In November of 2015 we attended our missionary retreat for GBGM missionaries in San José, Costa Rica. It is a rare event for us to gather with our Methodist missionary colleagues from Central America and the Caribbean. It was a privilege to be together to get to know one another, worship together, share meals together, and explore some sites on a day trip.
One special blessing was to be with our General Secretary of the GBGM, Thomas Kemper, aka, the big boss. He came not only to address us but to be with us the entire time, as one of us. He is very approachable, kind, and really has a heart for missions and missionaries. Maybe that is because he was a missionary himself in Brazil for six years.
Thomas Kemper is also wise in his understanding of mission. He shared a mission workshop with us that was very insightful and profound. It was a cold cup of water, a great teaching moment for 30 thirsting missionaries. We were all encouraged, strengthened, and reinvigorated by his words. In a very brief summary of what Thomas said (with a bit of my own spin):
1) That Jesus sent out his disciples two by two – find a partner from our own culture and one from the mission culture – to keep us balanced and adjust our focus regularly. It is a sound idea on the mission field to have a support group.
2) We are sent out like lambs amidst wolves: identify the wolves, sometimes they are very near and even from within the household of faith; just knowing that this is an expected threat helps to take down the power of wolves, we are not blind nor naive but wary and prepared.
3) Jesus told the disciples to travel lightly: live simply, sometimes resources are greatly needed and other times they can become a burden. Like riding a horse, it is balance that keeps us from falling off of one side or the other.
4) Receive the hospitality of your hosts: it can be so tempting to be self-sufficient but that may rob your host of the joy of sharing in your keep and sharing the general mission which belongs to them as much as to you.
5) It you are not received, shake the dust off your shoes: do not impose yourself in mission. Sometimes it feels like I’m pushing a big boulder up hill and can’t quit lest the boulder roll back down. Could I be imposing myself and wasting energy? Maybe a key to mission: rather than paddling upstream in a frenzy, find the current in the river and follow it’s lead.
Thank you, Thomas Kemper for being so present with us and for your wisdom.