Tag: permanence

Mission at Home

Somewhere along the way many congregations in the USA began to see “missions” as what we did overseas, while “evangelism” or “discipleship” was what we did at home or in our own community. This division of ideas does not exist in the New Testament. We are called to “make disciples of all nations,” and in Acts, Luke quotes Jesus more specifically as us “being witnesses, first in Jerusalem then Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” The task is not divided between what we do at home and what we do overseas. It is one single mission and what we do here is intimately involved with what we do there (regardless of where “there” might be).

I am learning this lesson in my new ministry in Dubois, WY. This is definitely small-town USA! Less than a thousand people in the town limits with maybe 1500-2000 in the surrounding area. Most people are prosperous, but there remains many needs that the church can and should address: An aging population as most young adults leave never to come back; Too few jobs and opportunities for those young adults which leads them to abandon the town; A struggling business community that is so geared to summer tourists, it has nothing to offer the rest of the year.

But we do have some advantages! First, the oil boom left behind an excellent school and school system. With only 130 students (total) in grades k-12, this is unusual. However, we have the school now and the opportunity to train young people for both professional and trade careers. We also have a very active church community. Granted, they are kind of divided between the Evangelical and Social Justice camps, but the fact is they are already engaged with the community and have the potential to create a lot of positive change. We also have a very beautiful environment! Surrounded by the Absaroka and Wind River Mountains, we are on the main southern pathway into Yellowstone and the valley of Jackson Hole. This beauty is not just a characteristic of our scenery. Rather it is probably one of our most attractive assets. We have four seasons of sports and the potential to be a major visitor destination.

As far as spiritual needs, most of the folks who are interested in church are in church somewhere. But the unchurched seem so apathetic as to be almost impossible to reach with the Gospel. Many within the churches are very secular and church-hopping seems to be a favorite pastime here.

So, just like the mission fields of Haiti or Ecuador or anywhere else, we need not only the Good News, we need community and business development; some church discipleship to mature the folks we already have, and some form of economic stimulus to foster growth in jobs and opportunities. Sounds like real mission work! Maybe the ideas we use over there will help over here and the opportunities we try here to reach our community just might help us over there.

June Team Returns Home

About a year ago, I started pushing a former student of mine to come to Haiti with me. At the time I just wanted Steve to experience this island nation and see for himself why I loved Haiti and Haitians so much. Steve is a high school coach at Ed White High School and a pastor at Vision Baptist Church. In December of 2017, I met Linda Klumpp, who ran a ministry here in Jacksonville called HappyPeriodJax. This ministry provides feminine hygiene supplies for homeless women and women in our local shelters. Almost immediately, she started talking about working with me in Haiti. Shortly after we met, she passed her board exams for her Medical Doctor license. These two were the first two I thought of bringing to Haiti in the summer of 2018.

I also wanted my wife to go with me. Although we have both been on several short-term mission trips, we had only been on one together. This would give me the chance to share my work in Haiti with her and allow her to see all the people and places I was always talking about. Now we had the team up to four people counting me. Then one Sunday my nephew, Mike, said he would like to go with me sometime. I felt the Holy Spirit telling me to add him to this team. He said yes.

A couple other people had expressed an interest, but as the date began approaching, these four and myself became the only ones committed to this trip. Two pastors, one who was also a coach and the other who had experience as a mechanic and cabinet maker. A school music teacher (my wife), a businessman and author (my nephew, Mike), and a newly certified physician.

On June 16 we left for Haiti. Steve preached Sunday morning at the local church in Bayonnais. Monday thru Friday, “Dr. Linda” worked in the clinic with our school nurse, Marc, and our midwife, Zebetee. This was a very interesting dynamic as typically in Haitian culture physicians are male and nurses and midwives are female. This week, the physician was a female and both the nurse and midwife were males. Mike and Steve spent a lot of time playing with the kids. I worked on the solar inverter and got power back on to the guest house. Ron Fink, another ICDM partner, and I worked with Mike and Steve and a few of the local men to remove a refrigerated box from a truck and turn it into a walk-in fridge/freezer for the compound. Some of the team painted the upstairs bathrooms. And all week, Joi did a Vacation Bible School with Rosemond Pierre. Sometimes it did not seem like we were accomplishing very much. However, after I returned home and thought about it, I realized these five people had accomplished much. But it was more than just the tasks we performed.

Steve got to spend some time with Ron’s daughter talking, laughing, and working together. Joi got to know some of the children and work with them in VBS. Mike got so popular with the kids he could not walk through the village without the kids crying out “Mike, Mike, Mike!” Dr. Linda became so popular the women started asking for her specifically. This is really what short-term missions is all about. We think we go to do some task or work on some project. But what really matters are the conversations we share, the meals we eat together, and the relationships we build. Every one of us came back home with new friends in our hearts and that matters more than any work we accomplish while there.

Why do I say this? Because when you know someone by name and have heard their story, it is hard to ever forget either them or the place where they live. This is why partnership is the goal!

Missions and Money

There are two myths about missions and money. The first is typical of people who live fairly prosperous lives and do not themselves do charity or mission work. This myth is that we can throw money at a problem and this will fix it. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti literally billions of dollars were spent (or at least were claimed to be spent) in helping Haiti. But none of this money actually trickled into the local economy and many of the times when donations did reach the affected communities, the fact that food and supplies were handed out free wrecked the local businesses and left people in worst shape than before the “aid” was supplied. Some of the organizations providing “aid” required that supplies and equipment be purchased in the home country rather than in Haiti. This also deprived the local economy and businesses from taking part in their own recovery. I do not want to describe all the ways that throwing money at a problem does not work. If you want to see how that did not work in Haiti, I suggest Jonathan Katz’s book: The Big Truck That Went By.

Another myth about missions and money is that the church is the only organization we need to support missions. Many folks and churches think that by simply giving to missions they have met the demands of the Gospel and have no further responsibility. The problem is that there are far more needs than there are dollars and people to meet them. For the missionary, this means they have to seek funding to do the things they do among people who may already feel (correctly or mistakenly) that they are doing enough.

One answer for both missionaries and the churches that support them is to engage their communities in helping. The team  I worked with in Cape May Court House, NJ started an annual golf tournament as a fundraiser. Although it attracted some players from the church, most of the participants were not active church members. They got donors and sponsors from local businesses who donated door prizes and hole prizes. They even have two car dealers donate a car for two “hole-in-one” holes. If you get a hole in one on that hole, you win a car. This team has raise $20,000-30,000 each year since starting this tournament.

I would like to hear from some of my readers/followers about what you have done to support the work of short-term or full-time missionaries. What are some creative ways we can engage our communities and allow bigger projects to happen that feed, clothe, and support those in need as well as spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

Leadership and Loyalty

Leadership and Loyalty

One of the most disappointing experiences I have had as a pastor is the disloyalty of folks who have at first spoken their commitment to my leadership, but then turn against me when the personal cost of discipleship becomes too great for them. So here are a few of my thoughts on leadership and loyalty.

First, loyalty begins in the life of the leader. Whether a pastor or CEO, the leader must be loyal to the institution or organization and especially to the folks who he or she expects to work with them in the organization. For a pastor or missionary, this means they must first of all be committed to the people they are called to serve and to any organization through which they are called to work. For me this is why I choose to work for and through International Christian Development Missions. This is not the only good organization that is working in Haiti and they care certainly not the only one I could work with. However, their vision and mission matches very closely with what I have discerned as God’s call on my life. What is more, I know the leaders in ICDM and am comfortable submitting to their guidance and direction for all that I do.

Second, loyalty is centered around human relationships. If I do not know people and allow them to know me, then my leadership will by default fail! If you are a pastor or missionary, this is even more critical as you cannot serve and love people you do not know and share life with. It is not enough for me (personally) to just visit Haiti on a regular basis. I must also know people who live there, work there, and have their families there. In spite of numerous trips to Haiti, I first began to sense my relational connection this past January. I met folks like Marcdala, Jean Noel, Abraham, Verlen, Gina, and Djimsy. Knowing these people and staying in contact with them when I am here in the states, is a key loyalty builder for me. The more I know them and love them, the more drawn to Haiti I become. And through them, I have the potential to meet and know even more people. With each expansion of my relationships comes an expansion of my loyalty to and love for the Haitian people.

Third, loyalty develops when people see that you are not going to walk out on them in the hard times. I have watched many congregations of the church who were on the verge of great growth simply disintegrate because a leader became overwhelmed and walked out too early. Again, this is loyalty of the leader for the people, but without it, there can be no expectation that others will follow and stick to the task. My prayer is that I am never guilty of this in my work in Haiti. My hope is that God has called me to this task for the remainder of my earthly life. There are challenges ahead and obstacles that I must overcome, but this is the journey and mission God has called me to. What can I do except follow?