Robert & Roberta Adair

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I wish I could remember where I first heard this but I don’t.  I may even have messed up their wording.   While I don’t remember who told me this (and they probably got it from somebody else).  I do remember I heard it in the context of training for short term missions while I was in college.  (Fight’n Texas Aggie class of 2002!  Whoop)Either way the meaning is still pretty much there.   

The point of the talk was that just because I go on a mission trip somewhere I am not going to magically start manifesting what I viewed is the attributes of a missionary.   I was not going to step off of the plane, meet the Japanese church I was going to partner with for the summer, and magically begin to act like the apostle Paul instead of a 21 year old ocean engineering student who was still relatively young in his faith.  (though that would have been pretty cool)  I was going to do whatever I always did; the difference was that I would do it more intensely.

DSCF103Let me give you a few examples to show you what I mean.  It scares me, as it does many people to share my faith with my friends.  I really want them to know Jesus, but I also really want them to keep being my friend.  (I am not arguing that these two things are mutually exclusive, I was just afraid that they were)  When I was in college I really wanted to share Christ with my friends but I usually got scared and put it off until next time I would see them, and then the next, and then the next. (You get the picture)  When I got to Japan for the first time in the summer of 2001 with j-Teams (Summer Teams at the time) I really struggled with the same issue.  I did a little better because of the immediate pressure and expectations associated with being a “missionary.” That said the fear of messing up, offending people was exaggerated because of the culture and language barrier.  I didn’t become an evangelist just because I went.

The same thing happens with our interpersonal relationships.  I had a teammate one summer who I didn’t always get along with back home.  But back home life was relatively simple and we didn’t have to be around each other all the time so we did not address our differences during training and preparation.  Then we got to Japan, experienced the pressure of not understanding language, culture, etc and found ourselves outside of the church yelling at each other about chaining up a bicycle.  By the grace of God we talked through our differences, spent time together in prayer as a team, and were able to resolve the problem.  The point though is that small interpersonal differences did not go away by leaving the country, they were magnified.  By not practicing reconciliation in the states we modeled division overseas.

The good news is that the principle also holds true for the positive aspects of our walk with Christ.   In preparation for our j-Team in 2003 we spent a large amount of time praying and talking through potential conflicts together.  We also learned about how each member of the team best dealt with conflict before we faced any in the field.  Then, when a few weeks into our ministry we experienced a conflict on our team (which is normal and even healthy) we reacted by praying together and practicing the methods of conflict resolution we had learned during pre-field.  In the same way as I grew in confidence in sharing the gospel in America I became a more effective witness for Christ in Japan.  As I was able to have a consistent quiet time rhythm in the US I was able to have one overseas.  I was the same in Japan as I was in America and this was becoming more and more of a good thing.

God does sometimes use us in ways that are new and exciting while on a short-term ministry experience.   We frequently experience times of extreme growth during these trips.  My point though, is that we need to be conscious about cultivating the Christ-like character, devotional lifestyle, and ministry skills within the context of our normal daily lives before we get on a plane to go to a location that is new to us.  My prayer for you is that you understand this at a younger age than I started to.  Praying that God leads you clearly as you consider going to Japan.

Robert

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