Many of you know that my wife Laura and I are planning to do some sort term mission work once she finishes her masters degree. As of right now, the plan is to leave sometime in the summer of 2008 and we will be gone up to one year. We do not yet know where we are going, but we have requested the continent of Africa. I thought I would take the opportunity to answer a few questions that seem to regularly pop-up.
Why are you doing this? Aren't there plenty of people you can help in the USA?
Yes, of course there is plenty of work to be done right here. However, I believe that all people are created in the image of God, therefore, it is equally valid to serve those in Africa or the USA or where ever you find yourself. Laura and I are doing this for a number of reasons. One, the church that we are a part of, the Church of the Nazarene, has emphasized mission work from the very beginning. If I am going to be a part of this church, then I need to be concerned about missions. Another reason is that I do not have any background in overseas missions (unless you count the summer I worked at a church in Hawaii, which no one does). I feel like I need this type of experience to have a proper world view and to be a better pastor. I think it will be important to my theological formation to see how the gospel takes form in an entirely different culture. So many times the gospel gets all mixed up with culture, so seeing the church in another context should help me discern the essentials of the Christian faith. Also, our world is shrinking and I think that the pastors of the future must have a global mindset. As communication and transportation technology continue to advance, it will become increasingly difficult to ignore what is going on in the rest of the world. Another reason is that Laura and I want to be challenged, we want to go outside of our comfort zone because we know that it is when we are weak that God is strong and that God is present. Finally (though I could give many more reasons), Laura and I feel called to do this. While in seminary, God began to place this idea in my mind. When I shared this with Laura, she did not hesitate for a second and was on board from the beginning.
Good question. There is no specific reason, just a general leading. Laura has some friends who have done mission work in Africa, and she has been captivated by their stories. I did an internship while at Duke Divinity in an HIV/AIDS ministry, so that seems to point to Africa. And while Laura and I have been praying and thinking about this experience, it is really Africa that has sparked our imagination, so we just decided to follow that intuition.
Where are you at in the process?
This past weekend Laura and I went to Chicago for the Nazarene's CCO (cross-cultural orientation) training. For 3 days, we went through some intense training that covered financing the trip, how to be culturally sensitive, the Church of the Nazarene's involvement in missions, the issue of global poverty and how missions engage that issue, as well as many other things. It was a good weekend and it definitely got Laura and I excited about doing this. Our next step is that we will be put in touch with this guy who is charge of mission work for the continent of Africa. He will work with us to find a specific place and assignment. We will be matched up with missionaries who are already in the field. Our role will be to help them out, encourage them, and do whatever is needed. Once we learn our assignment, we will begin making plans to go.
Do you need help?
Yes, yes, and a thousand times yes. Laura and I will absolutely not be able to do this unless we receive a lot of support. Right now, we could really use some people to join with us in prayer. Pray that God would begin to work and that the right door would be opened. Once we learn our assignment, Laura and I are going to send out letters to our friends and family to name the specific ways in which we will need support. This trip will require a lot of financial support, so this is another area where you can join us in prayer for right now.
I imagine that once things are little more settled I will start a separate blog that will chronicle our experience. Thanks to all of you who have already come along side of us to support us.