Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Intangible Mission Journey

I am convinced that our ministry in Europe can sometimes be "intangible". I am not meaning by this that it is not needed or is unimportant compared to countries for example that are in the 10/40 window for I believe there is an extreme need in Europe and it is strategically very important. For one example of this check out reconsider europe.

I am saying it can look different than what people often think of as expressions of traditional missionary efforts. This is sometimes hard for churches and for missionaries to grasp. I know it has been some of my story of the last 8 years. Ministry in Europe takes place at meals, in cafes, playing sports but one thing connects it all: it is highly relational. I was much more comfortable with designing a cool mail out or event and having people come to our church plant.

A few weeks ago a new friend of mine Daniel who has connected with us at The Upstream Collective sent me the following email. He gave me permission to print this post. This describes a part of his journey in what we affectionately call “The Intangible Mission Trip”.

"I was trying to think of a few highlights from N. Ireland that I thought worthy of sharing with you, and I am a bit troubled because I can't think of many specific events as I am processing what I learned from this relational trip. Even though I've gone as part of the leadership taking teams of high school students over there twice before, going on this advance trip with 2 of my other leaders was a learning experience.

The main thing that's always hard for me to wrap my mind around is the value of the relational ministry. Even though I've taken students over there for the purpose of relational ministry, it feels weird to go by myself with the purpose of sharing experiences and conversations with people, getting coffee/tea with local believers, praying with them, and encouraging them. Though it is a trip filled with long days that are tiring, it feels much like a vacation because it energizes me to see how God is working in the lives of people all around the world. It's not a ministry where you see instant conversion type fruit all the time, or a project you can quickly look back on and say "I helped do that". A lot of times it's spreading the seed, and praying for God to send workers into the harvest when they are ready.

There was a particularly cool God appointment we had during our time there. We usually work in a small town, but we do have some friends up in Belfast that we wanted to meet up with some time during the week. The only time we could both get together was on Thursday. It just so happened that on Thursday evening this family was entertaining the new youth worker in their church, who had just 2 days earlier moved back to N.I. after four years of ministry in North America. I won't go into the details of the conversation, but it was one of those conversations where we just dreamed together about what God might want to do in Belfast, offered our support and service if needed, and all left mutually encouraged. Those friends may come to stay with us and intern in our church, or we may have an opportunity to go stay with them. Some might say experiences like this make the world seem smaller, but I'm convinced they just make God look bigger."

Thanks Daniel for writing out some of your story. Thanks for your passion to see the peoples of Europe come to know Christ and encouraging churches here.

You can find out more about Daniel by following him on Twitter at norniron.

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