Saw the following in Ken Royers’s email newsletter that he sends out (for free) to personnel involved in missionary member care. In his January letter, he passed on “Good Listening: Three Before Me,” an article by Steve Karum of NTM. Although Karum does not use the word spiritual direction, what he is suggesting is a way of accompanying fellow missionaries in their journey with God as we listen to their stories. Is that not a form of SD? I suppose he is offering a little bit of SD and a bit of coaching He suggests we ask the following three questions as we listen to another’s story:
1. “In light of this how are you and God doing?”
2. “What strengths do you have that will help you meet this challenge?”
3, “Whom do you know who could help as you face this challenge?”
Following is Karum’s article in full:
“Three before me” is a little self-reminder, like a string tied on my finger, to stay focused on the one with whom I’m conversing by asking three important questions.
Currently our ministry is with missionaries on home assignment. We find that while all missionaries have a story to tell, telling the story is just half the experience. If “telling the story” is to be effective, the story-teller needs to have a good story-listener. Therefore the main question: How good a story-listener am I?
Has this ever happened to you? As the story-teller you’re deeply engaged in relating an incident when all of a sudden, out of the blue, your story is intercepted, hijacked! Somewhere in the course of your story telling the listener grew bored and took over the conversation! It might have happened in a short millisecond in which you paused or you said a word that triggered a story or memories, or even a hobby horse the listener insisted on relating. It’s hard when that happens. How do we handle it? Do we speak “Readers Digest Condensed” the next time we’re the story-teller?
As much as I don’t like it, how many times as a story-listener have I hijacked another person’s story? Have I adopted the un-golden rule, “Do unto others as they have done to you?” Seeking to encourage while interacting with the story-teller (without hijacking their story), I aim to ask three important questions to bring perspective into a difficult story.
We recently met with a couple en route to PNG. Since they had started “Partnership Development” they had several setbacks. After I heard of these events I asked them Question #1, “In light of this how are you and God doing?”
Although it may seem silly to do so I like to ask this question even when everything is going well. Maybe this is a question that should come later but I ask it first because we are spiritual beings and I believe it is best to start with the most important relationship we have — God and me. Question #1 pulls our attention to God. He knows all about our struggles and just as He knows about battles so He also knows the way through.
It is not uncommon to hear a challenge / struggle / disappointment woven through a missionary’s story. The missionary may not be sufficiently aware of the struggle to put it into words but I believe it’s there and it’s causing them stress, emotionally, physically or spiritually. Therefore I like to ask Question #2 in a positive way, “What strengths do you have that will help you meet this challenge?” This question focuses on our God-given strengths. These strengths will with His direction help us overcome the problem and grow stronger. It is a question that hopefully will draw the heart toward hope.
Humans are part of a social network and missionaries have several networks: friends, relatives, churches, mission organization, the ministry country or location, local believers, and co-workers. Within some networks missionaries feel very safe to the point they will reach out for help. Therefore Question #3: “Whom do you know who could help as you face this challenge?” This query points them toward another who can come alongside. Suffering is a given but suffering in solitude can seem intolerable.
Of course every conversation has a life of its own. It’s never the same as the previous one and that makes listening enjoyable. By utilizing these questions, each conversation will tell of one’s relationship with God — the questions, the blessing, and the challenges — the strengths they never knew they had, and the strength they drew from the rich wisdom of their friends.
Sometimes the “three before me” doesn’t seem to fit. The surroundings are important. Is it quiet? Is the topic safe to talk about publicly? How well do we know each other? These all need to be considered. So with that in mind here is what I try in conversation with missionaries.
It all starts with their story. I realize that is so “duh,” but I really believe missionaries, actually all people, feel honored through good listening. Through engaged listening the listener communicates respect, safety, and love to the missionary. Billy age 4 is quoted on the Internet, “When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different! You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.” I’d like every missionary to say, “I know my name is safe with Steve and Patty.”
In order to subscribe to Ken Royer’s newsletter, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
In a recent meeting, we led a discussion on the needs of missionaries and asked the following question. Thinking about missionaries from the time of recruitment to the period of retirement, what do they need in order to survive and thrive? Following a brainstorming session in small groups, we compiled a list and then asked the small groups to identify what basic category (that we had pre-selected) each need had fallen into.
Since this is a work-in-progress, I would appreciate if others out there could add to the list.
- Mission agency
- Schooling options and TCK care
- Welcome back
- Money and supporters
- Medical care
- IT and Technology
- Retirement plan
- Adequate sleep and rest
- Ownership of Vision/Mission/Values
- Debrief and listening
- Appropriate organizational exit
- Good relationships
- Family support
- Peace makers
- Sense of competency
- Sense of empowerment
- Challenges with support
- Cultural advice
- Good examples and mentors
- Ongoing training
- Godly effective leaders
- Permission to take initiative
- Member development
- Daniel learning
- Clear expectations
- Meaningful work
- Studies and training
- Good communication
- Contingency plans
- Monthly Information Sheet
- Identity security: A strong sense of who they are in Christ
- Deep relationship with God
- Faith in God
- Strong sense of call
- God’s word
“If God’s glory has captured your vision and His grace now owns your heart, you are unreservedly committed to the same thing that God is utterly devoted to–magnifying His glory and extending His grace to the peoples of the world through the gospel of Jesus Christ. If this is true, God will make your story a part of His story, and whether seemingly large or small, prominent or obscure, powerful or weak, your story will matter. Your life will make a contribution. You will be a part of God’s plan. That is all any of us could ever ask, expect or hope. God will make it true.” (208)
From Long Story Short: God, Eternity, History and You by John Kitchen. Apparently, the theme of Kitchens’ book is the following: “The goal of everything is the glory of God, and the means of everything is the grace of God.” (22)
Found this in one of David May’s book notes. A resource well worth the free subscription.
If the glory of God is the driving force behind missions, is God a narcicssist? God desires (hopefully as do we all) that there be a worshiping people before his throne from every tribe, tongue, nation and people (promised by Rev 5:9 and 7:9). John Piper has been one of the most vocal proponents that God is fully deserving of this glory from all. Missions involves gathering together worshippers so he gets more glory.
But for others, God’s concern for His own fame and glory seems to be “vain and egotistical”. Paul Copan tries to answer this question in an article, Divine Narcissism, in Philophia Christi (8:2:2006), “Why does God desire for us to worship, praise and glorify Him? Why is it wrong for us–but not for God–to be so self-preoccupied?”
His article is subtitled “A further defense of God’s Humilty”. Valuable thoughts for anyone with a passion for the glory of God.
Copan says that God should not be thought of as proud. “Rather, he has a realistic view of himself, not a false or exaggerated one. His view of himself isn’t distorted or unnecessarily lofty. He is God, after all!”
Speaking about praise, Copan says, “Praise is called for by creatures caught up with God’s greatness, power, goodness and love. Praise is the climax of realizing God’s excellencies, and creatures fittingly erupt in praise, spontaneously beckoning the rest of us to do the same. “ Amen and Amen!
What is the difference between a Texan, a hillbilly, and a missionary?
- A Texan anywhere in the world is still a Texan.
- There are hillbillies everywhere, but in Canada they are called Noufies. In Oklahoma, we called them Okies. They are the same everywhere but they have regional names.
- Missionaries are people who, when they are in Africa are from America, and when they are in America they are from Africa.
Donald M. Joy quoting Pastor Dan Wayman. on p. 144 of The Family in Mission in “Structural Developmental Strengths of Adult MKs”
To be honest, the first time I read this, I didn’t like this joke. It made me sad and mad at the same time. It didn’t seem fair and it seemed to be making fun of missionaries. And making fun of hillbillies, Noufies and Okies–but that part didn’t bother me. As I read it now six months later, the sting is gone a bit and I realize that the joke does have a point. Missionaries may feel homeless at times but heaven is our true home and the world is our playground. Jesus offers much for those who have gone out for His sake and for the sake of the gospel (see Mark 10:29-30). Although we get confused at times about where we belong here on earth, we always remain clear about where we are headed!
“The truth is, most of us are uncomfortable with sadness, as individuals and as churches. We want to fix people and help them to feel better, and we are far less patient than God is with the process he uses to bring healing.” That is what Nancy Guthrie says in an interview someone sent to me recently.
A few more quotes from Guthrie:
“For a church to be a safe place for sad people does not merely mean that we offer comfort and acceptance. Sometimes it means that we gently but boldly challenge misbeliefs or misunderstandings of Scripture.”
“While we make room for people to be sad, we want to walk with people in expectation that God will indeed do a work of healing in their lives so that they do not stay stuck in their sadness, but emerge from it strengthened in their confidence in God, deepened in their understanding of the Scriptures, and equipped to serve others.”
Guthrie says, “Grieving people have four primary needs that the church has a key role in addressing:
- They have intense sadness that is lonely and lingering that needs to be respected.
- They have significant questions that need to be addressed in light of Scripture.
- They have broken relationships that need to be healed and normalized.
- They have a deep desire to discover some meaning and purpose in their loss.”
Related to Guthrie’s article is one by Ajith Fernando, “To Serve is to Suffer” in which he writes, “We call our churches and Christian organizations “families,” but families are very inefficient organizations. In a healthy family, everything stops when a member has big needs. We are often not willing to extend this commitment to Christian body life.”
Fernando’s article is hard hitting for those wanting to serve but who do not want to suffer! More from Fernando,
“When people leave a church because they do not fit the program, it communicates a deadly message: that our commitment is to the work and not to the person, that our unity is primarily in the work and not in Christ and the gospel. The sad result is that Christians do not have the security of a community that will stay by them no matter what happens. They become shallow individuals, never having true fellowship and moving from group to group. Churches committed to programs can grow numerically, but they don’t nurture biblical Christians who understand the implications of belonging to the body of Christ.”
Here is a quote that is particularly painful for me to read,
“I get the strong feeling that many in the West think struggling with tiredness from overwork is evidence of disobedience to God. My contention is that it is wrong if one gets sick from overwork through drivenness and insecurity. But we may have to endure tiredness when we, like Paul, are servants of people.”
In response to Fernando’s article and shortly before her husband died, Libby Little wrote A Small Version of the Grand Narrative in which she concluded, “May the fruitful door of opportunity to embrace suffering in service, or at least embrace those who are suffering, remain open for the sake of God’s kingdom.”
“Many MKs carry with them the scars from too many good-byes. They harden their feelings, put on emotional armor and turn inward in an attempt to insulate themselves from further hurt. They draw back from intimacy and remain in “emotional exile”—alone, separate and protected.” James Gould
A little something we put together for a group interested in missionary member care. Please let us know what we are missing.
“Dr. Livingstone, I presume” Here is a link to an explanation for these famous words regarding the British explorer/missionary, David Livingstone. In looking for a picture, I also discovered info about the David Livingstone Centre in Scotland, a place that I would very much like to visit on our next trip to Scotland. Here is another site that provides a little more historical background for Livingstone. I have vague recollections about reading a book about Livingstone when I was young that influenced me to be a missionary.
Even though Livingstone appears to have benefited from the not so pure interests of the British colonial powers in his mission work, his words “I never made a sacrifice” resonate in my heart! Yes!
From a post by John Piper my wife sent to me. Piper says Livingstone’s words are one of the clearest applications he has ever seen of Mark 10:29-30 (will let you look it up). Following are Stanley’s words, cited by Piper from Perspectives
For my own part, I have never ceased to rejoice that God has appointed me to such an office. People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa. . . . Is that a sacrifice which brings its own blest reward in healthful activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind, and a bright hope of a glorious destiny hereafter? Away with the word in such a view, and with such a thought! It is emphatically no sacrifice. Say rather it is a privilege. Anxiety, sickness, suffering, or danger, now and then, with a foregoing of the common conveniences and charities of this life, may make us pause, and cause the spirit to waver, and the soul to sink; but let this only be for a moment. All these are nothing when compared with the glory which shall be revealed in and for us. I never made a sacrifice.
In an article, Theyr’e Not Us, Roberto Carlo expands our understanding about the disastrous attempt of well-meaning Christians who tried to rescue 100 Haitain orphans and bring them back to America. Sigh!!! He goes on to describe other ill-fated attempts of missionaries to help. His conclusion for success in mission endeavors: “That requires doing something that most Americans are terrible at: seeing ourselves and our history as the rest of the world sees it, never mind taking it seriously.”
What Carlo describes in this article is ethnocentric thinking–an assumption that our way is better, resulting in a lack of respect for people in their own context and an inability to see how God is already at work. I understand that people “just want do do something to help” but in too many cases, that help makes things worse in the long run.
Some common grief phenomena experienced by missionaries upon re-entry to their home country
S: . . . so I guess the sense of loss is kind of different to say when we leave Australia. When we left Australia . . . to go overseas because we knew that we would see basically everybody again when got back, but leaving [host country] to come back home, then (pause) really it’s a probably won’t see you again sort of goodbye, . . . I guess that sense of loss in some sense is more acute for me.
J: I heard one other missionary on home leave . . . who felt like a dried up raisin. . . . And I thought that was very, very good—lost juice. You were all there but just dried up.
C: . . . there’s, there’s a real sense of not really belonging, whereas in the place where we worked we had very close friends of many years.
H: . . . you know I get really, excuse the French, but I get pissed off that people are so stupid here [in Australia] and so short-sighted.
A: I think…buying a house and setting up a house sometimes has been a bit overwhelming in seeking to make the right choice
N: [I have] basic struggles with nuts and bolts of getting around and to help the children settle better.
F: . . . just sitting on the verandah and ignoring all the mess inside . . . and the feeling that we were home . . . and the feeling of well-being that that gave me.
From “Back Home: a qualitative study exploring re-entering cross-cultural missionary aid workers’ loss and grief” Published in Omega 59:1 2008-2009
More conversations with missionaries about what what happened when they returned to their home country.
Loss of Control
N: I guess it’s . . . not having an environment where you know and understand and have some control over what’s happening . . . that’s all become incredibly wearing and tiring.
S: It [loss of a family relationship on re-entry] was completely outside of the control that we had. . . . I guess it’s really quite a shame.
B: . . . in one sense you’ve got a bit of disappointment because we left sooner than we wanted . . . so there were things on the field that we hadn’t got done before we left.
J: I have just had to say, “God I just can’t do this [care for children in different locations], you know, I don’t have control over this, I’m just going to have to let you . . . be the boss there.” . . . He’s come through every single time (laughter). Does that make it easier for next time? Not always.
From “Back Home: a qualitative study exploring re-entering cross-cultural missionary aid workers’ loss and grief” Published in Omega 59:1 2008-2009
More conversations with missionaries regarding the losses incurred on their return to their home country.
Vicious loss cycles—Vicious loss cycles occurred when the primary re-entry losses led to secondary losses which aggravated the primary losses and were associated with a breakdown of balance in the participants’ lives.
N: . . . as we focus on the situation of settling back in we have countless decisions to make in a relatively short period of time. . . so that in itself is very wearing and means that isolation and lack . . . of people to confide in makes all those decisions more difficult.
F: And it [illness on re-entry] was partly due to ongoing stresses when we came home added to all the other things, which I really haven’t had time to process.
For N, multiple re-entry losses, including lack of support, led to multiple decisions with loss of energy which aggravated the initial losses and resulted in an imbalance between the demands and his ability to respond. For F, multiple re-entry losses led to lack of balance in her time to process these losses which had negative physical, mental and spiritual changes which then led to further loss.
From “Back Home: a qualitative study exploring re-entering cross-cultural missionary aid workers’ loss and grief” Published in Omega 59:1 2008-2009
Listen to some missionaries talk about social losses they experienced when they returned to their home country for home assignment (furlough)
N: I found very much coming back to Australia there, there really isn’t the social network that we fit into at all … We’re in transition from being people who were supported within the church organization and in a very special way and now have ceased our official and formal arrangement with our, our sending organization, there really are very big gaps in the group of people that we have around us, the group of people that we knew for instance. We have people that were very much our friends many years ago and for a whole range of reasons are, are much more distant. . . . There’s an overwhelming sense of isolation.
T: They [the community] just think it was a great experience and a great adventure. So, yeah I find that a bit hard, it’s sometimes quite hard to explain it to people. . . . ’Cos they just don’t quite get it and you don’t want . . . to put people down and make them feel silly for how they perceive it, so . . . they’re right, in that I guess it was a great experience and adventure, but that wasn’t all that it was.
B: The people who we were relating to are now someone different, who thinks differently, and operates differently and . . . and that’s taken a bit of getting used to.
G: . . . it’s [role change] going to take a while longer to work out, you know; whether they’ll [the organization] (pause) . . . feel like I can be of any use for anything. I don’t know.
I have no idea where I picked this up but it is good for any of us in ministry that get our priorities mixed up. I am grateful for all the forgiveness my children have extended to me as it has been needed. Formatting is not quite right. Too bad.
For in the name of service to you
We have built warm relationships with those we minister to, with our supporters.
But have allowed distance, coldness…
to seep into our relationships with our children;
We have believed in the myth of “quality time” and sometimes forgottenthat our children, especially our teenagers, need us-need quantity time.
In the name of Christian excellence-for we are leaders, are we not;
we have placed intolerable burdens on our children,
forgetting you said, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
We have allowed music…earrings…clothes…grades…
to blind us to their hearts
Yet we are deeply grateful you do not judge us by externals,
nor deal with us as our sins deserve;
We have treated our children with distrust because they have failed once?…twice?…many times?
wounding their spirits
maybe quenching the spark of desire to change.
Yet you continue to trust us and use us
after a myriad of failures…and broken promises.
We have basked in your grace freely poured out to us, Yet have sometimes doled it out to our children
in drops…in spoonfuls…maybe cupfuls.
We have sometimes seen rebellion in our children’s faces,
heard it…we thought…in their voices,
when in fact it was pain…confusion…maybe anger.
We have not looked long enough into their eyes to see the tears waiting to spill over nor listened carefully enough to hear the longing
sometimes barely a whisper
to be all God wants them to be.
Yet, Father, we know we are weak and we run to you,
knowing you love us just as we are.
Maybe we are afraid to see what lies in our children’s hearts
for it may give us a glimpse
of pain…confusion…weakness…that lies in our own.
O Father, we need you.
Forgive us…heal our brokenness.
Give us your eyes…your ears…your heart.
Help us to tread gently, lovingly, graciously, on the soil of our children’s lives
knowing that you are already there,
and always will be.
Someone sent us this poem not too long ago and maybe it will help all of us to understand ourselves if we are tcks or if we are trying to understand others who are tcks. Written by a high school senior.
America; Foreign Home
How could I tell them?
They would never understand…
That my heart and life are split in half,
Yet each bleeds into the other side, undefined.
They know not the side of me that belongs across the sea.
They only know what the eye can see; the American inside of me.
And yet this American is tainted, stained, infused
With the chaos, the wonders, the essence of her other home.
My people have not known what it is like to save a child from the streets.
My people have not known the abject poverty, the smell of disease.
They have not heard nor seen the vain, desperate cries to empty, ugly gods.
It is not enough to show them our pictures or see a video. It is not enough.
They simply don’t get it… Until that same voice pricks their hearts.
All the dinners, all the fellowships, all the talks
With all the average people in all the average churches
It wears one down to explain over and again that
America has now become the foreign land.
The awkward silence ensues, and they serve more food.
Because they don’t understand this foreign land, they don’t understand the foreign me.
I’m too foreign to be American, too American to be foreign.
I have become a puzzle-piece, with ever-changing, ever-morphing sides.
With some I do not fit; the kids in the States would never match my sides.
That is sometimes unbearable; sometimes freeing.
Sometimes both at once.
Maybe I have the worst and best of both worlds.
I will keep searching for my niche; for I know that my misshapen heart
Will always have a home no matter where I go…
Home is in following Him.
Transparency, action, sense of urgency. Sounds like words that should describe the church in our mission!! Have we been lulled into complacency as those apparently were in Mumbai? Might we as the body of Christ need to take heed of the following words that came out a recent conference in Delhi? Not that I want us to come across as a right wing militant church. Indeed, our enemies are not flesh and blood but the spiritual forces in the heavenly places. Read Eph 6 and John 8. Bold print from me. Source from William Katz at Urgent Agenda
Sec of State Rice held a joint conference with External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee in Delhi earlier this evening. The part that jumped out to the media on their endless “Breaking News banners” was this statement: “What has to happen is there has to be a real sense of transparency, real sense of action and real sense of urgency because these are extremists who have the same intention and same goal, and that is to terrorize and send messages to states around the world.”
This is part of a longer paper on the spirituality of Hudson Taylor which I just posted.
If the only qualification for being a mystic was self-denial, Taylor would have qualified! Taylor often wrote about self-denial, “The real secret of an unsatisfied life lies too often in an unsurrendered will.” (Union) Self-denial was the way the disciple could show his love for Christ and his high value of the Cross. (Separation) Steed quotes Taylor as saying, “Is anything of value in Christ’s service which costs little?” (Man 282) Whenever personal, family, church or even mission interests came above those of Christ, Taylor identified this thinking as “earthly or sensual, if not devilish.” (Psalm) Taylor did not inflict self-punishment on himself (as some of the extreme mystics might have done) but self-denial did bring joy to Taylor, “My experience was that the less I spent on myself and the more I gave away, the fuller of happiness and blessing did my soul become.” (Retrospect)
For Taylor, self-denial was necessary for the disciple if the missionary task was to be accomplished. Without self-denial, the lost would likely be neglected.
How sadly possible it is to take delight in conferences and conventions, to feast on all the good things that are brought before us, and yet to be unprepared to go out from them to self-denying efforts to rescue the perishing; to delight in the rest of faith while forgetful to fight the good fight of faith; to dwell upon the cleansing and the purity effected by faith, but to have little thought for the poor souls struggling in the mire of sin. (Cross)
China could only be won by men and women willing to sacrifice all. (Man 211) Taylor was not afraid to communicate to prospective missionaries about the necessity of self-denial to be a CIM missionary. “If you want hard work, and little appreciation of it; value God’s approbation more than you fear man’s disapprobation, if need be, to seal your testimony with your blood . . .” (Ibid. 260) For Taylor, self-denial was an essential element in his own spirituality, believing that it would bring glory to God. “May GOD work in us, and we work out in daily life, not self-assertion but self-denial – not ease and honor seeking and right-maintaining, but right-abandoning and cross-taking – and this for the glory of His own holy Name.” (Cross)
A few months ago, a friend of mine read a quote out of John Goldingay’s little (159 pages) book, God’s Prophet, God’s Servant. He gives some pithy reflections on Jeremiah and Isaiah. Finally read his first chapter this morning on “What being a prophet costs”, using the example of Jeremiah. As a missionary, I need to hear these words!! According to Goldingay, if we are to be in ministry, we must be willing
1. To stand alone
We should be “. . . willing to stand alone, to cope with isolation, opposition, betrayal, and attack, even from those who ought to be most loyal to him.” 18
See Jeremiah 11:1-12:6; Mark 6:4
2. To have no private life
“He had no freedom to make his own decisions about how he lived his life; indeed he was forbidden the life of a normal human being.” 22
See Jer 12:6; 16:2-9
3. To be as hard as a rock outside even while you are being torn apart inside
“Jeremiah here appears as a man who can be hard as a rock when he is under huge pressure to change his stance and modify his message.” 24
See Jer 19:14b-20:18
Jeremiah’s experience in ministry is an experience of crucifixion, says Goldingay:
“Indeed, arguably, it is at these moments of crucifixion that Christian ministry is at its most authentic, its most distinctive. For that was how it was with Jesus, and that is how it is with the person who follows Jesus.” 30
Goldingay ends his chapter referring to 2 Cor 4:11( Jeremiah, he says, is the 2 Cor of the OT) and concludes,
“There is a cost involved in being a prophet, in being a servant of God. There is a cross involved. We do not have to hide from this fact with glib talk about life being a challenge. Because God promises that as we carry the cross, we can also reveal his glory. ” 30
I wonder why we neglect to mention the cost of ministry in our desire to get more workers out to the field?