This week, I’ve had the wonderful pleasure of hanging out a bit with Kyle. He’s part of a missionary group in Peru that our church sponsors. It was cool to hear him talk about the other side of a pretty cool team dynamic.
When we first came to Tullahoma, it became quickly apparent to us that the church had a pretty unusual relationship with this particular missionary team. They had been in the field for two years, but the church still talked about their work eagerly, intensely. Beyond talk, they seemed to really value relationships with the team members, and evidenced their desire to continue to invest in those relationship, talking about them as if they were church members who had just been out of town for the weekend. People kept up with what was going on, and were sincerely excited whenever a bit of news came by of things going well. The upcoming furlough visits were anticipated not just like some sort of Return on Investment presentation, but like reunions with much loved friends—or family. (And not just because half the team literally is family either.)
All that speaks well of the degree of community developed between the missionary families and the church. Beyond that, what’s really significant—and not accidental, is that a lot of people at Cedar Lane really seem to understand the goals and tactics of the team in Peru. They buy into the idea that we are all part of the team, that this is something that the church does together. This particular mission team has helped people understand the part they can play, and helped them connect to the mission of God, both in Peru and, I think, here in Tullahoma. They’ve been provoked to think about mission not just as something we fund, but something we are and do.
The partnerships between missionaries and the churches that sponsor them are complicated things, and I’m far from an expert in how those relationships should be developed and nurtured. But I do understand this: Whenever people become connected to the mission of God, it’s a win. We need more things like this, places where people get a better understanding of how they can connect with the mission of God. When we try to “do” mission without making that connection, we waste a huge discipleship opportunity.
Glad to hang out with you, Kyle and Larissa. Greg and Megan, y’all come home soon.