Friday, June 20, 2014

Meet and greet Missionaries

Meet and greet Missionaries and leaders from other parts of 

the Anglican World 

Open House Dinner Reception at the Wingate by Wyndham Hotel 
Tuesday June 24, 6:00pm—9:00pm 
3970 Route 30, Latrobe, PA 15650 
Seven minutes from St. Vincent’s 
Hosted by SAMS—USA
For questions call Nita at 724.513.5055

Saturday, June 14, 2014

What does a missionary church look like?

What does a missionary church look like?


What does a missionary church look like? Does it have a big map near the entrance, perhaps marking all the missionaries it has identified, trained, sent and is praying for? Does it keep up with global events and pray hard for the world? Does it engage in evangelistic and holistic projects in its own local community? Does it mobilise all its members to recognise and utilise the opportunities God has given to serve him on our many and various frontlines at home, work and play?
And it would be great if a church did much of the above, but… is there more?
We usually talk about mission in terms of saying or doing things. But what about mission in terms of being?  I’m reminded of something RenĂ© Padilla once wrote:
“The local church is called to demonstrate the reality of the Kingdom of God among the kingdoms of this world, not only by what it says, but also by what it is and by what it does…” (Emphasis mine)
Mission as a way of being? What might that look like for a church?
Dynamically Diverse
Some time ago I read Bruce Milne’s excellent book Dynamic Diversity. In it Milne makes a compelling case for the revolutionary, missional potential of the communal life of the local church. Milne calls it ‘the new humanity church,’ basing his argument on Ephesians 2.15 where it says that Christ’s “purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two…”
In Ephesians 2 the cross is seen to have a dual effect. For Milne, not only does it remove the wrath of God (v3), it also removes the hostility of people towards one another (v15). The cross thus creates community. This community or new humanity is then, “a divine attestation to the gospel.”
Missional potential
Milne goes on to show that this text can be taken as an example of God’s intention to make a new humanity church not just of two different racial groupings (Jew and Gentile) but out of all the distinctions that usually divide mankind. He surveys the New Testament, highlighting the prevalence of the ‘new humanity’ theme. He shows how the ‘new humanity church’ is underpinned by the great theological themes of Trinity, Creation, Incarnation, Atonement, Church as the Body, and Eschatology. And he outlines the missional potential of the ‘new humanity church.’ He says that in the remarkable diversity that is the reality of today’s and tomorrow’s world, the Church is uniquely placed to demonstrate the power of the Gospel. In a church where diversity is embraced and celebrated, people feel as though they are ‘coming home’; there is a strong sense of ‘Otherism’; and owing to the multi-layered make-up of the congregation there are multiple points of connection with the people and world around.
Milne argues that now is the time for a return to an intentional focus on establishing truly diverse churches. This is not least because,
“[t]he story of the expansion of the church universal is the story of the founding and effective function of the church local.”
Milne’s thesis is that,
“the calling of every local church, everywhere, if it is to be faithful to its New Testament roots, is among other things to be a community of reconciliation in which all the primary divisions and polarities of its surrounding culture are confronted and find resolution under the gracious reign of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
So then… a real missionary church would not just be one that sends folk to far away – or even nearby – places. It would in its corporate, day-to-day life be a living, breathing example to the world that Jesus is alive – and He brings all things, all people together.
Exciting but also very challenging stuff.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Effective Short-term Missions Trips

Things No One Tells You About Going on Short-Term Mission Trips

A few ways to make sure your mission trip is effective.
It is estimated that over 1.5 million people from the United States participate in short-term mission trips every year. That is a lot of people. And those 1.5 million people spend close to $2 billion for these trips.
My husband and I live in Guatemala and host short-term mission teams throughout the year. I am originally from California and he was born and raised in Guatemala. For me, short-term mission trips were kind of like camp. Every summer I had the chance to go somewhere new and “help people.” For my husband, hosting short-term mission teams in Guatemala was part of what he and his family did. There were blessings that came from it, but it was mostly a lot of work.
We have both seen the good, the bad and the ugly of short-term missions. And we continue to feel this tension with the short-term mission teams that we host. Do they do more harm than good? Do they perpetuate the cycle of poverty? Do they contribute to feelings of superiority? Or inferiority? Our work with families and communities in Guatemala, as well as churches and schools from the U.S. has forced us to ask these questions daily.
We have learned that perhaps how we go might matter more that what we do. Here are a few things you may not have heard about being more effective on short-term mission trips:

You're Not a Hero.

First of all, before you go and when you get there, your team must commit to getting rid of the hero complex. Developing countries do not need short-term heroes. They need long-term partners. And if your group just wants to be a hero for a week, then you may be doing more harm than good.

Poverty Can Look Different Than You Expect.

If at the end of your trip you say, “I am so thankful for what I have, because they have so little.” You have missed the whole point.
You’re poor, too. But maybe you’re hiding behind all your stuff. There is material poverty, physical poverty, spiritual poverty and systemic poverty. We all have to acknowledge our own brokenness and deep need for God before we can expect to serve others.

Historical Context May Be Just As Important as Immediate Context.

Have you studied the history of the country or neighborhoods where you’re going? Do you understand the role that the U.S. has played there? Do you know what the role of the Church and missions has been? Do you know the current needs and issues of the people? Having background knowledge of where you're going will help you know how you can best fit and help in your immediate context.

Don’t Do a Job People Can Do for Themselves.

Last time I checked, people in developing countries can paint a wall, so why are you doing it for them? If painting a wall or school is really a need in the place where you’re working then invite students from that school or people from the village to do it with you.
Doing things with people, not for people should be the motto. Always.

Learning Takes Place in the Context of Reciprocal Relationships.

Be willing to share about your family, your pain and your needs. Sometimes people in developing countries think everyone in the U.S. is rich, white and happy. We know this is not true, and we have the chance to share honestly and vulnerably. Prioritize building relationships over completing projects.
You are an ambassador from your country. Thanks to globalization, YouTube and Facebook, most developing countries will have certain ideas about the U.S. before you arrive. Be willing to ask questions and share about yourself and American culture, as well.
Along the same lines, before you take a picture, ask yourself, "Would I mind if a foreigner took a picture of my daughter/son/sister/brother in this situation?" If the answer is yes, then don’t take it. Come back with stories and name of people, not just an entire album of “cute” nameless kids.

There is Something Special About Going.

All of this isn't meant to discourage missions work. On the contrary, the act of going is important. Jesus left His home, the comfort of the Father to go, to be among the people. Your willingness to leave your home, your comfort and GO is an example of that, too.
So go, be among the people. Live with them. Learn from them. Eat what they eat. Observe what they do. Don’t spend your time in McDonalds.

Don't Raise $1,000 for a Week, and Then Give Nothing Else the whole Year.

We all know money is not everything. But when used wisely it can make a huge difference in the lives of people. You probably wrote letters and had car washes in order to raise money to go, right? Well, what keeps you from still doing that? We work hard for a one-week trip, but then what? What if your church or youth group or school worked on matching every dollar you spent on your one-week trip to send down to the place you served over the course of the year?

You Don’t Have to Fly in an Airplane to Serve the Poor.

Why not focus on seeking justice in your neighborhood? Ask yourself, "If Jesus was here who would He be talking to?" The kid with disabilities who sits in the back at youth group? The Spanish-speaking man who cleans your office? The woman who collects cans in the local park? Ask God to give you eyes to see what He does. It might change your life.
Please don’t stop taking short-term missing trips, but do consider helping your team understand that how we do short-term mission trips may, in fact, matter more than what we do.


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Good Missionary

An absolute must-read for short term trippers! Thank you Samuel and Claire!

I owe my life to missionaries. Growing up as an orphan in rural Kenya, missionaries—some long-term, some short-term—intervened at key junctions in my life.
Missionaries helped start the children's home that saved me from being destitute. Missionaries sent some of my most beloved friends, mentors, and supporters to my doorstep. And through the years I learned the difference between mission teams that helped and those that didn't. Perhaps my story will be a tool for your own discernment as you reach out to others.
For the first time, I saw what it was like to be the one offering help.
I lost my father at a young age and was soon abandoned by my mother as well. So at the age of 11, I lived with my 13-year-old brother and 5-year-old sister. We found ways to survive, selling plastic bags of water to earn money for food. But we regularly dropped out of school.
My life changed when a pair of pastors—one Kenyan, one American—started a children's home. When I was able to live there, I knew my life had changed forever. One day, after a few years of living there, I met two young American women who were traveling through the area. They had blonde hair that hung in their eyes, and they talked to me in a grown-up way I'd rarely been talked to before.
They lived at my orphanage for a year, starting a non-profit called Hope Runs, and ultimately bringing me to the United States. The book Hope Runs: An American Tourist, a Kenyan Boy, a Journey of Redemption tells the story of the strange, makeshift family we have formed.
At first, though, I was wary of them, and so were my friends. Living in an orphanage, I'd had many experiences with missionaries who came to help over the years. Some had done just that, ultimately changing my life and the lives of my peers. Some had only added to our hardship (more on that later). White people—mzungus, as we call them in Kenya—had not always been the best visitors. What would it be like to have this pair of girls around for so long? With time, though, I grew to know, trust, and love them.
Over time, I understood in a way that many of my friends did not, that mzungus couldn't drop their lives in the U.S. to live with my friends and me in our orphanage. I saw, eventually, that sometimes good things could happen in those few days when missionaries were there.
Years later, I would gain a much more comprehensive perspective. When I came to start high school in the U.S., I felt that my American peers saw me like the missionaries did—like a needy orphan. With time, though, I learned to walk and talk and think like my new high school friends around me. Most important, I learned what it meant to be able to extend resources to others.
Focus less on "helping," and more on cross-cultural exchange.
In my senior year of high school, I ran a campaign that made the local news, collecting thousands of pairs of running shoes for my peers in orphanages back home. The year after high school, I took this concept of service a step further and spent a year volunteering on a service project in Ecuador. For the first time, I saw what it was like to walk into a community and be the one offering the help.
Although these experiences have given me a more complete perspective on missionary work than I ever had growing up in my orphanage, many of the thoughts and feelings I had as a child about the strange white people that came to visit still ring true. Here are five things I have learned about being a good missionary from being on the other side, the side of the beneficiary, the one being helped.

1. Rethink the goals of your short-term mission trip.

In the orphanage, I saw many short-term missionaries come and go. Again and again I was amazed by how many of them were completely focused on "getting things done" during their time with us. Whether it was building a chicken coop, painting the dorm rooms, or fixing a borehole, many missions teams spent the few days they were with us doing, doing, doing. And most of the time, the doing was manual labor or unspecialized work.
I was thrilled they wanted to help us, but I always wondered about the particular activities they chose. In Kenya, for example, we have rampant unemployment, and there is literally an endless supply of Kenyans who would do such menial labor for very little money. If a missionary is going to spend so much money to fly and visit us, shouldn't they be doing work that only they can do?
Again and again, I found that the missionaries I most connected with were those who realized this fact. They saw that the thousands of dollars they had spent to come visit us could be best used in building relationships, both with the students in our orphanage and with the elders as well, not in painting, building, or manual labor that Kenyans could do.
It was in these relationships—when I learned about the wider world, got to practice my English, and built some key connections that would last a lifetime—that I saw the real benefit to having short-term missionaries come to the orphanage.
If there is one thing I could tell short-term missionaries, it would be this: focus less on "helping," and more on cross-cultural exchange, and becoming friends.

2. Don't try to get too close too fast.

I'm still a teenager, so I can't speak with the authority of a psychologist on this, but from what I have read about orphaned and vulnerable children who grow up in situations similar to mine, I know that there are problems with attachment that come when you're raised like I was.
Try to remember that the trip isn't over when you get back home.
Although I loved seeing missionaries get close quickly with many of the kids at the orphanage, I sometimes worried about the younger, more emotionally vulnerable children. There were many young girls and boys at my home who would latch on quickly to a missionary who was only there for a few days—holding her hand and not letting her out of their sight for 72 hours. And then they'd be devastated when she inevitably left.
I want short-term missionaries to show love and care, but it's important to be aware of this difficult reality and to proceed carefully, knowing that you—the missionary—are the adult in the situation. Kids are particularly vulnerable to short-term visitors, and they often don't understand the reality of your life back at home and why you really have to leave after a few days. It may not be fair to you that a kid is disappointed when you only stay a week (which is a long time off work for you!), but as I saw again and again, many of my peers just didn't understand the concept of traveling so far for such a short time. These visits can be good, but proceed with caution.

3. Learn what the partner needs.

One day I was coming back from running practice, and the bell in the dining hall rang, meaning that all 170 children at my orphanage were supposed to gather together into the central courtyard. When we did, we came face-to-face with 20 smiling mzungus.
After one of our elders introduced the group, she said that the mzungus had a presentation for us. A middle-aged American woman with a bottle of hand sanitizer strapped to her waist gave a 15-minute talk about how to brush your teeth. Then she passed out toothbrushes.
We couldn't stop laughing. Another white person who thinks we don't know how to brush our teeth!
As we filed into the dining hall afterwards, we couldn't stop laughing. "Another mzungu who thinks we don't know how to brush our teeth!" We added the new toothbrushes to our stockpile. We had dozens, of course, from all the other white people who had come through that year apparently concerned primarily about our teeth.
The lesson here is that understanding what a partner needs is essential if you're trying to offer valuable support. In this case, the group was at our orphanage for only a few hours, and they assumed that in that short time it made the most sense to focus on tooth brushing. They were wrong. Ask, ask, and ask again.

4. Don't forget the money.

People don't like to talk about money, but when it comes to orphanages that constantly struggle financially, we have to. Of the many problems related to short-term missions that I saw play out again and again, problems with money and a lack thereof topped the list. Here's a classic example:
After months of coordination between the orphanage and a U.S. church, a group of 10 comes from the U.S. and stays for four nights in some extra dormitory rooms. The orphanage van (the only vehicle) goes on an 8-hour round-trip journey to pick them up at the airport, and another 8-hour trip to drop them off at the end of their stay.
They bring with them a dozen bags of donated clothes and books. During their time at the orphanage, they are served special meals with things we kids don't get to eat—meat, fresh vegetables, milk, and sugary treats. During their stay, the three full-time staff at the orphanage are on-call the entire time, helping with the constant questions and issues that always come up when people travel to an unknown (and, to them, primitive) place. The orphanage takes the group on frequent rides to local shopping centers, tourist places, hospitals, and the like every day. When the group departs, they may leave a donation of $2,000.
From the church's perspective, they have fundraised incredibly hard and already spent more than $30,000 to bring a group of 10 to Kenya. For them it seems reasonable to make a donation of $2,000. The orphanage, in contrast, feels exhausted, used, and frustrated. That $2,000, even in Kenya, is not a lot of money to pay for all of the orphanage's expenses and staff time. Three years later, the orphanage hears from the group again, saying they had such a great time, they want to make another trip.
There are variations on this story. Sometimes the group leaves no money at all. Sometimes the orphanage never hears from the group again. Sometimes the group promises a large donation or offering upon returning home and showing their photos and videos to the congregation, but it never materializes. And sometimes, of course, a church becomes a long-term partner. But long-term partnerships are the exception.
Year after year, the cycle continues. The orphanage accepts short-term missionaries because it is always hoping for that long-term partner who can really help. In the interim, though, they are using up resources that should be going to the children on an endless stream of visitors.
If you're a church considering a short-term missions trip, please think about the implications of the time and resources the orphanage will spend on you.

5. Follow up, follow up, follow up.

What a missionary does once he or she goes home is often far more important than what happens at the site. Following up is everything.
When I talk about some of the great relationships I built with short-term missionaries over the years, I know that the only reason those relationships worked was because the missionary followed up. As an orphan, I didn't have money for a stamp to send a letter (and Internet access, both then and now, is unusual in many children's homes in Kenya). But if a person I met wrote me, we could develop a friendship. Some of my greatest mentors and friends to this day are people who first came for just a few short days to my orphanage. On the larger scale, follow up is the only way that the orphanage and the church can truly build a mutually beneficial long-term partnership.
Ultimately, try to remember that the trip isn't over when you get back home.
In the years since I left the orphanage and began to have experiences of my own helping others, I've learned a lot about what it means to extend help and how difficult it can be. Aside from my year spent on a service project in Ecuador, I've also now taken part in several short-term volunteer experiences with international missionaries visiting orphanages and nonprofits in Kenya. In all of these experiences, I've served as a bridge, the rare person who knows both sides, and who tries to provide advice on how each side can better understand the other. I'm glad that the missions field has changed to emphasize understanding on-the-ground partners, but there is still much more work to do.
I believe the core of the issue has to do with better communication between missions groups and partner sites, in hopes that we can bridge the vastly different cultural and financial expectations and assumptions that each group has.
By working closer, we can help one another.
Claire Diaz-Ortiz is Twitter's manager for social innovation and coauthor of Hope Runs: An American Tourist, a Kenyan Boy, a Journey of Redemption (Revell, 2014). Claire is the cofounder of Hope Runs, a nonprofit organization operating in AIDS orphanages in Kenya.
Samuel Ikua Gachagua was born in rural Kenya in 1992. After losing his parents at a young age, he struggled to survive until he was placed in an orphanage in Nyeri, Kenya. In 2009, he received a full-ride scholarship to Maine Central Institute, granting him a rare U.S. visa and the chance to begin his sophomore year of high school under the guardianship of Claire Diaz-Ortiz. After graduating from high school, he spent a year serving in Ecuador as a fellow for Global Citizen Year. He is an up-and-coming motivational speaker.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Generational Connections

A while back I had written a blog about the man who baptized me, Fr James Abdy. Today, Louise and I drove up to picturesque Hendersonville in North Carolina to meet his daughter Anne.

To us, Anne is the splitting image of her father...but the similarities do not end with physical likeness. You see, Anne in the process of becoming a priest herself, following in the family tradition, as she says. As you can imagine, we had much to discuss over luncheon and it turns out there is another connection we did not know about, that being the connection between Louise and Anne's mum. Both of them worked at Mowbray Maternity Hospital as nurses in the early 1980's. The world just seems to keep getting smaller.

But we didn't just talk about the past. Anne is quite an interesting person in herself. Born in Cape Town prematurely as one of triplets, Anne miraculously survived. She spent her childhood years in the mission field in Ovamboland, various parishes in South West Africa (now Namibia), including Keetmanshoop and Walvis Bay, and in a boarding school of a prestigious school in South Africa...and later in various places in the US. She has a rich history, great experience, and captivating stories to tell. Not just a pretty face, as my dad would say.

As we were saying our goodbyes, I mentioned to Anne that our parents were probably chatting about our connecting with each other after all these years. Perhaps they are as amazed and as pleased as we are...

Monday, June 2, 2014

Laughing Through May

I suppose if we couldn't laugh at things that don’t make sense, we couldn't react to a lot of life. This wise thought from the creator of Calvin and Hobbes neatly sums up the past month. 

As you know, Louise and I have been trying to get all our documents ready for submission to the Ethiopian Embassy for authentication...well, it would be an understatement to say that it has been an interesting journey through a proverbial maze of bureaucracy. 

Most of what we now know has been gained through trial and error, but we do believe that we have crested the hill and that the end is in sight. A good African proverb says it all: No journey is ever ended without persistence.

Thank you again for your prayers, for your encouragement, and for your support. I thought of you as I read Paul's words to the Ephesians this morning. "...the whole Body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth in the Body for the edifying of itself in love." 

The call to serve the people in the Horn of Africa is not ours is yours too. It is as much the call of the sent as it is the call of the sender. We believe that as God made His call clear to us, so He will make His call clear to you and others in the Body as He raises us up to do the work of the ministry in this particular part of His vineyard.

May was quite a busy month filled with everything from learning opportunities to doctors visits to clergy gatherings to presentations in homes and in churches to getting more (yes, more) shots to saying goodbye to friends in various parts of the country we may not be visiting again any time soon. Baroness Karen von Blixen once said that she was better at hello...I couldn't agree more. 

This past weekend, we met with Bp. Grant and Dr. Wendy down at Camp St. Christopher to touch base and to chat about various things we still need to do prior to our departure. We met with quite a few old friends and met new friends at the Church of Our Saviour on John's Island. All in all it was a very uplifting and encouraging time.

As the song goes, June is busting out all over, and we have become more aware that the clock is ticking away. We will be taking the remainder of our belongings to our children in Mobile, AL, finishing up all the rest of the paperwork, applying for visas, attending the ACNA Assembly in Latrobe, PA, and, God willing, buying our air tickets.

SAMS has just told me that we are at 55 % of our total pledge need. This means that, together with the emergency cash fund, we do not yet have enough to cover our first year in Ethiopia. Please pray with us and for us about this matter. At present out plan is to leave the US by the end of August or the beginning of September. 

Finally...there are two prayers we would ask you to pray for us, both of which come from Paul's letter to the Ephesians. The first comes from 1:15-23 and the second from 3:14-21. Without the Lord's daily enlightenment and strengthening and constant reminder of the width, length, depth, and height of His immeasurable love, we will not be able to do what we believe He has called us to do.

You are always in our prayers.

Many blessings.

Johann and Louise