Reflections and resources for lifelong learning for missionaries

Category: Training Page 1 of 18

children of missionaries
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My children chose not to believe

This blog post was originally posted on the blog “A Life Overseas“. The full title of the blog post was “I went to a foreign country to share the gospel. My children grew up and chose not to believe”. It is reposted with permission from the author who has chosen to remain anonymous to protect her family’s privacy. If you wish to reach out to her for support, please leave a reply at the bottom of this blog post. The SEND U blog editor will then connect you to the author through email.

Raising up children on the mission field

I never intended to be an overseas missionary. Then in 1997, I found myself living in Russia with my husband and four small children. We believed God had sent us to this place, and we had a glorious ten years of serving and ministering there. When we arrived, our children were two, five, and six, and eight. I homeschooled them, and they enjoyed being a part of the local church family.

I had always believed that if you raised a child in the love and nurture of the Lord, they too would follow Jesus. We believed the verse, “Raise up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” You can only imagine the shock we felt when our son entered university, lost interest in spiritual things and began to date an unbeliever!

How could this happen to us?

We were wholeheartedly following the Lord! How could this happen? We tried to get him to go to the campus fellowships, but there was no interest. Little did I know at the time that two of my girls would follow the same path. My next oldest daughter went to a Christian college near our home. I didn’t want her to attend a secular university like her brother! She was fine for a while, but then she, too, began to drift. Eventually she lost interest in being a Christian. My next daughter stayed closer to home, faced some difficulties at college and did not stray from her faith. My youngest daughter, after graduating from a Christian high school, followed her brother to the secular university near our home and also lost interest in the things of God.

What can I say? I never expected this. I honestly thought that since they were being raised in the Lord with a loving and involved family, our children would never depart from Him. Since that time I have blamed myself, my husband, our mission, and even our church. But in the end I realized that it may not have been any of these things. I have come to believe it was their free will. They became curious about life “outside” the Christian world they were raised in. They, like all of us, need their own salvation experience, and though we trained them in the fear of the Lord and tried to do our best, God gave them the freedom to make their own choices. 

organizational involvement
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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.

resilience and grace
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The source of resilience – grace

What is missional resilience? In a nutshell, it’s grace not grit. We must receive Jesus’ resilience to join him in his mission as we turn toward the triune God, others, and ourselves for loving support.

Geoff Whiteman, Resilient Global Worker Study: Persevering with Joy, March 2021.

In my previous blog post, I talked about the need for resilience in cross-cultural work and particularly now in the pandemic. I mentioned Geoff Whiteman’s research. He surveyed more than 1000 missionaries to find out what contributes to making global workers more resilient. What was his overall conclusion? It can be found in the quote above – resilience in mission work is rooted in God’s grace.

In a workshop at the 2021 Missio Nexus Mission Leaders Conference, Whiteman presented various recommendations for mission organizations to support missional resilience. Based on his research, he talked about the type of training, leadership, and caring that would help global workers become and stay resilient. Whiteman’s research demonstrated that mission organizations have much to learn and many ways in which they can improve. Nevertheless, Whiteman still concludes that resilience is first and foremost a gift of God’s grace.

The witness of Scripture

This echoes the witness of the Scriptures. Repeatedly we find that the Word of God promises the grace of resilience to those who cannot endure in their own strength. Here are a couple of examples.

restart
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Planning to Restart

Recently I mentioned to a friend that my wife and I will begin our retirement with a sabbatical. He looked at me oddly saying that sabbaticals are usually followed by a return to work. My response was that Christ still has good works for us to do in our retirement (Eph 2:10). In other words, a retirement sabbatical is a time to rest, reflect on past ministry, and discern God’s calling for our remaining years. Indeed, we are called to be a people zealous for good works (Titus 2:13-14). And there is no expiration date on that calling!

Essentially, a retirement sabbatical prepares us for a restart. The nine practices mentioned in the previous post can launch us into a fulfilling retirement. Moreover, they help us find meaning and purpose in our later years. A retirement sabbatical is an antidote to the boredom of endless vacation.1 See my first blog post in this series.

Restart

Restarting after our retirement sabbatical is a renewed expression of our identity and calling as we seek to finish well. Indeed, “calling is central to the challenge and privilege of finishing well in life (Os Guinness, The Call, p. 227). Guinness defines calling as:

transformed by the Scriptures
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Mentoring: Transformed by the Scriptures

Editor’s note: We are continuing our blog series on mentoring using the Mentoring Pillars written by the late Jim Feiker, a former member of SEND International. This twelfth and last pillar talks about how the Scriptures transform the mentees and how important the Scriptures are in the mentoring process.

Three men in Scripture stand out as being known for their devotion to and their use of Scripture. They are Timothy (2 Timothy 3:15-17), Apollos (Acts 18: 24), and Ezra (Ezra 7:10). All were characterized by being “mighty in the Scriptures,” or “well versed and learned in the Scripture.”

Ezra’s example

Ezra is my favorite Old Testament character with this noteworthy distinction. As a priest, scribe, and teacher, Ezra was sent by the king of Babylon to Jerusalem to teach God’s laws to Israel. One verse in Ezra summarizes it all:

For Ezra had devoted himself to the study, and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.

Ezra 7:10

Let’s make a few observations to unpack his heart and commitment to Scripture.

“For” is referring back to Ezra 7:9. God’s hand was upon him because he devoted himself to the Scriptures. Three times in the book of Ezra it says of him “for the hand of the Lord his God is upon him.” His spiritual authority to lead emerged from God anointing him and in his manifesting God’s presence.

affirmation
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The Power of Affirmation

Editor’s note: We are continuing our blog series on mentoring using the Mentoring Pillars written by the late Jim Feiker, a former member of SEND International. This eleventh pillar talks about how powerful affirmation can be in a mentoring relationship.

Every one of us is a flickering flame. We need people to both cup their hands around us to protect the flame from going out and to fan it into a stronger burning flame. They can do so by giving verbal affirmation. Encouragement, affirmation, exhortation, admonition, and blessing are all words used interchangeably in Scripture.

A study of men and women of God suggests that God uses both affirmation and the deprivation of it as tools in our formation. God uniquely designs adversity, pain, suffering, trials, and his discipline as well as adversity to shape us into His likeness. They are gifts from his loving hand. In this mentoring pillar, affirmation will be our primary focus.

David blesses his family

“And David went home to bless his family.” Two times in Scripture at least,1 2 Samuel 6:20; 1 Chron. 16:43 this phrase is mentioned about David. After he had led his soldiers into victory, David chose to go home and to bless and affirm his family. Nothing was so important to him at a time when his family needed to see him and he needed to be with them. Their relationship brought mutual encouragement. He found blessing from his family, and blessing his family was a supreme role to him as a father. David knew that no one could honor and bring verbal affirmation as powerfully as he could.

All of us know people who come from a family which was blessed by a father and mother, where grace filled the home. We know them, for they dispense grace and bless every one of us.

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Finishing Well: Cheering the Next Runner

What would you think of a relay runner who went to the locker room right after completing his or her lap? Perhaps you would think the runner had suffered an injury or had some other health concern. Aside from that, we would question their relationship with the rest of the team. A healthy relay team recognizes that success depends on the performance of each runner. Therefore, each member of the team who has completed their leg stays on the field and cheers on the remaining runners. They stay off the track and cheer from the sidelines.

In this series, we have been using the analogy of a relay race for finishing well in a ministry assignment. So, how do we cheer those who follow us as we complete our ministry assignment? How do we keep from getting in the way of their performance? Our relationship with those who follow us in ministry shapes our cheering for them as they run their lap.

Relationships Matter

Yes, it would be strange for a relay runner to go directly to the locker room. Similarly, it would be tragic for church planters to cut off the relationship with the local church leaders who succeed them in leading the new church. Tom Steffen wrote:

The seventh and final component is determining how church planters can maintain good relationships after the phase-out. They work themselves out of a job, but not out of a relationship. Continued fellowship includes prayer, visits, letters of challenge and encouragement, sending other people to visit, and cautious financial assistance.

Tom Steffen, Passing the Baton, p. 18.

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