Who is the LACRET Team?

Wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing if a mission had an elite squad, their own “think tank”, their own group of veteran missionaries to call upon in unique and specific situations where experience and wisdom would be really helpful for knowing next steps to take?  Let it not be a surprise then– the Latin America/Caribbean Regional Equipping Team is just such a group.

They are made up of a group of veteran missionaries, many beginning their years of service in Venezuela decades ago.  They are highly educated, with almost as many doctorates as team members. However, they are not just a bunch of lofty, brilliant minds from the academic world. In fact, they are some of the most humble servants that can be found, with their hearts in grassroots ministry, in equipping people and helping them along in their various ministries throughout Latin America.  These are men and women who have a heart and much experience in mentoring, in team leadership, in pastoral training, Christian education for both children and adults, virtual ministry, and seminary training. They may just be our greatest untapped resource in the Latin America/Caribbean Division.

Ernest Dyck, the team leader of LACRET, says that the heart of the team is to be right in the thick of ministry on the field, and not simply be in academic settings. Ernest became the team leader just this January, and says it is a joy to work alongside his longtime colleagues and peers in this new role. Ernest and his wife Effie work as regional specialists in church planting and training teachers in Christian education.

ReachGlobal also has the wonderful resource of a Global Equipping Team, that functions much in the same way as this regional team.  However, the added strength of the LACRET team is that in their combined years of service on the mission field and years living in Latin America, there is a profound cultural awareness–they can pick up on many of the nuances of language and culture that many of us newer and younger workers would miss. They understand contextualization on a different level, whether that is in urban church planting, rural ministries, or in the educating of church leaders.  Every person on the team brings a different field of specialty and knowledge to the table– Rebecca Rodriguez with international women’s ministries, Jim Panaggio with spiritual formation, Ross Hunter with equipping for indigenous ministries, Carlos Tejada with pastoral networking, and the list goes on.

Ernest Dyck speaks for his entire team when he says that they greatly desire to be used as a resource to the other teams in the Latin America Division as well as to their national partners. They would be honored and delighted to come alongside you, whether it is in a consulting role, or to help facilitate training of some sort. For more information, please email LACRET1@efca.org

This video was made for the 2018 Latin America/Caribbean Conference. Team leadership has changed since then, but the heart of the team remains the same. Enjoy!

Soltera y, aun así, Santificada [Single and Still Sanctified]

[Last month, an article written by yours truly was featured on the EFCA blog, which you can read right here. It was a reflection on the blessings and burdens of singleness on the mission field and in the church.  One of our ministry partners in Mexico City has graciously translated it for us into Spanish, so that a wider community can enjoy and also share their insights. Enjoy!]

Soltera y, aun así, santificada.

Reflexiones de una misionera acerca de las cargas y las bendiciones de la soltería.

Oh Señor, “susurré en voz baja,” Iré a hasta lo más lejos de la tierra; Iré a las naciones; no hay límites de los lugares, las personas y las tareas que haría por tu reino. Pero por favor, te lo ruego, no me hagas ser como Amy Carmichael. Esa es mi única petición. Una vida en soledad, eso es demasiado para mí, no lo podría soportar”.

1 Corintios 7 dice que la mujer soltera tiene ciertas ventajas que las que no lo son, ella puede dedicar su mente y tiempo a las cosas del Señor. Soy una mujer soltera, y no muy joven, viviendo en el extranjero y sirviendo en misiones en el extranjero para la agencia misionera ReachGlobal.

La descripción del ministerio que hago requiere que viaje por América Latina y algunos otros lugares, reuniendo historias. Hago filmes, fotografía y también escribo. Cada mes me encuentro en un lugar diferente viajando muy lejos de la civilización, ya sea sobre un burro o en el asiento trasero de una camioneta. Realmente amo lo que hago y siento una gran satisfacción en ello. Estoy convencida que esto es para lo que Dios me creó. Tengo éxito en lo que logro y considero que el tiempo con el que ahora cuento lo aprovecho para redimirlo. Si estuviera casada y tuviera hijos, no podría hacer este tipo de trabajo en particular. Tampoco podría meditar tanto en mi estudio de la Biblia y mi oración o dejar todo lo que estoy haciendo para hablar con alguien que está sufriendo. El tiempo es mi mayor ventaja en este momento; el tiempo es el regalo de Dios para la persona soltera en el campo de la misión y en cualquier lugar. Sin embargo, cómo lo uso, bueno, eso es algo que tendré que darle cuentas al Todopoderoso.

La soltería es un camino hacia la transformación.

“25 En cuanto a las personas solteras, no tengo ningún mandato del Señor, pero doy mi opinión como quien por la misericordia del Señor es digno de confianza. 26 Pienso que, a causa de la crisis actual, es bueno que cada persona se quede como está. 27 ¿Estás casado? No procures divorciarte. ¿Estás soltero? No busques esposa. 28 Pero, si te casas, no pecas; y, si una joven se casa, tampoco comete pecado. Sin embargo, los que se casan tendrán que pasar por muchos aprietos,y yo quiero evitárselos.

29 Lo que quiero decir, hermanos, es que nos queda poco tiempo. De aquí en adelante los que tienen esposa deben vivir como si no la tuvieran; 30 los que lloran, como si no lloraran; los que se alegran, como si no se alegraran; los que compran algo, como si no lo poseyeran; 31 los que disfrutan de las cosas de este mundo, como si no disfrutaran de ellas; porque este mundo, en su forma actual, está por desaparecer.

32 Yo preferiría que estuvieran libres de preocupaciones. El soltero se preocupa de las cosas del Señor y de cómo agradarlo. 33 Pero el casado se preocupa de las cosas de este mundo y de cómo agradar a su esposa; 34 sus intereses están divididos. La mujer no casada, lo mismo que la joven soltera, se preocupa de las cosas del Señor; se afana por consagrarse al Señor tanto en cuerpo como en espíritu. Pero la casada se preocupa de las cosas de este mundo y de cómo agradar a su esposo. 35 Les digo esto por su propio bien, no para ponerles restricciones, sino para que vivan con decoro y plenamente dedicados al Señor” (1 Corintios 7:25-35).

Te puede parecer sorprendente saber que pasé más de una década de mi vida resentida con el apóstol Pablo y sus palabras en 1 Corintios 7. Literalmente me hacía encogerme cuando alguien lo compartía conmigo, y le rogaba al Señor que fuera otro pasajeel que se aplicara a mi vida. Si el que decía estas palabras era una persona casada, inmediatamente los desacreditaba, y generalmente me enojaba aún más por la injusticia de todo esto.

Tener la capacidad y el tiempo para preocuparse por los asuntos del Señor es una bendición, es un regalo.

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Sin embargo, en los últimos años, ha habido un cambio gigantesco dentro de mí. Fue tan gradual, y se produjo en una culminación de pequeños momentos que casi ni me di cuenta como sucedió. Un día, me topé con el temido pasajey, mientras lo leía, descubrí que de repente pude decir “¡sí y amén!” a lo que anteriormente me había causado tanto dolor y pena.

La implicación de Pablo es que tener libertad de tiempo, espacio mental y emocional es estar en buen estado. En lugar de dedicar esta libertad a un cónyuge, la persona soltera puede entregarse al Señor como una ofrenda. No es un estado menor; ¡Él lo llama bueno! Tener la capacidad y el tiempo para preocuparse por los asuntos del Señor es una bendición, es un regalo. Al verlo de esta manera dejé de estar enojada con las palabras del apóstol.

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Mi deseo era casarme muy joven. Recuerdo estar en la preparatoria contándole a mi madre mi sueño de casarme el día después de graduarme. Su ansiedad por este deseo expresado eventualmente se disolvió, ya que nunca salí con nadie en la preparatoria. Inmediatamente después de mi último año comenzó mi primer viaje de misión de seis meses y mi visión del mundo cambió. El primer viaje que realicé me llevó a Tailandia, allí me encontraba durante el tsunami de 2004. El sueño americano se arruinó para siempre,y desde ese entonces buscaba una manera de participar en el reino de Dios entre las naciones.

Ahora, 15 años después de ese primer viaje, después de muchos altibajos, el sueño y el deseo por alcanzar las naciones permanece. Lo mismo ocurre con el deseo de casarme. Y, sin embargo, ya no estoy enojada con Pablo. Entonces, ¿Cómo sucedió este cambio?

La soltería es un estado tan santificante como lo es el matrimonio.

He visto a casi todos mis amigos cercanos casarse y formar familias en la última década.

Los he visto caminar hacia el altar, como deslumbran en su etapa de luna de miel, caer en cuenta de la realidad a los pocos meses y luego privarse del sueño durante meses (o años), cuando tienen bebés. He escuchado mientras comparten conmigo acerca de que el matrimonio y la paternidad es el proceso más santificador que jamás hayan experimentado. Mientras soñaba con el campo de la misión y tener un esposo, caminé por lugares solitarios mientras mi esperanza y dirección de vida se apartaban de la de muchos de mis amigos. También he visto como mis amigos han experimentado la soledad. ¡Mis amigos casados! ¡Los amigos que están viviendo mi sueño todavía experimentan soledad! ¿Qué es esto? Sus vidas y esperanzas tienen los mismos altibajos que la mia.

Un día, sin embargo, me di cuenta: la soltería es tan santificante como el matrimonio.

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Solía ​​aceptar la mentira condescendiente de “oh, entenderás la santificación cuando te estés casada”. Me lo dijeron una y otra vez, lo escuché de amigos bien intencionados e incluso por pastores. Esto me llevó a creer por un tiempo que la verdadera experiencia de vida llegaría una vez que llegara el matrimonio, así que debería esperar para tomar decisiones verdaderamente importantes hasta que eso sucediera.

Un día, sin embargo, me di cuenta: la soltería es tan santificante como el matrimonio.

Mis amigos casados ​​tienen que aprender a confiar en Cristo para satisfacer sus necesidades, deseos y soledad, ¡y yo también tengo que hacerlo! Yo hago lo mismo y también duermo sola por la noche. Mis amigos casados ​​tienen que buscar a Dios para conocer su identidad y propósito, ¡y yo también! La soledad es una condición humana, como parte de la caída. La raíz de esto, es realmente la maraca dolor por nuestra separación de Dios. Entonces, cuando experimento momentos de soledad, mis amigos casados ​​también lo experimentan. Mis amigas que son madres jóvenes al estar atrapadas en la casa lo experimentan también. Mis amigos cuyos hijos dejaron su hogar y los dejaron con un sentido de falta de propósito, también lo experimentan.

La soltería no es una carga

Puedo decir que los de ReachGlobal cuidan muy bien de las mujeres solteras. Desde mi primer día, me hicieron sentir que soy un activo, no un pasivo.

Durante nuestra capacitación previa al campo, todos tuvimos que llenar un formato, tanto matrimonios como solteros, describiendo algunas de sus ventajas y desventajas que traerían al campo en su estado civil actual. Una misionera recientemente me contó que cuando ella lo hizo, una persona casada en su grupo dijo que “las personas solteras están disponibles 24/7 para servir”. Nos reímos mucho por lo que esa persona dijo. Eso es extremo, y no es cierto, pero definitivamente si estoy más disponible para servir que, digamos, mujeres que tienen niños pequeños en su hogar.

La soltería es un regalo tan grande a los ojos de Dios como lo es el matrimonio.

Puedo aportar los recursos de tener más tiempo y flexibilidad, más disponibilidad emocional, menos personas a las que cuidar y una perspectiva valiosa sobre la dependencia de Dios. Las responsabilidades que tengo no son tan diferentes a las de las parejas casadas: debo cuidar como me relaciono con los demás, tener cuidado de mi seguridad. Tengo que depender de la gente para que me ayude a veces, especialmente cuando estoy en lugares donde no es seguro o culturalmente inapropiado que una mujer viaje sola.

Me encanta que en ReachGlobal, no se me trate como un problema que debe resolver, sino como una valiosa colaboradora en este ministerio. Muchas veces en la iglesia, me hacen sentir como una amenaza, como si estuviera haciendo algo mal y por eso todavía esté soltera (¡lo que implica que mis amigos casados​​hicieron algo bien para merecer el regalo del matrimonio!). La soltería es un regalo tan grande a los ojos de Dios como lo es el matrimonio. Aprecio mucho la perspectiva que nuestra misión tiene en esta área.

La soltería es enriquecedora y satisfactoria.

Hace unos años, cuando fui a un entrenamiento de pre-campo, conocí a una mujer soltera que sirvió en Hong Kong durante 38 años. Probablemente ella no tenga idea del tipo de gigante espiritual que ha sido para mí. Su influencia en mí ha sido muy alentadora.

Ella me dijo que incluso ahora que ya tiene más de 60 años, la gente se acerca a ella en la iglesia y le dicen que están orando para que ella tenga un esposo. Ella les ha pedido que no lo hagan y que mejor oren para que su carácter sea más parecido al de Cristo. Ella me dijo, muy en el espíritu de Isaías 54, que a pesar de que era una mujer soltera, no estaba fuera de la perspectiva de que Dios quisiera que tuviera hijos espirituales. De hecho, si las palabras del profeta son verdaderas, “Porque más hijos que la casadatendrá la desamparada” (Isaías 54: 1). Ella me acorraló y me habló con firmeza, diciendo que sería mejor que discipule a las personas. El hecho de que nunca haya dado a luz a un hijo no significaba que no debía ser madre. Cada mujer en la tierra es llamada ser madre, ya sea una verdadera madre biológica o no: Dios nos creó para ser criadoras y dadoras de vida, lo somos hasta lo más profundo de nuestros huesos.

Más tarde, me encontraba leyendo las biografías de algunas de las “mujeres poderosas” en las misiones: Amy Carmichael, Lilias Trotter, Corrie Ten Boom. Aunque oraba para que el Señor no me hiciera como Amy Carmichael, al leer más sobre su vida, pensaba en mi conversación con las misioneras de Hong Kong. ¿Cuántos niños en India llamaron Amy Carmichael amma (“madre”)? Ella no fue una mujer desamparada: Carmichael tuvo una gran y vasta familia, ¡un nido lleno!

Preferiría ser como Amy Carmichael y vivir una vida de soltería que enriquecedora y plena, que estar casada y vivir de una manera inferior a la que Dios me llamó a vivir.

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Al parecer es cierto lo que está escrito en muchos libros y artículos, que hay aproximadamente 10 mujeres solteras por cada hombre en el campo de la misión. Si de hecho hay un hombre soltero en el campo de la misión, es probable que ni siquiera termine la escuela de idiomas antes de casarse. ¡Ahora lo he visto con mis propios ojos y puedo dar fe de que es verdad! La gente dice que el campo misionero no es un lugar para encontrar un esposo.

Aquí está mi pequeña aportación al respecto: Dios puede traer a quien quiera, en cualquier momento que él quiera, a cualquier persona que él elija. Prefiero estar en obediencia y sirviendo y no tener esperanza de encontrar un esposo que estar sentada en mi casa en desobediencia y casarme con alguien cuyo corazón no vaya en la misma dirección que el mío hacia Dios.

Me atrevo a confesarlo: Preferiría ser como Amy Carmichael y vivir una vida de soltería enriquecedora y plena, que estar casada y vivir de una manera inferior a la que Dios me llamó a vivir.

La soltería es una manera de redimir el tiempo.

Mi anhelo por el matrimonio y mi anhelo de servir en el extranjero crecieron a la par durante años. Al final de mis 20´s, fui sorprendida por una profunda convicción: no quiero estar frente al Todopoderoso al final de mi vida y decirle que nunca fui a servir en las misiones porque estaba esperando a que me enviara un esposo.

¡No quiero tener que decirle que pasé años en desobediencia, años en los que podría haber sido útil, solo esperando a que un hombre viniera a rescatarme! Dios tenía trabajo para mí, y seguí postergando mi compromiso de entrar en el campo solo porque no quería “dejar pasar la oportunidad de casarme”.

Quiero lo que él quiere para mí. Nada más y nada menos.

Efesios 5:15-16 nos dice “Así que tengan cuidado de su manera de vivir. No vivan como necios, sino como sabios, aprovechando al máximo cada momento oportuno, porque los días son malos”. Redimir el tiempo. Eso puede significar muchas cosas en muchas temporadas de la vida, pero para mí, en el momento en que esas palabras me iluminaron, significan que fui llamada al servicio, a ser útil, y a ir a las naciones. El llamado es ya. No “algún día cuando llegue mi príncipe” sino ahora.

Mi esperanza es dar algo de luz acerca de los desafíos particulares que las mujeres solteras enfrentan en el campo de la misión. Siendo honesta, los desafíos que enfrento son casi exactamente los mismos que enfrenté en los Estados Unidos, especialmente en la iglesia. Recibo los mismos comentarios poco sensibles tanto aquí como en casa, los mismos comentarios con asombro de “¿Por qué rayos no estás casada todavía? ¿Te sientes llamada a estar soltera? ¿No quieres tener esposo?”. La respuesta, después de años de discutir el tema con Dios, es:” Quiero lo que Él quiere para mí. Nada más y nada menos.”

Dependiendo de dónde esté de visita, a menudo se me considera extraña, poco convencional o simplemente un espectáculo triste porque no tengo un esposo o hijos, lo que da valor, identidad y seguridad a las mujeres en gran parte del mundo. Tengo el privilegio, en cambio, de demostrar que Dios le da a cada humano valor y dignidad simplemente porque estamos hechos a Su imagen. Hay momentos en que tengo que depender de mis compañeros de equipo y de otros misioneros para darme seguridad, ayuda y comunidad. Pero lo que me ha sorprendido es que esto funciona en ambos sentidos. Las familias con niños en el campo de misión necesitan “tías” y compañerismo con otros tanto como yo necesito la dinámica de una cena familiar. Dios nos hace a todos parte de su familia y todos cumplimos con un papel especial durante las diversas estaciones de la vida en que nos encontramos.

Aun siento la soledad vez en cuando. Como oleadas que vienen y que se van. El consuelo ahora es saber que todos experimentamos esto, que el ir y venir de la soledad en el mundo no es solo para las personas solteras. Esta necesidad que sentimos puede ser redimida; se puede canalizar; se puede usar para declarar entre las naciones que todos necesitamos a Dios, que nuestros corazones claman a causa de nuestra separación de Él.

Kathryn Bronn es la coordinadora de comunicaciones de ReachGlobal Latino America / El Caribe. Usa la fotografía, cortometrajes, blogs y medios mixtos / pintura para contar historias del Reino de Dios donde quiera que vaya. Puedes encontrarla en kathrynbronnblog.com o @kathrynbronn en Instagram.

Traducción por Jorge Altamirano.

Jorge Altamirano es pastor en la iglesia Cristiana Vida Abundante en la Ciudad de México, también es profesor de inglés como segundo Idioma, traduce artículos de publicaciones, materiales y libros cristianos.  Puedes contactarlo a través del correo jamfielm@icloud.com y en Facebook/Jorge Altamirano.

 

 

Introducing :: Gene and Gloria Van Den Bosch

For those of us on staff in ReachGlobal, the names Gene and Gloria are very familiar. For those reading this who may be from a supporting church or just a prayer partner, the Van Den Boschs have been wonderful friends, colleagues and mentors to many of us through the years.  They have recently come on board with ReachGlobal Latin America/Caribbean as part of the Member Care team.  We call them our “Pastors to Missionaries”, and they will serve a crucial role of supporting those of us on the field. Today, I thought it would be nice for them to share their own story of how they have come to this point. We are so incredibly eager for them to begin their ministry, and I hope you enjoy the read:

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In 1993, we felt called to go on our first short-term missions’ trip to Romania.  We can still remember the Sunday when we felt God’s call to go on that trip.  Missions was not something that we had ever thought we would do or even knew much about.  God took us totally out of our comfort zone (even out knowledge zone).  We spent two weeks in Romania and saw God do things we had never experienced before, we met people who had survived Communism and had such hard lives yet had a joy in the Lord and heart for sharing the Gospel that we had never seen before.

We went on our 2ndshort-term trip to Romania in 1994 and after that trip, we experienced a tug to return.  God took us on baby steps as He called us back to serve Him long term. On December 3, 1995 we flew to Romania.  Our two youngest daughters attended Black Forest Academy in Germany; our two oldest daughters stayed behind in the US.

During out time in Romania, we experienced culture shock, culture fatigue, language learning and building relationships, and learned what it meant to plant a church.  It was in these years that our understanding of who God is and what God can do and our faith in Him grew more than at any other time in our lives.  It was the best of times, the worst of times.

God brought us back from Romania in mid-2001.  We felt God closing the door to us living in Romania but didn’t feel Him closing the door on being with ReachGlobal.  We had developed a heart to care for missionaries because of our experiences in Romania.  We had hoped to care for missionaries on the field, but God also closed that door to us. He had another plan for us; he called us to the EFCA National Office in 2002 and God showed us how we could care for missionaries in our roles there.

We have told countless applicants over the years that we were the poster children for going overseas unprepared and not ready. We believe that God gave us those experiences, so we could build an onboarding process to ensure that those feeling called to go would be prepared and ready.  There are so many ways God met us over these last 16 years, so many ways in which He revealed Himself to us.  He has grown us up in so many ways to understand who we are and who He created us to be and how we can use His gifting of us for His glory and to serve His people.

There are 3 things that we have said we would never do that relate to our life as missionaries.  1. We lived in MN in the 80’s when Gene was with IBM and we said we NEVER wanted to live there again.  2. When we joined the mission, we said that we NEVER wanted to work at the National Office. We currently live in MN and have worked at the National Office for 16 years.  The 3rdis, we said we NEVER wanted to do Ministry Partnership Development (MPD) again to raise up prayer and financial partners.

In August 2018, we went to the Latin America Caribbean area conference and it was there in conversations with our staff, through Bible teaching times, personal Bible reading and prayer that God dealt with our ‘never’ of doing MPD again. We also believe that, while He released us from our roles at the National Office; as in 2001, He hasn’t released us from ReachGlobal.

God is giving us our original desire to care for missionaries.  It is a role called Pastors to Missionaries (PTMs) which is part of our Member Care team. While we won’t be living overseas, we will be caring for missionaries through visits to their locations, through emails and through skype calls.  Some of this care will be reactive as they have difficult circumstances in their lives; some of this care will be proactive as we give them resources to help guard their hearts.

We will be PTMs to the missionary staff in ReachGlobal’s Latin America/Caribbean division and we are very excited about this.  We will be doing this on a part-time basis – we are retiring for a reason! The pull of grandchildren is powerful!

For most PTMs, it takes 1-2 years to build relationships with those on their fields.  We are blessed to know our missionary families already as the majority have come through the onboarding process.  We are so excited to be able to care for these dear colleagues.

During out time at the National Office, we cared for those preparing to go, through processes, details and tasks.  Sometimes, caring for them meant hard conversations in which we needed to speak the truth in love.  Sometimes it meant saying no, sometimes, not yet.  As we look at this new role as PTMs, our focus is to listen and love them. How great is that?!

God is asking us to step out in faith to trust Him to what He has called us to in our repurposing.  It is a faith journey that is not completely new for us; but this is taking us to a place of total reliance on God’s provision for us.

We are excited about raising up a team of people to partner with us in serving and caring for our missionary staff in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean.  We believe that anything that is done to expand the Kingdom of God on this earth through our missionaries is counted as heavenly reward to us. but also, to those who partner with us in prayer and finances.

In great anticipation of God will do!

Let’s be praying for and cheering on Gene and Gloria as they make this transition and walk through the MPD process this year!

In Defense of the Short Term Missions Trip (Part 1)

In recent years, the short term mission trip has gotten a lot of bad press.  In many cases, it has been deserved, and a reassessing needed to happen in the approach.  Article after article has been written, talking about why North Americans don’t need to be flying halfway around the world to paint an orphanage again or feed hungry people or lead a VBS.  This article was written specifically for girls who fit my description–white girls with no construction or professional experience (although I WAS a truck driver in a past life, but I digress).  Chapters of books have been dedicated to all the things churches and organizations and teams have done wrong, and all the harm caused, and why the effort it useless and money wasted.  As a result, many church mission boards and long term missionaries alike have changed their approach.  Many others have thrown up their hands in frustration, not knowing a healthy way to move forward.

This is not another article bashing the short term missions trip! In fact, it’s the first in a whole series defending it.  To say that “everyone is doing everything wrong in every case” is a broad, sweeping statement that is both unfair and untrue. Many churches, mission teams, and local ministries work hard to foster healthy relationships within their own communities and  with people at home and abroad.  There is huge evidence that we should KEEP the short term trips, and not do away with them altogether, as many suggest.  Let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water, here. When pastors, mission boards, missionaries, and local church bodies abroad work together to discover the needs of their neighborhood, short term projects are incredible gateways to open doors.  When everyone has been prepared ahead of time, is on the same page, and has a clear understanding of the goals, then they are set up for success.

In my role covering media and communications for the Latin America/Caribbean division, I have been traveling to each of our sites where ReachGlobal has a long term team in place.  Several of these trips have coincided with short term team visits. As I go about my business of filming, interviewing, watching and listening, I get to interact with these American teams and see up close how things are being done.  In the past few months, I have seen some incredibly effective and wonderful groups!  I intend to use at least two of these teams as examples of “This is What it SHOULD Look Like”, and how teams can actually be a blessing, be catalysts, and open previously closed doors for new relationships within the community.

To begin, we need to visit the hot, humid, mountainous and beloved island of Haiti.

As a country, it is the poster child for how western aid has harmed a people, their dignity, their economy, and their spiritual growth over the past 150+ years.  So much damage has been done by well-intentioned people, that often times things just look like an impossibly tangled mess.  And yet! God is working, moving and restoring His people in every corner of the earth, including Haiti.

Our Haiti team first began in 2010 as a Crisis Response group to the earthquake.  With ReachGlobal’s Crisis Response division, their structured to receive groups for a week at a time, one after another. In the aftermath of a natural disaster, is incredibly effective, and keeps people engaged for a few years.  However, shortly into their work, the newly formed Haiti team realized there were some long-term needs in their neighborhood. Everyone unpacked their suitcases and settled in for the long haul.  After a few staff changes and adjustments, the Haiti team became comprised of the Mathis family, Jen Blevins, and Stephanie Fry.  They live and work in a rural community, with the “Haitian Queen” as the guest house where most of the action takes place.

Team Haiti still receives about 20 short term teams a year, far more than the average ReachGlobal city team.  Teams work on projects within their local community, teach VBS and English classes, and work to build relationships through sports, construction projects, and prayer walks.  When it’s just the long-termers there, the ministry takes on a different shape, in church leadership development and discipleship of local youth.

Talking with Dave and Sharron Mathis, I asked, “What do you see as a successful short term trip? What makes it helpful to you and worth the effort and expense of a North American church group coming here?”

Dave responded that, “Basically, if they’ve learned, and taken more away from Haiti than they brought, then it’s successful in my mind.  I mean that by them coming as learners, them coming to build relationships, understanding more about the culture. I think if we’re just focused on projects and what we accomplish—while those things are gratifying in some ways—we’ve missed the mark of what we like to call “being versus doing”.  Being in relationship is far more important than what you can do for someone. If people learn more by coming to Haiti than what they knew before they were here, whether it’s about missions, or about Haiti, or about God, or about themselves, then I’d say that’s a successful short term trip. Really, a short term team is an extension of what we are doing in local discipleship. It’s two-fold, because we see as much effect happening to the people who come as we do on the people in our community. They both see God in a bigger way, and perspectives get changed. Honestly, we do as much ‘mission work’ to the American church as we do to the Haitian church. That’s the way we’ve designed it; we want it to be equal parts receiving and giving on both ends.”

In the evenings, as the air cools slightly and the bugs all come out, everyone gathers under the wooden patio cover illuminated by strings of Christmas lights.  A meal is shared, a time singing in worship follows, everyone discusses their experiences of the day, and then “class” begins.  Our Haiti team has a format that they follow to educate their short term teams during the brief time they have together.  It’s important to know that teams arrive having (hopefully) done their assigned homework: reading the incredible book that has really become a staple to American churches and mission boards in the past 10 years, “When Helping Hurts”.  Nightly discussions are led by Dave or one of the ladies over the topics covered in the book, such as “What are all the different elements of poverty” and “In what ways are we poor and broken in our different cultures”, and “what are the differences between relief and development”.

Dave also shared, “We teach people about the history of Haiti, and have them understand the context in a better way. We also want to educate people on missions in general, and we try to stick to the “When Helping Hurts” philosophy. The accomplishment of our tasks is not the objective; the goal is really to build relationships over time.”

When teams come to teach or do work projects, they are not doing them FOR the community, but instead WITH. But what does that really look like?

I watched the short term team teach English classes for 3 days.  You know who the translators were? The group of neighborhood teenage boys who are being discipled by our long term team.  They were just as involved in leading the classes as the Americans were, and were given just as much responsibility.  Relationships have been built with these boys over years of daily interaction. Giving them a role that was essential and important with the short term project did much to further the trust, sense of ownership and value, as well as growth and maturity on their end.

When the team worked with Dave in the local community garden where he is teaching some new agricultural skills, it wasn’t just a bunch of American college kids there digging in the ground. Just as many men, women, and teenagers came from their homes in the surrounding houses to work alongside. Why?  Because the priority is relationship within the local community and the American teams are there to encourage that.  The goal is not to go and do things for people, but to go and know people, learn their needs, and empower them to take care of themselves.  The neighbors are the ones who are going to see the fruit of this garden over time, and having them participate in the care–giving a responsibility and sense of ownership–makes the investment more valuable.

We’ll leave the discussion there for now, and pick it up next week, down in South America with several Brazilian pastors, a few ju jitsu instructors, some graffiti artists, and a whole heap of paintbrushes.

Please feel free to share your thoughts.  When have you seen short term trips and teams be effective?  What are some ways you engage your visitors and American churches in your local ministry?

Hi There, I’m Kathryn

 

Hi there, I’m Kathryn, or as I am called here in Costa Rica, Catalina.

I am a photographer, artist, writer, bookworm, and serious coffee snob. I am a bit obsessed with beach cruiser bicycles (always with a basket!), extra large sunhats, fresh pineapple, and Taco Tuesdays.

Most importantly though, I am the new communications/media coordinator for ReachGlobal Latin America/Caribbean, and will be curating this blog for the next few years, so I thought I’d take a moment to introduce myself.

I am a Southern California girl raised in the mountains of Colorado, with an insatiable desire to travel and explore new places. Because of this, I have gotten to see many parts of the world, and live in some interesting places, my favorite being a remote village in the Alaskan bush for two years. My education is in art, with a degree in music first and photography second. My photography degree had an emphasis in photojournalism and documentary work, with the purpose of working in the non-profit world. I had the privilege of working in depth with an inner city Christian school in Denver for several years, helping them with their fundraising and awareness efforts by making short videos and doing expansive photographic stories.

My heart is to tell God’s stories around the world, and I am over the moon that I get to do that here in this region.

I will be based out of Costa Rica for the next few years, making my way around Latin America and the Caribbean, telling the stories of our teams, ministries, and partner churches along the way. You can expect an abundance of photos and videos here on the blog, as well as the grand narrative of how God is building His church in this part of the world. I look forward to learning, sharing, and hearing from you as well!

My other passion is teaching art to people who are walking through trauma or just need a safe space to open up and make beautiful things. Art journaling is my specialty, which is really just “mess making with a purpose” as I like to call it. It has been a wonder and privilege to watch the Lord transform hearts and open up closed off spaces during art classes over the years. If you are interested in learning a bit more about this, you can read my blog post here.

My heart and vision for this blog is to be a space for connection, for stories, and for community. We can all use updates on each other’s ministries, but storytelling is so much more than just reporting the news. We get to all be a part of this Kingdom work, whether we are in Latin American countries or somewhere completely different and participating by prayer and giving. This blog has been, and will continue to be a place where we can go to see the stories that God is writing in His church, and the ways we are connected to one another in the body.

If you are interested in learning more of my story, please visit my personal blog over at www.kathrynbronnblog.com. I can’t wait to walk this journey and see where God leads us as a Division and the Body of Christ over these next few years! ¡Pura vida!