Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Finding Need

As I sat down in the pastor’s office, by his body language I could almost see the wall of resistance come up. We had never met before and to him I was just another American trying to pitch a program. He’d seen guys like me for years, spending a year or less in the country, hoping to find a National pastor to facilitate another grand idea from the West.

Wanting to put him at ease I said, “Let me say at the outset that I have nothing to sell, I am here to just ask questions.”

I then preceded to explain that, though I had been a pastor in the U.S., a pioneer church planter in Kenya for 14 years, a trainer of missionaries for 16 years, my purpose for asking for a visit with him was to find the answer to one question, “Is there a need for what I do in this country?”

Too many times we make assumptions. We assume that in a country of 1 billion people, where the evangelical community is less than 2% that what WE DO is valid and important. We, speaking as an American, assume that we have a role to play in every country. The gap between our assumptions and reality is one reason there are so many frustrated missionaries on the field today.

“I’m not sure why I am here,” one guy said to me recently, and a sentiment I’ve heard many times over. “I came to this country wanting to make a difference, but I can’t find my niche. I feel guilty as I am getting a ton of support to live here, but the National church doesn’t need me where I am gifted, and I’m not gifted in what they need.”

Mission sending agencies are not much help in helping people find their niche on the field. Driven by numbers of recruits for their organization, they also make assumptions that they need to send people to China, Cambodia or Croatia, and hope that when the people get to the field they will figure it out for themselves when they get there. That’s not a plan, that’s a wish.

How does one find their niche as a cross-cultural worker? I have a suggestion based on my experience…go to the field and ask the question. WHAT IS THE NEED? IS WHAT I DO FILL THAT NEED?

The North American church spends lot money each year going on short-term mission trips. Rather than using that two week, one month or even one-year trip in doing ministry, that may or may not be relevant, I suggest people spend that time investigating and asking appropriate questions? By asking the proper questions one may find that they indeed can have a role as a teacher, business manager, computer expert or counselor. It’s also possible that they will learn they do not have a role in serving the church in that country and will need to seek God’s guidance in serving in another area.

By asking the questions BEFORE going to the field, missionaries will experience job satisfaction, which is key in feeling worthwhile in ministry and, will help them know what to do on Tuesday morning.