Missionary Marriage: Ideas to Keep It Together

Reading Time: 4 minutes

missionary marriage

Years ago, my husband and I talked about how to help missionary friends on the field in struggles they were working through in a marriage. The couple was fairly new on the field.

It was tough, we acknowledged: A missionary marriage was like a pressure cooker, intensifying whatever flavors were first lobbed in the pot. If basil, you tasted its nuance in the entire dish. If a sweaty gym sock? Well. read more

How to Overcome Obstacles and Get Fully Funded

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fully funded

Editor’s note: We’re stoked to feature this article from another one of Go. Serve. Love’s round table partners, Support Raising Solutions. (Yes! That organization is a thing.) In our quest to present you overseas fully-funded, we’re happy to welcome back the indomitable Jenn Fortner, support-raising expert extraordinaire. 

In my time as a support coach, I have yet to see a ministry worker not make it to the field because they were unable to raise their budget as fully funded missionaries. I’ve seen people not go to the field because they got engaged, accepted a different job, or had medical issues—but it has yet to be money that has kept someone from going to the ministry they felt called to. read more

Going Overseas? Prepare for Scars

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Recently I sat with another missionary, stocking feet curled beneath us. We were reflecting on some of the more painful parts of missionary life.

I’m talking things that were hard to understand if you hadn’t been overseas, hadn’t had moments in a foreign land defined by sacrifice or loss. They were like scars, covered by clothing. read more

“What keeps you going?” The successes we remember

Reading Time: 4 minutes

what keeps you going

Photo: IMB.org

One morning in Guatemala, I walked into our office and found sitting around the table the regional leadership of a group of churches we were working with. They were visiting politely with Melvin, a national pastor we worked with.

I greeted them and visited a moment and then excused myself and made my way to my office.

Of course I was curious what was happening. Still, I said nothing until they had left.

Why were they there? Why were they meeting with Melvin? What were they discussing? (That was only my beginning list.)

When Nothing’s Making Sense

Allow me to pause and ask: What keeps you going when nothing else is making sense?

When you live and work in a country and a culture you didn’t grow up in, but have adopted? When everything is hard to understand? When you aren’t sure you are communicating? When the cost/benefit ratio of missions feels fuzzy or downright disappointing?

Missionaries wrestle with that question somewhat regularly. I wrestle with that regularly.

The Background Story

I found out more of the story after the regional leaders left. But you need the background to the story to understand his answer–and understand what keeps me going.

Our small team had been working with these rural pastors and lay leaders for a couple of years, attempting to bring them resources and training that would help them serve their people and teach their congregations to walk as Jesus would want them to walk.

Periodically in this ministry, we welcomed groups of youth and adults who came down from supporting churches in the U.S. to spend a week. It took a lot of thinking and planning to create a situation which we felt would be a blessing to the churches we worked with and to the group coming down.

so here’s the plan

The groups completed work projects for four hours each morning, then showed the JESUS film each evening in a meadow in a location where our churches were trying to plant a Bible study or home church.

The churches were moderately interested: Maybe it would be worth doing. The JESUS film project offered the use of one of their staffers, along with a projector and screen. We took care of him and covered his costs; he showed the JESUS film in the crowds’ Mayan language and preached a short message and gave an invitation in that same local language. And it multiplied the churches’ reach at no cost to them!

Our group of American gringos, frankly, were the bait to draw a crowd.

Each night we had a good turnout. Some people walked three miles to attend. They seemed interested and somewhat responsive. The church elders stood around watching the crowd and conversing with those who came.

We completed the same routine for four nights in different locations. Then, the group headed home.

The idea: Church leaders would try to follow up with the people they saw at the film-showing over the next 10 days, visiting them in their fields or homes.

Two weeks later we repeated the process with a second national church group and four more locations, showing the JESUS film in a language none of us knew.

“Was it worth it?”

And then we all went home and I asked “Was it worth it?”

I wanted it to be worth the month we had spent with those two groups helping them see what we did there in the mountains. I wanted it to be worth it for both the wide-eyed group from Texas and the collection of churches we had tried to serve.

And then about a month later I walked into the office and some of those same church leaders were there.

I’d had no idea they were coming. But they seemed to have a good meeting.

It turns out they had indeed followed up with the people who they had seen at the showings of the Jesus film. And at each location they’d added 3 or 4 families to the Bible studies or home churches they were trying to start!

They had come to visit with my national teammate, Melvin, to find out how they could arrange to do the same thing all year long on their own.

What Keeps YOU Going

Yes, that made my day. That’s what keeps me going; it’s why I came. So what if they hadn’t talked to me about it?

Their question verified that the new untried evangelism event we had put together actually helped them. It apparently had turned out to be more productive than any “outreach program” they had tried.

We’d ensured all costs of the group would be covered–and the churches had experienced a new tool for growing their churches. And now they wanted to make it their own!

God had obviously showed up. Now, decades later, it’s an event I hang my hat on after all the mysteries of missions: Is what I’m doing working? Are there results to show from all I’m giving up?

(Wondering about what measuring stick to use for success–and what should be the kind of thing that keeps you going? A Life Overseas’ blog offers three criteria.)

When you get to see results that clearly, it keeps you going for a good long while. It did for me!

And even today when I think back over that and other events, unique though each one was, it is a constant encouragement. God calls us to serve him and others, and he is the one who creatively weaves the threads of ministry to produce what he calls success.

It’s well worth remembering those times when you got to see his fingers weaving success into what he’s called you to do.

Global veteran David Armstrong has set foot in 15 countries, and confesses that Crepes and Waffles in Bogota, Colombia is one of his favorite restaurants. Catch his classic post here on 8 Ways to Help your Family Flourish Overseas.

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How to Say, “Hey, Kids. We’re Moving Overseas”

Reading Time: 7 minutes

kids moving

Editor’s note: When God begins to pull your hearts in an overseas direction, that potential decision is inevitably a life-shifting chapter of your kids’ calling and story, too.

We’re pulling this post from the vault to help you navigate.

“When Should We Tell Them?”

I’d say–and most sites agree–as soon as possible.

Your goal? Well-adjusted kids with ownership in your decision, and who can eventually follow God courageously in their own life decisions.

If your kids keep secrets as well as mine did didn’t, it can be hard to discern (“What if they tell people in Sunday School and our cover is blown? We’re not ready to tell the whole church”).

But even before you tell-them-tell-them, you can start planting seeds in your kids’ heads.

The more kids feel “brought along” in the process, being able to ask their questions, process, understand how and why you’re thinking this way, the less they’re likely to feel excluded and out of control.

This can start small.

“What if?”

Take advantage of times when a conversation at the dinner table turns to events around the world, or your church service brings up missions. (Or get a little sneakier, and bring up age-appropriate world events yourself.) You could ask questions like,

  • “Do you think you could ever live overseas?”
  • “Do you think we could ever be missionaries?”
  • “What do you think it would be like to be missionaries?”
  • “Why do you think it’s important for people to be missionaries?”
When praying at bedtime, talk about how your heart hurts for people who don’t know Jesus.
Purchase a scratch-off map of the world, download the Operation World app (my kids love pushing the “I’m praying” button in the app).

Let kids choose a country each night, and perhaps look up a few facts or pictures about those countries. Eventually, start to talk more about how many people in your future host country don’t know Jesus, and the specific needs.

Show them pictures.

Look up videos and photos, and read kids stories and blog posts (missionary stories work, though realize many are told to demonstrate missionaries’ sacrifice–and kids may get the idea you’ll be in a mud hut with no other kids around and asked to die for Jesus. Use discernment, m-kay?). See if missionaries you’ll be with can send a video or photo of their child and their house.

Get fictional.

This may sound weird–but after my husband and I returned from our vision trip to Africa, I started telling my kids about a pair of fictional siblings. They will always remember “Shiloh and Summer stories I told as we drove somewhere.

These kids just happened to be my kids; age–and just happened to be moving to Uganda. (This site suggests using toys–perhaps a plane and some dolls?–to tell younger kids.)

Without overselling it, get excited about a new “adventure.”

I talked about how the kids had to go through airport security, had to sleep under a muggy mosquito net but were thankful they wouldn’t get sick, and realized people around them looked at lot different now, but were mostly really nice.

These fictional characters missed grandparents, and yet made new friends. They counted down the dates till Grandma and Grandpa came to visit, when the kids got to be the hosts.

Get honest.

Kids can have an uncanny “you’re not for real” radar. Let them know they can trust you–that there will be no spin on the truth when they want to know how things really are. That’s not to avoid optimism, but let kids no that no questions or answers are out of bounds.

kids moving

Bring Older Kids (especially teens and tweens) along on the vision trip–and into as many conversations as you can.

A friend was overwhelmingly glad she made this decision.

Older kids are rightfully growing more independent–and are more likely to feel the threats of moving. They can keep secrets, generally.

So as you wade through this, show them the respect of communicating openly about the pros and cons; the questions you’re asking.

Demonstrate how you make godly decisions. Ask your child’s opinion, as long as they understand you’re the one with veto power. Hear their hearts. Shepherd them through their hearts’ most profound questions without resorting to spiritual platitudes.

Don’t let them feel written off. Help them feel like a valuable member of your team–and that if God’s calling you, he’s calling them, too.

Give them a head start on language.

They’ll have relationships to establish, too. Help eliminate some of the weirdness by getting them a tutor, an app, a class.

Let them know what will stay the same.

Kids, having no framework of life overseas, might envision leaving everything.

  • Start a running “wish list” of items they’d like to pack with them, helping them feel they have some sense of control (though you’ve got list veto power).
  • When you tell them they can’t, in fact, bring their bike or your minivan, let them know they’ll probably get to help you find a new one in your new country.
  • Don’t forget items that simply help your child feel at home: their special plate, a poster from their wall, etc.
  • And try to make establishing kids’ rooms a priority once you move, to help them feel like it’s home.kids moving

Help Kids develop a vision for life there.

Try to make it as long-term as possible. (“We’re going on a plane and watching movies!” isn’t much consolation when your child is missing his old home and tired of mosquito bites and power outages.)

  • Could they play soccer in your new country, too?
  • Will the weather be nice year-round?
  • Will there likely be a big yard, or a park nearby?
  • Is there a food they’ll get to try that you loved?
  • Will there be a beach nearby?
  • Are there cool animals in your host country?
  • Will your child probably get to go on safari?
  • Is there a great tree to climb at a new friend’s house?
  • As you get to know what other kids might live in your country-to-be, see if one might become a penpal. Tell your kids what those kids like (Legos! Books! Barbies! Sports!), and help them get a little excited. Maybe you could even pick out a small toy (Legos are light and often expensive overseas)  to send or bring with you as a gift.
  • Are you thinking you might be able to get a pet?

Grieve with Your Kids.

Don’t gloss over mourning by just propelling your kids forward. Sit with them and cry a little about leaving cousins, grandparents, and the friends they have here.

  • Make real plans about your first Skype appointment with a friend overseas.
  • Make a network of kids who will pray with your child.
  • Perhaps get some parents in cahoots with you to send a letter (or a series of penpal letters) or small care package to greet you upon arrival, or cards to stick in your child’s suitcase as a surprise.
  • Consider establishing an email account under your supervision for your kids, where they know they will get “for kids only” emails from back home.
  • When kids complete hard parts of the journey–like saying goodbye to a friend–create “white space” in your (no doubt packed) schedule for emotional needs, too. I admit to distracting my kids a bit during our massive garage sale by letting them have a lemonade stand.
  • Have reasonable expectations in your own mind. You might hear that six months after is often the low point when you move. Expect that your first year will be tough, and frought with a lot of highs and lows. (Duh, right?)
  • Don’t miss this post on The Art of Saying Goodbye.

Make a photo album. Get an app.

Ask friends to contribute photos; save Christmas photo cards. Download Marco Polo or another strategic way to connect with friends. (Just remember you will likely no longer live in the land of free wi-fi.)

Make the discussion ongoing.

As you progress through your journey, continue to ask questions about how kids are feeling, what questions they have, what they’re scared or excited about, etc.

Consider recruiting family friends to take your kids out individually and ask questions/listen to them talk, in order to give kids other arenas in which to discuss their feelings and thoughts.

Remember most kids are super-resilient.

With the exception of preteens and teenagers (at least one missions org has been rumored not let you move with kids around this age), my kids were bouncing around Uganda in about two minutes. (Their parents took considerably longer.)

In general, remember kids are taking their cues from you.

If it’s home to you and you’re there, kids will feel like home. If you’re willing to try new things (roasted grasshoppers. Boom), they might, too. (Don’t miss 8 Ways to Help your Family Flourish Overseas!)

That doesn’t mean you slap on a happy face. We can talk with kids age-appropriately about times we feel sad or afraid. But in general, where your family is together will eventually be home sweet home.

What would you suggest for preparing kids for the big move? comment below!

Janel Breitenstein is an author, freelance writer, speaker, and senior editor for Go. Serve. Love. After five and a half years in East Africa, her family of six has returned to Colorado, where they continue to work on behalf of the poor with Engineering Ministries International.

Her book, Permanent Markers: Spiritual Life Skills for Work-in-Progress Families (Harvest House) releases in October 2021. You can find her—“The Awkward Mom”—having uncomfortable, important conversations at JanelBreitenstein.com, and on Instagram @janelbreit.

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Making a difference = a good reason to go overseas?

Reading Time: 5 minutes

making a difference

When I first met the head-turning, nearly-too-good-to-be-true man who would be my husband, there was only one possibly fatal flaw.

He didn’t see himself going overseas.

At that point, I had participated in short-term missions in ten countries, give or take. I’d maxed out my university’s Spanish classes and minored in cross-cultural services. My college activities pointed to my love of cultures and helping the powerless.

Geez, Lord. Couldn’t you make this easier?

Serious questions crossed my mind about whether in marrying the man I respected most on Planet Earth, that I would also be…a sellout.

When “Living Life for God” = Disappointment

Spoiler: I married him. Nearly every day of our married life, I’ve thanked God for this man. (Without him, I may have been World’s Most Insecure Missionary).

But a decade later, “living my life for God” had slid from those mental images of handing rice to refugees, dust in my skirt. Instead, I was drowning in a sea of apple juice with some Goldfish floating on top. The commercial for my life would have looked less Peace Corps, more Bounty paper towels.

I felt confused. Angry. Exhausted.

And the sellout question loomed large, as if a rocking rubber stamp were about to declare me “Life Opportunities Missed.”

A Small Life?

Perhaps if you’ve followed my posts, you know the spoiler: My husband and I ended up spending half a decade in Africa. I felt a technicolor version of alive. (We’re still with the same org.)

But this was not before a tough couple of years when God and I wrestled with whether I’d chosen the best path. When God was growing contentment in me for what I called a “small life”. (Um, despite fierce love and happy sacrifice for my kids and husband. Which I wouldn’t have given up in a bajillion years. Turns out the Gospel matters to them, too).

My heart caught around Kathleen Kelly’s musings in You’ve Got Mail:

Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life. Well, not small, but valuable. And sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven’t been brave?

When Making a Difference Gets Out of Order

God has grown me exponentially in understanding the peculiar heroism the Church places on missionaries. He’s taught me no role in the Church is unimportant.

God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be?….

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” (1 Corinthians 12:18, 19, 21)

I also had to be taught that part of my own desire to life a “big life for God” was the emphasis on my own life being valuable. I’ve been guilty of, in a sense, using God for my own fulfillment more than I love him for himself.

making a difference

With more than For

I’ve thought more about this recently for two reasons.

First, I returned from Africa. My sense of co-laboring fell to a much quieter, occasionally indiscernable hum. I lost most of my sexy job titles (Missionary to Africa! Teacher of Refugees!) all over again. (See “Do our Churches Prefer Certain Occupations? Does God?“)

At times, I grew angry that God hadn’t created a more tenable way for us to stay, for making a difference. My identity felt horribly jumbled as I struggled for worth apart from the field.

(This was recognizable, at times, as one who’d lost not just something precious, but perhaps lost an idol, too.)

I’ve also considered this in light of what I’ve read in Skye Jethani’s With: Reimagining the Way You Relate to God. 

Jethani explores five primary postures in which we relate to God: Life under, over, from, for, and finally with God. He cites God’s vision in both Genesis and Revelation (and throughout the Bible) to reign with humankind: to be loved as he is, rather than us seeking to manipulate or use him.

“In other words,” Jethani writes, “God would cease to be how we acquire our treasure, and he would become our treasure.”

Is “Impact” the Point?

I won’t explore all the postures here. But Jethani reminded me that many of us have been schooled in Life For God more than With God. Jethani quotes Phil Vischer, creator of VeggieTales, following Vischer’s loss of his company.

“God would never call us from greater impact to lesser impact!” [I thought.]

The more I dove into Scripture, the more I realized I had been deluded. I had grown up drinking a dangerous cocktail–a mix of the gospel, the Protestant work ethic, and the American dream…The Savior I was following seemed, in hindsight, equal parts Jesus, Ben Franklin, and Henry Ford. My eternal value was rooted in what I could accomplish.

Unfortunately, taken to its fullness, this missionalism, this disordered priority for making a difference, brings us to a place the end justifies any means. Including the loss of our own vital connection to God. Our families. Our marriages.

Jethani observes,

A great deal of effort is expended in faith communities trying to transform people from younger sons [in the story of the prodigal son] into older sons. But this is a fool’s errand, because what mattered most to the father was neither the younger son’s disobedience nor the older son’s obedience, but having his sons with him.

 

In fact, Jesus foretells of some making a difference, achieving great things in God’s name.

On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me… (Matthew 7:22-23, emphasis added)

The Mission is not the End

If we land on the mission field feeling that in some sense we’ve arrived (or perhaps will, after Making a Difference), we will–like the biblical Jacob, always wake up with Leah.

Because the mission itself, or our ability to accomplish it, was never intended to form our sense of worth and fulfillment.

Don’t go overseas with “impact” as your greatest goal. Because missions is not, cannot be, the Great End.

God is.

(And by the way, Honey. I would marry you all. Over. Again.)

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Janel Breitenstein is an author, freelance writer, speaker, and senior editor for Go. Serve. Love. After five and a half years in East Africa, her family of six has returned to Colorado, where they continue to work on behalf of the poor with Engineering Ministries International.

Her book, Permanent Markers: Spiritual Life Skills for Work-in-Progress Families (Harvest House) releases in October 2021. You can find her—“The Awkward Mom”—having uncomfortable, important conversations at JanelBreitenstein.com, and on Instagram @janelbreit.

 

 

 

 

Trends in Missions to Help You Work Smarter: Part 3

Reading Time: 5 minutes

trends in missions

Grab Part 1 and Part 2 Here on trends in missions.

Confession: I’ve never been that trendy of a person. (Maybe you could have guessed that from my regrettable personal trends in the last post?) I have never actually been cool. I have just been a person cool people liked.

But missions trends, see, aren’t on par with whether you listen to Maroon 5 or wear maroon skinny jeans.

I have no doubt future generations will have the opportunity to correct our generations’ mistaken trends in missions. Yet in general, trends like those we’ve been covering in these three posts are ways of loving better. Working smarter rather than harder. Better reflecting Jesus to a watching world.

Ready for more?

Technology as Missions

Technology, Christianity Today reports, facilitates connection, community, and discipleship around the world–and enables the Church’s mission.

Like money or art, it can be used as an instrument of either God’s glory and worship…or the opposite.  (As digital technology radically expands our abilities to reach the world with the hope that we have, it’s still crucial to keep in mind the negative community, addictive, spiritual, and other factors inherent in tech.)

As the Christian Post estimates, “As much as 70 percent of the global population prefers non-literate forms of communication.” (Grab more ideas here about discipling oral learners.) Additionally, Facebook boasts 2 billion users (27% of the world population), and 50% of the world is now on the internet.

Operation World’s Patrick Johnstone reports, 

one of our workers working on the edge of the Sahara desert, she works amongst nomads and she found a brilliant way of evangelizing Muslim nomads.

She’s got a number of mobile phones. She downloads the Jesus film and a number of other evangelistic resources and leaves the phones in different encampments. And all the young people rush there with their mobile phones and download everything she’s got on her mobile and watch the Jesus film or access the internet.

And the International Mission Board (IMB) reports,

SIM cards the size of a thumbnail can equip oral learners with audio recordings of Scripture. iPhone videos allow missionaries to hurdle language barriers with recorded testimonies in the local language. Facebook groups quietly connect believers with seekers and allow conversations to take place in a shared online environment. Innumerable digital resources are now available to extend a missionary’s reach.

trends in missions

What do tech trends in missions look like right now?

Sustainable Missions

We’re looking for missions that goes the distance. Sharing our faith is increasing its sustainability in more than one way.

Caring for our missionaries rather than burning through them.

Another happy addition to trends in missions: The Church is increasingly realizing our missionaries themselves, their education, experience, etc.–are more than tools for the Gospel.

The Gospel in our own lives as missionaries matters.

So are we living the reality that we are not what we do for God? That Christ’s work is sufficient? That we are loved and worthy apart for our accomplishments for God’s Kingdom? That God is sovereign and able to accomplish his work?

Emotionally-healthy missionaries hurt less (others, and within themselves). Help more. Love God from within their being, rather than as hollow shells of service (see Matthew 23:27-28).

Check out some of Go. Serve. Love’s best posts on emotionally-healthy missions:

Increasing national sustainability

Part 2 of this series mentioned the decrease of “the West to the Rest”–and maximizing our national partnerships. Many organizations are seeking ways to help their ministries sustain themselves apart from Western funding and control. (Business for Transformation and Business as Mission are great steps toward this goal.)

The idea? To allow Westerners to grow in placing leadership in the hands of nationals. Eventually, this allows national ministry to unhitch from the organization.

Additionally, this protects many national ministries from the very real temptations of corruption–a reality cementing developing nations in cycles of poverty.

Sustainability helps missions move beyond relief and Western discipleship. It builds empowerment and reproducing, national movements.

increased Contextualization

Yet trends in missions also mean we’re doing something even better as a Church: Applying the Gospel to the unique context of every culture.

Paul famously wrote in 1 Corinthians,

To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews…To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. (vv. 20, 23)

The book of Acts repeatedly shows Paul himself contextualizing: Addressing the concerns of Stoic and Epicurean philosophers in the Areopagus. Sharing his testimony in Aramaic to a horde of outraged Jews. Circumcising Timothy so as not to disturb the consciences of a Jewish audience.

And thankfully, as a Church, we’re getting better at this, too. Hope to increase your cross-cultural IQ? Check out posts like these.

The Author behind a lot of trends in missions is trending toward a purpose. It’s a telos of drawing every tongue, tribe, and nation loving the One their hearts were made for.

Thank God with us for the changing face of missions–and a God who’s deeply, intricately involved in pulling humanity toward himself.

Wondering how COVID-19 may affect global missions? Grab Missio Nexus’ podcast on Missions Trends in a Post-COVID-19 World.

We want to know.

What missions trends are you seeing–and inspired by?

comment below!

 

Janel Breitenstein is an author, freelance writer, speaker, and senior editor for Go. Serve. Love. After five and a half years in East Africa, her family of six has returned to Colorado, where they continue to work on behalf of the poor with Engineering Ministries International.

Her book, Permanent Markers: Spiritual Life Skills for Work-in-Progress Families (Harvest House) releases in October 2021. You can find her—“The Awkward Mom”—having uncomfortable, important conversations at JanelBreitenstein.com, and on Instagram @janelbreit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Global Missions Trends to Help You Work Smarter: Part 2

Reading Time: 6 minutes

global missions trends

Missed the first post on Global Missions Trends? GRAB IT here.

I don’t know about you, but I do have regrets over some trends in which I was a willing participant.

They include teased bangs. Polka dots. Crispy, overgelled, permed hair. Tight-rolled jeans. White eyeliner.

And as discussed in the last post, the Church, too, grows throughout time in ways it does things–because Jesus is as relevant as ever.

Unlike my teal-laced high-tops from second grade.

Yes. Sometimes we lose the rich value of what we had. Other times, we shed harmful practices, like ethno-centrism or harmful cultural appropriation.

Don’t unhitch history

In her Liturgy of the Ordinary, Tish Harrison Warren reminds us the Church exists not only around the world, but backward and forward through history:

When we worship Jesus, we rely on millions of Christians over thousands of years who God has used to bear witness to himself. The only reason we know anything at all about Jesus is because his disciples told their friends, neighbors, and enemies about him…and believers have carries his message everywhere they’ve gone in each generation.

….[A priest friend] often asked us to imagine the communion table stretching on for miles, to remind us that when we take Communion, we mysteriously feast with all those who are in Christ. In the Eucharist we commune with Dorothy Day and Saint Augustine, the Apostle Paul and Billy Graham… (p. 118-119)

Hebrews 7 seems to affirm this connectedness to the Church through history:

One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him. (vv. 9-10)

We’re refining ways we accomplish missions for this generation, for this time. But we aren’t shucking the Church and the beauty of Jesus’ Bride through time.

Through these global missions trends–toward godliness and faithfulness rather than, say, bigger hair–we hope to add to it.

global missions trends

GLOBAL MISSIONS TRENDS = More Partnerships.

…With nationals.

While living in Uganda, my relationships with trusted nationals amplified and refined nearly every act of service. Even within the last six months, nationals have offered sage cultural understanding and connection for needs that come to my husband’s and my attention here in the U.S.

Effectively, they helped me comprehend everything from traffic accidents to tea time. Bartering to bantering. Mourning rituals to modesty.

Some even took the form of community social workers as we sought to decrease the “White Savior” mentality and its effects on cycles of poverty.

Nationals helped us love with wisdom and depth, and continued to create more lateral relationships rather than superior/inferior cultures. They helped us embrace our role as constant learners.

Discipleship isn’t a hierarchy we maintain, but a mission we reproduce and give away.

So ask your agency about their goals to train and increase national influence and diversity.

As a point of note, do click to check out Patrick Johnstone’s (author of Operation World) caveats on this trend. Presently, he reports, “In most of the parts of the world that most need the gospel, there are not enough people who know the Lord, who can do the job.”

And yet,

No longer is missions just someone from the West traveling to the East—we’re now seeing a much more cooperative kind of missionary endeavor which I think is essential to biblical Christianity.

Dr. Timothy Tennet, BiblicalTraining.org

…With other orgs, Churches and missionaries.

Ever heard of the silo effect?

As this site describes,

The Silo Effect refers to a lack of information flowing between groups or parts of an organization. On a farm, silos prevent different grains from mixing. In an organization, the Silo Effect limits the interactions between members of different branches of the company, thus leading to reduced productivity.

That same Silo Effect within an area’s missions efforts can waste valuable time and resources. Unfortunately, we’re recreating the proverbial wheel with redundancies in our ministries.

Take, for example the 2 million NGO’s (non-government organizations: typically, non-profits) in India. That’s one for every 600 Indians–far outnumbering primary schools and healthcare centers.

Many, of course, won’t be Christian orgs. But could Christian organizations band together to intensify impact?

Thankfully among global missions trends, Christians are discovering critical partnerships and essential communications.

Partnerships: A Case in Point

Additionally, consider the Christianity Today-featured church revival in Thailand. It’s been fueled by a large database constructed by a former missionary kid. The research caused pastors throughout Thailand to band together.

CT reports,

Once [pastors] saw Martin’s maps, with data drilled down to the village level, they realized just how unreached their own nation remained.

….Each church pledged, on the spot, how many people they’d lead to Christ before his next visit in about two months.

By the time Martin made his way back from Chiang Mai, where he lives in Northern Thailand, to the Phetchabun province, the FJCCA leaders had far exceeded their goals, starting 74 house churches and converting 782 people in just 54 days.

Organizations serving many missions organizations–like Engineering Ministries International (EMI) or Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF)–can serve as hubs for missionaries, pastors, and churches. They provide avenues to network, converse, and share ideas.

As you serve overseas, make an effort to understand and celebrate other organizations. Diligently seek ways to lock arms and eschew territorialism.

So let’s do this for the sake of the Gospel–and the unity for which Jesus begged God before his death (John 17:21).

GLOBAL MISSIONS TRENDS = Business as Mission (BAM)/Business for Transformation (B4T).

If you’ve been following Go. Serve. Love for long, you know a big part of our heart leans toward the 4.13 billion unreached. BAM is one of our favorite global missions trends

As Marketplace Development & Enterprises CEO Mark Canada explains,

We need a solution as sizeable as that 4.13 billion… We must empower and send out more than “full-time missionaries”. 

…There are significantly more marketplace believers than full-time ministry folks.

Marketplace workers have greater access to more unreached communities than traditional missionaries due to governmental and cultural restrictions. Countries welcome jobs and healthy economies more than Christianity.

People are generally more open to listening to the gospel presented by individuals with whom they have an affinity and relationship.

Don’t miss our page of all our posts on BUSINESS AS MISSION (BAM) :: BUSINESS FOR TRANSFORMATION (B4T).

GLOBAL MISSIONS TRENDS = Migration of people groups facilitating dissemination of the Gospel.

Go. Serve. Love has also touched on this frequently, as in the last post’s focus on urbanization.

Interestingly, by 2050, 75% of the world is anticipated to be living in urban centers. Johnstone estimates that the USA will only be 40% Caucasian. Europe will only be about 60% Caucasian.

Furthermore, the UNHCR estimated that at the end of 2019, a minimum of 79.5 million people around the world have been forced to flee their homes as refugees. That’s roughly 1 out of every 100 people globally. (Interestingly, 80% are hosted in nations affected by acute food insecurity and malnutrition. This means many have profound physical needs.)

The (Really) Good News

But as any graduate of the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement class will tell you, God compassionately uses movements of people–even tragic, seemingly senseless ones–for his purposes. He’s drawing men and women to know him.

And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us… (Acts 17:26-27)

Anecdotally, one organization working in a Middle Eastern nation reported to me that the tragedy of ISIS has shaken many Muslims from their faith.

And as this Christianity Today podcast confirms, this migration moved them to other nations. Many of those lie outside of the strictures of Muslim community.

Consequently, their interest in faith is reviving even the European churches in the countries to which they migrate. Ministry to migrating groups of people even has its own name: Diaspora missions.

Wikipedia reports, “Christianity is reportedly the fastest growing religion in Iran with an average annual rate of 5.2%.” Operation World reports 19.6% for evangelical growth. Afghanistan is number 2. (See this article on surprising places Christianity is increasing…and where it’s not.)

Kuwait, Somalia, Tajikistan, and Mongolia also make the top ten. 

Does this get you as excited as it gets us?

When physical, political, and other barriers prevent entire people groups from accessing the Gospel, God remains undeterred in his goal of bringing people from every tongue, tribe, and nation to love him.

Praise Him with us over these global missions trends–and his passion for peoples worldwide.

Grab part 3 in our global missions trends series here!

We want to know.

What missions trends are you seeing–and inspired by?

comment below!

 

Janel Breitenstein is an author, freelance writer, speaker, and senior editor for Go. Serve. Love. After five and a half years in East Africa, her family of six has returned to Colorado, where they continue to work on behalf of the poor with Engineering Ministries International.

Her book, Permanent Markers: Spiritual Life Skills for Work-in-Progress Families (Harvest House) releases in October 2021. You can find her—“The Awkward Mom”—having uncomfortable, important conversations at JanelBreitenstein.com, and on Instagram @janelbreit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Missions Trends to Help You Work Smarter: Part 1

Reading Time: 4 minutes

missions trends

Do you remember your first exposure to global work? At the risk of dating myself, mine involved slideshows, prayer cards for your fridge, and talk about jungles, huts, canoes, and a Peace Child. In third grade, I told Mom I wanted to go to Japan as a missionary.

The great news? Along with our speed-of-light world, missions has changed, too. Missions trends reflect that as a Church, we’re learning from our mistakes (like missions that whiffs of colonialism or cultural appropriation; check out Does Christianity destroy culture?).

We know more and more of what works–and what harms. We’re applying creativity to bringing other cultures the hope that we have.

So it’s critical you, too, look for agencies and global work embodying smart missions. Because these aren’t just missions trends. They’re new principles added to missiology.

Remember the Hippocratic Oath: First, do no harm. 

In upcoming posts, we hope to highlight major missions trends to make you missions savvy–hopefully loving others better and better managing your energy as someone eager to bring Jesus to those whose hearts long for more.

As with beautiful feet we bring news of the Great Healer, here are missions trends for the better.

Missions Trends: Not Your Grandma’s Mission Field

Focus on unreached people groups (UPG’s); shifting away from “the west to the rest”

In his valuable post 7 Trends to Make You Missions Smart, Rob Haskins points out that “out of the global increase of affiliated Christians, 91% of them can be found in Africa, Asia, or Latin America.” Many of those are now mobilizing missionaries all over the world.

Today, the Joshua Project reports, 22% of Christians reside in the northern hemisphere; 78% live in the global south.

And remaining: 1.3 billion people considered unreached.

What do these missions trends mean for a wider strategy? Rather than continuing to channel missionaries and funds to nations trending to soon be more reached than our own, how can we mobilize harvesters to those who have no near people groups to reach them?

We recently reported a basic missiology principle–that near cultures can reach more effectively than distant cultures (barring issues like racism and tribalism). This means, for example, an Asian culture might more effectively reach others in Asia than, say, a Westerner would.

I don’t claim to be a missions expert! But could someone from North America might more effectually reach, say, the 23% unreached in Germany, or the 33% in France? Though many of these are Muslim, they live within Western culture–people who could eventually reach near people groups to their own.

Am I saying don’t go to Africa or Asia? By no means.

As a Church, we simply continue to strategize how to wisely steward our finances and our people toward regions that may otherwise never know of Christ’s love in their lifetime.

Urbanization.

Cities around the world burgeon with their employment, entertainment, education, accessibility, modernization, and other opportunities.

As Marketplace & Development Enterprises’ (MDE) Mark Canada points out in this post,

Over half of the world’s population lives in cities now. And the percentage is rising.

That means the majority of people who haven’t heard of Jesus or know much about him live in urban areas.

Hearing the implications? We need more believers sharing the gospel in cities.

This means rather than living in a hut, you might live in a place with a microwave, Oreos, A/C (…and several migraines’ worth of traffic and petty theft).

In fact, cities can be a tremendous international hub to connect with refugees and/or businesspeople from unreached people groups.

Take, for example, people groups from the “two big elephants” in missions: India and China, where the majority of the unreached live–yet are largely closed.

Did you know over 500,000 Indians live in Uganda, where it’s much easier to obtain a visa? Italy has over 225,000 Chinese. Many of those are in cities.

Helping that Doesn’t Hurt.

Now, one of my favorite missions trends: Books like When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor . . . and Yourself empower the Church to assess what’s truly helpful for the impoverished. This keeps us from unwittingly cementing them in cycles of poverty.

Take for example that formerly, East Africa had a thriving textile industry. But in an act of “charity”, the West began exporting its used clothing–all that clothing thrift stores can’t sell.

This inexpensive, Western clothing undersold the textile market. And now, very few East African textile industries remain (hearsay tells me only one). But Africans walk around in Westerners’ family reunion t-shirts and holey clothing.*

While living in Uganda, I was told of a school’s boxes of unopened early-reader books from the West. The teachers weren’t instructed how to use them alongside their curriculum.

Later, I heard of rooms of untouched sewing machines. They’d proven too expensive for the organization to maintain, and the instructor had left.

A friend was gifted a grinder to make peanut butter–but lacked the business skills to understand she wasn’t making a cent of profit through her three days of labor to make a batch.

Helping without hurting takes extensive cultural knowledge, partnership with knowledgable locals, and the humility to wait on wise action rather than throwing money at problems.

Given cultural “icebergs”--realities we don’t understand, lying beneath the surface–not to mention a deep and wide understanding of poverty cycles over time, we need development that loves and helps intelligently.

grab Part 2 in our missions trends series here!

What missions trends are you seeing–and inspired by?

comment below!

 

Janel Breitenstein is an author, freelance writer, speaker, and senior editor for Go. Serve. Love. After five and a half years in East Africa, her family of six has returned to Colorado, where they continue to work on behalf of the poor with Engineering Ministries International. Her book, Permanent Markers: Spiritual Life Skills for Work-in-Progress Families, releases in 2021. You can find her—“The Awkward Mom”—having uncomfortable, important conversations at JanelBreitenstein.com, and on Instagram @janelbreit.

*Katende-Magezi, Esther. “The Impact of Second Hand Clothes and Shoes in East Africa.” Geneva, Switzerland: Cuts International, Geneva (2017). http://www.cuts-geneva.org/pdf/PACT2-STUDY-The_Impact_of_Second_Hand_Clothes_and_Shoes_in_East_Africa.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

Packing: A Few Tips and Tricks

Reading Time: 6 minutes

packing luggage

We realize that with COVID-19, many of you may just be hoping you get to the packing phase–and actually get to leave for your host nation.

This week, we’re bringing out of the archives tips on luggage, what to put in it, and a few ideas about what works.

When my family went over, I confess my 2-year-old may have fallen over backwards after I crammed his carry-on backpack a bit full. It was amazing how many prayers of mine were offered on behalf of that poor British Airways attendant who would be checking in (and yes, offering a lot of grace toward) our family of six.