishment….Rigorous training….Rites and activities of a denomination….Practice of correction of serious faults of faith or life by the congregation or its leaders.” Also, see Lane, William L., “Discipline,” in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Volume 1, General Editor: Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1979), 948-950, for a presentation of some Old and New Testament concepts of discipline including: OT— “training, instruction, and firm guidance…reproof, correction, and punishment” and NT—“Instruction.…training by act, example, and word” and the discipline of suffering for one’s faith.

Lament and contentment in suffering

Exploring Spiritual Formation: Contentment

This is the fifth of a series on “Exploring Spiritual Formation” by Lynn Karidis.

The Situation

Pasta. Again. Don’t get me wrong, I like pasta. At least, I used to before it began to show up on my dinner table multiple times a week. Now I’m not so sure. My predicament is no one’s fault but my own. I’m the one who stocked the pantry for our shelter-in-place experience.

It’s true I’m discovering how many ways one can use pasta to feed the family. But my discontent is troubling me. After hearing about the thousands of people who’ve lost their jobs—and seeing hundreds of cars lined up to receive help from food banks—I feel a bit foolish for complaining about anything that shows up on my dinner table. Though my dilemma is real, I want to avoid responding like the Israelites did while wandering in the wilderness.

Exploring Spiritual Formation: Burnout

The Situation
You love Jesus. You’ve dedicated your life to serving him. You’re loyal, diligent, and you work hard. It’s not unusual for you to check your email after hours, and you’re even willing to work on your day off, if necessary. Lately, it seems like it’s necessary a lot.

You’ve been known to sacrifice for the good of the team, and you often give up time with family or friends to tend to others in need. You’re usually willing to take on extra projects. Sleep is a luxury. Exhaustion is a constant companion, and you can’t remember the last time you took a vacation that didn’t involve a visit with a supporter.

Exploring Spiritual Formation: Gifting

It happens every year: the gift that no one else wants finds its way under my Christmas tree. One year it was an electric hot dog cooker. The contraption had twelve metal prongs that sent electricity through the meat—I felt like Dr. Frankenstein every time I plugged it in. Another year I received a box of homemade cookies regifted to me because the original recipient thought the treats “tasted like smoke.” They did.  And who hasn’t received a perfect candidate for an ugly sweater contest? Confession: I’m sure I’ve given a few poorly chosen sweaters, too.

These experiences, along with the commercialization of Christmas, sometimes make me want to give up gift giving altogether. I wonder how all this madness celebrates Christ. It’s so easy to forget the real reason for the season in the rush to get the best bargain online or at the mall. Is it possible to find the Savior somewhere in the mix of shopping, wrapping, and exchanging presents? Would it be better to eliminate the tradition in order to focus on Jesus? In my search for answers, I decided to turn to the Christmas story for insight. I was surprised to discover how much gifting occurs there.

Sensible Shoes

Today’s book review was written by Brittany Garrett, who serves with her husband and 3 children in Romania.

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Sensible Shoes: A Story About the Spiritual Journey by Sharon Garlough Brown is a fictional narrative of four women on a journey toward deeper intimacy with Christ.  Each of these women bring their own baggage as they begin their Sacred Journey, and we get to witness their brokenness as well as the beginnings of their healing.

I saw part of myself in each of the four main characters.  As they learned about some of the spiritual disciplines, I, too, learned practical ways to apply them.  I enjoyed watching their stories unfold and felt satisfaction as an onlooker getting to see how God was creating beauty from their mess.  You see their struggle and their resistance to some of the disciplines and how God uses even our resistance to show us His faithful pursuit of us.

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