Reflections and resources for lifelong learning for missionaries

Tag: Paul Page 1 of 5

hard work
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Should missionaries work long hours?

I have observed that missionaries are no longer quite as willing to talk about how many hours we are working. Have you noticed the difference as well? I used to see it as a badge of honor that I had worked more than 60 hours in the past week. I am not so sure that I would admit that today. Would my colleagues see me as a workaholic or unbalanced in my priorities?

I also must acknowledge that I don’t have the same level of energy as I did 30 years ago. My work weeks rarely if ever exceed sixty hours these days, whereas when I was a first-term missionary, they were commonplace.

As missionaries, we still like to say that we are busy. But in contrast to what I remember from 30 years ago, we are now much more likely to think that something is wrong with us or our assignment if we end up working a 12-hour day.

The importance of sabbath and vacation

We are also more free to talk about the importance of sabbath and taking vacations. SEND developed a sabbatical policy in 2016. I have been amazed at how many SEND staff have already taken a sabbatical since then. I am one of them. These are good developments, I believe. Weekly sabbaths, vacations and sabbaticals are necessary and helpful. By incorporating these into our lives, we acknowledge that we are not God and that we are not indispensable to the work.

collaborating prayer

Co-workers through prayer

Ukraine has been our home for the past 12 years. I would love to be back there now, if not for the ongoing military conflict in that country. But currently, we are back in Canada and we do not know when we will be able to return to our home in Ukraine. How can we continue to participate in ministry in Ukraine if we are located thousands of kilometers away? There are many good answers to that question. Some of them can be found on our mission organization’s webpage on Ukraine. In this post, I would like to focus on intercessory prayer.

Praying for Ukraine

For the past several months, my email signature has said “Pray for peace in Ukraine” with a link to our mission webpage. That webpage gives a couple of resources to guide our prayers for the crisis in that country. Using the PrayerMate app, I have been using the prayer list entitled “SEND 40 Days of Prayer for Ukraine, Russia, Europe, and the World.” I also have a reminder set on my phone that dings a few times throughout the day to remind me to pray for Ukraine.

Many of you are also doing something similar. Frankly, I have been amazed at the number of people that have assured me that they are praying for Ukraine. I hope that we are not simply praying for a military victory for one side of the conflict or the other. My prayers are for the safety and spiritual resilience of the believers who have fled and those that remain. I pray that the vision of mobilizing Ukrainian believers to the unreached peoples of Eurasia and Europe will become reality. I pray that God will turn this horrible tragedy into something that will bless the world.

Do my prayers matter?

But is praying for people in another country, particularly if we don’t know them by name, all that significant a help? I mean, don’t the prayers of our Ukrainian brothers and sisters reach the throne of God with even more passion and urgency than my prayers? Why is it necessary that I also participate in this practice of presenting the needs of Ukraine before our loving and sovereign heavenly Father?

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.

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.
intercession
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Intercession: The Indispensable Priority in Mentoring

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 tenth pillar emphasizes the importance of intercession in the mentoring relationship.

My mother’s intercession for me

Minneapolis was a great place to grow up. Its people gave me a positive spiritual heritage. My mother gave me to God as Hannah did with Samuel. She had lost her second child by miscarriage and then I entered this world. My mother never told me she had “lent me to God for His purposes” until I was 17. She only let me know when she knew that I had dedicated my life to Jesus as Lord and to ministry. I knew that my mother prayed for me often and that she enlisted others to pray for me.

God took her at her word, called me into ministry, shaped and transformed my life, and put key mentors in my life. All my life I have felt that I am reserved for God and His purposes only. Mother, now in the Lord’s presence, never knew the impact she had on my life by intercession. It was more important than anything else she ever did for me. The prayers she prayed for me extend on through my life and will influence my life forever. Thanks, Mom!

Chuck Swindoll has made a powerful statement:

There is no more significant involvement in another’s life than prevailing, consistent prayer. It is more helpful than the gift of money, more encouraging than a strong sermon, more effective than a compliment, more reassuring than a physical embrace.

quoted in When Couples Pray by Cheri Fuller, p. 58.

We need to both intercede for those we mentor and teach them to intercede for others by our modeling. There is no greater calling in our mentoring.

running well
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Finishing Well: Running Your Leg of the Race

Let’s continue thinking about finishing well in a ministry assignment. In our last blog post, we talked about receiving the baton well. So now we are running our leg of the race. We are now fully engaged in our ministry assignment. Furthermore, we have a working knowledge of our host language and culture. Yes, we will want to continue to grow in these areas as we serve. But it is now our turn to run well with the baton we have been given.

How we run our leg of the race will significantly impact finishing well. Of course, we want our ministry to further the progress of the gospel. We want to make a contribution to the contextualization of the gospel in our host culture, building on the progress of those who served before us. In the New Testament, Paul and the author of Hebrews use the race analogy to describe ministry and the Christian life. At the end of Paul’s life, he writes, “I have finished the race” (2 Timothy 4:7). So, what gave him a sense of finishing well? I see four ways we can run like Paul to finish well.

We Run with a Clear Purpose

Paul’s life was guided by a clear purpose. We see this in passages such as Acts 20:24, 1 Corinthians 9:23, and Philippians 3:14. In Acts 20:24 he describes his life as “my course” (the same word translated in 2 Timothy 4:7 as “race”). Notably, Paul identifies his purpose as completing his God-given work of faithfully “testifying to the gospel of the grace of God.” This goal drives him forward.1 1 Cor 9:23, Phil 3:14 He is focused on the prize awaiting him at the finish line. Eckhard Schnabel writes in his commentary on Acts,

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