The International Messengers conference began this morning with heartfelt praise and worship music and a message that encouraged us toward personal revival. What an amazing time – the room was filled with missionaries who share the same Lord and purpose but who come from various backgrounds and countries. There were folks from the Ukraine, Germany, Romania, the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Canada, and the U.S., to name a few.
As we mixed and mingled with various individuals throughout the day, Gene and I realized afresh that our new responsibilities have thrown us onto an ever-increasingly steep learning curve. Being effective means understanding the various projects into which these people have invested their lives, and capturing their vision and passion. It means learning to understand various cultures and why certain evangelistic efforts will or will not work within them. It means carrying our understanding back to North America and sharing it with others with the hope that they will capture the vision and passion, too, and choose to get involved here as kingdom-builders either on a short-term, long-term, or support basis for those on the frontlines.
Personally, I’m challenged by the passion I hear in the missionaries’ voices as they speak about their projects. One gal is running a horseback-riding therapy program for handicapped orphans and she needs someone with wrangler skills to come alongside her.
One couple is holding weekly evangelistic children’s clubs for at-risk kids in the government’s social service program. They’re trying to follow a scouting-type program but have no such manuals in their language. They asked us if we could find something of that nature and mail it to them. They will translate the manual into their own language. They also asked if we could find a team of helpers with scouting experience to help them run a 10-day summer camp for these kids in 2008. The Polish government is aware of their efforts and will pay the children’s way to camp because it recognizes the long term benefits of this couple’s efforts.
Some missionaries are working with kids who literally live in the sewers of Odessa, Ukraine. Others are conducting prison ministries for men and women. Some are caring for homeless women, while others are providing care for children with HIV/AIDS.
I have the highest respect for these missionaries. Some are nationals struggling with limited finances for personal living expenses. Others are North Americans who have said goodbye to family and familiarity and stepped into a foreign culture and language that means facing a daily challenge. They’re dealing with issues such as loneliness, meeting their children’s educational needs as best they can, and trying to establish relationships with nationals who sometimes regard them with suspicion or distrust. I feel so honored to come alongside and encourage them in their work.