Monday, April 21, 2014

Posted in an SIM periodical recently:
We have a system that placed missionaries into the stratum of Christian superheroes. Forget pastors being one step below God; we’ve all watched pastors fail and fail big. They must be mere human beings. But missionaries are people just short of godly perfection. That interpretation partly comes about from the same problem I have in comparing myself to missionary heroes in books. You can’t compare a partial story (the best and most interesting parts of their lives and ministries) to your entire story––blemishes and failures and all the unpolished pieces of your life.
But being a missionary does not make you a rock star. In fact, we’ve found that being a missionary is a surefire way to bring hurt, heartache, and challenges. Becoming a missionary doesn’t make you automatically nearly God-like. Rather, we see that it regularly (and sometimes painfully) highlights failures, shortcomings and areas of sin lodged in our lives. Living as a missionary does not mean that as you walk through the market everyday people will fall at your feet in repentance, begging to know the way to salvation. We find that getting opportunities to fully and powerfully share the gospel takes hard work and a long time, and seeing lives change at these invitations really has nothing to do with us and everything to do with God. --Steven Shepherd

I haven't been too frustrated with the "you're a missionary you must be a super Christian" attitude--probably because I've continued to live in the US all this time, they get to see me in my normal life, and it does seem a bit more, well, normal, than everybody's concept of a missionary. And maybe because I'm still young and new at this, all the excitement I put into my newsletters and blog posts is genuine. But I still resonate with a lot of what Steven said; I've found mission life to be a continual dichotomy of hope and discouragement, vision and drudgery, joy and frustration, all to the superlative. Which suits me well--I think I was made to live in extremes. For instance, I love getting excited about the idea of raising 2000 laptops to be teaching the gospel to 20,000 students a year. And then in real life that means a zillion phone calls and trips to get a few "maybe"s, hours on the floor surrounded by laptops as I take them apart, cleaning and exchanging optical drives trying to get one to boot, while rebooting another for the tenth time in hopes that now I've fixed whatever its problem is--and wearying as that is, I love that part, too.

Thanks for all your prayers as I finished up the material for the ICCM. It was a long two days at the end of last week, but I got it all done! Now back to working on laptops, a programming course, a networking course, and, as usual, support-raising so I can hopefully get to Zambia this August! That is the area in which I am most glowing with excitement, with the idea of living in that beautiful country and working face-to-face with people who are ready to help transform lives by the gospel in education. See my financial needs page to track my progress.

Christ is risen! Hallelujah!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Partnering with Computing in Mission conference

Now that I'm back from MissionPrep, the remainder of April will be focused on getting materials ready for a groundbreaking workshop. The International Conference for Computing in Mission (ICCM) has met annually in the US for a long time, giving mission geeks a chance to share helpful sessions and fellowship. The first ICCM-Africa is scheduled to be held in Kenya at the end of April, and TEN3 has been invited to participate. My colleague Ken is going to be presenting sessions for those interested in moving from Windows XP (since it's no longer supported) to Linux. Our Zambia director, Gilbert, is going to be presenting our Computer Training Outreach as opportunities that ministries can use to bless their communities with computer skills and the gospel.

My part in this is getting together materials that the attendees can take away, both to reinforce the sessions they got--if they took Ken's Linux session and/or Tim's network troubleshooting session--and to give them a taste of how practical and thorough TEN3 material is. We're hoping that this will help the attendees remember, apply, and pass on what they learn, and that it will open doors for us to provide the CTO to more places in Africa. Plus, we're planning on expanding the materials for these sessions into full-blown courses that schools can use.

Please pray for me as I work hard on making this material the best it can be. Also pray for grace for Ken, Gilbert, Tim, and the rest of the presenters and attendees, that the Lord use the ICCM to bless them personally, and to bless all our ministries.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

MoveIn ministry

Today's MissionPrep lesson included a field trip to MoveIn headquarters. What's MoveIn? Glad you asked.

It's the simplest mission model I've ever heard. If you're a Christian with a heart for making disciples among the unreached, keep your regular job and just change living situations. Move in to a poor unreached community. In big cities, there are whole apartment buildings in which the residents are over 90% from unreached ethnicities, and so likely have never heard the gospel. Then talk to your neighbors as you wait in the elevator, the laundry room, the lobby. Knock on their doors and offer them a pie. They'll probably invite you in and eagerly converse. No 4" orientation manual, no support raising, no creative visas, no traveling troubles. Just move in and prayerfully live life among the lost and hurting ... like Jesus did. 

As we got in the car to head back to the conference building, one of the attendees, Eric, echoed my thoughts almost exactly: "It seems like that should be the default Christianity." I really hope that catches on--Christians being intentional about incarnational ministry among those within their reach.