Deeply ingrained in many of us is the thought that if someone does not do things the way we do in the USA, it must not be the “right” way. Approaching mission experiences as a learner as opposed to a teacher, creates an attitude of cultural awareness. Finding new ways of doing things based on local traditions and available resources, teaches us that working alongside a mission partner is more important than any method or project.
Whose Agenda is it?
Many mission teams come to a mission experience with a preconceived agenda of what they will do. I remember in the first years of serving in Tijuana, we would ask the missionaries what they wanted us to do. For several years, the response was the same, “What do you want to do?” Again we would say, “What is it you want us to do? What will further your ministry most and help you sustain your work here after we leave?” It took several years to build trust with this ministry and to learn what they really needed.
As a partnership grows and is sustained for many years, we begin to learn more from our partners. They have ways of ministering that we can learn from. In particular, we have observed our partners in New York City as they minister to the least in their neighborhood. They have taught Smoke Rise new and creative ways to reach out to our community. Last year’s Day of Service was sparked by a conversation with our partner.
From the beginning of the mission ministry at Smoke Rise, we sought to develop long-term relationships with our mission partners. It takes a lot of time to learn the culture and really get to know the needs of a particular partner in their specific community. Our partners know that our commitment is long-term and they can count on us to support them year in and year out. All of these ministries are faith based and must raise funds for their support. An ongoing relationship is very valuable to them.
Because we have been in partnership for many years with most of our missionaries, we have become true partners and friends with them. The depth of relationships developed from many years of serving together bears fruit when we are able to support them as our friends. Our goal is to support them as individuals through their hurts and needs and struggles and see them not only as missionaries, but as real people.