The time with this couple this week, like many more within the next two months is part of a journey HE has led us into. This journey began fifteen years ago. At the time I was sitting in my office when I read two emails from mission workers who we supervised. These are wonderful, well-meaning people, who each had worked with Muslims for over five years, in very different circumstances and countries. But both emails were negative, whiny, childish, in their criticisms of the local people, their circumstances and their mission leaders. These emails caused me to lean back in my chair and ask the Lord, “Why do mission workers, people who love you. People who You have sent to the ends of the earth to declare Your glory whine? When my employees who are a mix of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and a couple of Christians, rarely whine?”
I pulled my Bible down off the shelf and began seeking an answer from the Master. What He showed me was two-fold. One, I pay my employees, so they swallow a lot of the small stuff because they do not wish to lose their job. Now I cannot pay all mission workers, so that’s not a helpful solution. But the second answer redirected my steps—my life. The second answer is this, I discuss everything with my employees. When we repaint the walls, change the marketing plan, alter a curriculum, hire a new staff person, we all talk about these things. There’s a trust, an accountability, an integrity, a love, that results in trust and respect of one another. A natural believing of the best of one another.
But these mission workers conversely, have no one to bounce ideas off of, no one to talk to about new ideas, no advocate, no one looking over their shoulder discussing what’s best for them, no one watching their backs. They are alone. Though many are on teams, they feel alone. Though most live in large cities it’s common to think “I’m the only one doing this kind of B4T work.” And yes, many are members of a mission organization, yet they feel like outsiders, alone. One team leader wrote his mission’s international office recently to request funding for a member care worker to come visit;
… Personally, I have just gone through the most stressful and difficult period of my life following my mother’s unexpected death last month. I now have no living blood relatives. Both my wife, and I would benefit greatly at this time from some long relaxed conversations with someone like John (member care worker) who really cares and knows us well.
The reply was;
… I have to disappoint you about funding the visit. The Member Care budget for 2015 had been drastically cut down. We are just able to get funds for emergencies plus 2015 I(nternational) C(onference). All the rest has been cut due to much less support. I’m sorry! Wish you al the best.
When asked “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” Jesus summed up Scripture by answering.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” -Mark 12:30-31
It’s all about relationships. Relationship with God. Relationships with people. We need to prioritize people. Rules, programs, budgets that are not designed to build relationships need to be revisited, if not rewritten.
The realization that people are alone has set us on a course that puts us today in the Middle East and next month in China, and the month after that in Turkey, Egypt, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. This course, even when we are traveling, has us daily talking to others around the world on Skype and emailing dozens daily, striving to advocate before God and men, for their calling—their assignment before God.
In all we do, let’s keep God and people, as priority.
PATRICK LAI and his family have worked in SE Asia for other 37 years. His experience in doing business with Jesus has brought him to understand the meaning of work and worship in the marketplace. He started 14 businesses in four countries, six of which are still operating. Patrick and his wife, May, mentor and coach businesspeople working where there are few or no Christians. Check out Patrick’s latest book, Workship, now available in paperback and e-book.