Thursday, November 17, 2011

When Helping Helps!

For many years the church in the US has been sending short-term mission teams all over the world to do ministry in various contexts. The method of serving has not always been helpful though. In fact sometimes the helping we have sought to do has ended up hurting the long-term ministry on the ground. To this end many have recently become more aware of the motivation and methods of doing global missions in various contexts. Some books and articles have helped bring this concept to our attention.

Last week we as a ministry were able to join the church in Guatemala and see how helping helps. Our team last week was able to do several things during our week in Guatemala that clearly were seen as help to the local church and ministries in Guatemala. I want to share these ideas with you today to challenge the short-term team leaders, participants and supporters to ask the right questions to lead to effective ministry support on the field.

Our partner church in Guatemala is Jerusalen Church where our staff family, Greg, Kathy, Hannah and Haleigh Brown have begun investing their lives. This church is an amazing servant-filled church with a passion to reach their community and the indigenous Mayan communities of Guatemala. Through a patient, intentional development of a complimentary partnership we have been able to hear their heart and see their vision for their country. It has taken a couple of years of asking the right questions and seeking to humble our US pride to hear the real needs and desires of the ministry the church is doing on a regular basis.

We have been blessed to walk a road of church planting from the beginning in a community just outside the city known as Sacajvilla. this past week we were able to join the Jerusalen Church ministry team to provide a Festival Biblical infantile (FBI) event that ministered to the children and teens of the Lantana community within this village. We were also able to literally walk with the local mission church into the community on home visits and share the hope of the Good News with many families as we shared a bag of food to help sustain their lives. It is such a joy to walk with the local church and allow them to lead the work of ministry on the ground. this is a challenge for our task driven US short-term teams who want to feel "productive" and "busy" for the Kingdom. Yet, the reward comes in watching the faces of children like Evan, a severely handicapped boy in a remote region of the village, explode with excitement as pastor Juan, the mission church leader from Jerusalen Church, walks into his home and loves on the family! When these great men and women of the mission church open the door to these humble houses of tin and cardboard the lives they are touching come alive with joy and thanksgiving.

This trip we were also able to carry with us 160 pairs of new shoes from Soles 4 Souls to share with the community. As we journey through the airport and to our field of service, the thoughts of how we will see faces light up for joy because we bring them shoes fills the team's thoughts. Yet, when we arrive, the church has a plan of ministry that does not allow for the giving away of the shoes. this is an internal struggle as we walk with the local church throughout the week. Then mid-week I am struck hard at the core of my motivation as i hear our host pastor share they have been collecting shoes for the community and have a list already of names and sizes of people within the community they are planning to give new shoes to the following week!

What a great God we serve! He had a plan for the team who has the resources to bring to the local church what they need to fulfill the vision for ministry they already had received from the Father. The lord had it in the works already to provide shoes to this community, He simply wanted to demonstrate Psalm 67 to us by using us to provide resources for His ways to be made known and His salvation to be shared through the local church!

This week I sit at my desk with a new understanding of how helping does help. I see in a fresh new way how when there is need within the body there is a provision for that need within the body. Last week the need in the local church in Guatemala was to complete a list of needed sizes of shoes for a community in need. This week the local church has the resources in hand to complete its mission. Thank you to Soles 4 Souls for allowing the body in Guatemala to receive the much needed shoes to finish the task they had been called to by God. I pray that as we continue to serve the church in Guatemala, we will help them by selflessly giving to them the resources for them to reach their community! I realize it is not the typical experience to carry the six bags of shoes through the process only to hand them over to the local church and walk away. yet this week I am learning how Helping helps the local church fulfill its role within its own context as the avenue through which the Gospel message is spread. I realize that I do not need to be seen or heard or thanked by the child who will receive the shoes we carried to Guatemala. I need to support the work of the local church and allow them to give shoes and serve the community for the sake of His great name and for the sake of His Gospel.

Helping helps when we serve the local church and support them as the agent of transformation used by the Holy Spirit to reach their world. Helping helps when we teach His Word to the children and teens of a village who will share what they learn form us to their families and friends and be used by the Father to reach their world. Helping helps when I am willing to ask the right question, "How can we help you do ministry that God has called you to do in your community?" Helping helps when we are willing to become the support crew for the local church to fulfill its mission of reaching its world and teaching His Word in their communities to grow the Kingdom! Helping helps when we are willing to listen to the needs of the local church and promote their ministry through their faith family members! Let us all be willing to help in a way that helps!