This is a true story, but intentionally vague on details.
Years ago, the church convention my wife and I are members of had a partnership with the Austrian Baptists. Many people respond negatively to the term “partnership” in missions because the partnership is often in word only. In practice, it can be simply unidirectional help. The one with the Austrian Baptists should have been that way as well. Why?
-They were only 18 churches back then (they have grown since then).
-They are culturally divided. Half of the congregations are German, half are Romany.
-Their total membership as a group is less than many a single church in our convention.
-They were not even recognized by their own country.
On the other hand, our convention has over 1500 congregations. You can see how “partnership” could really become dependency.
Well, one day, the partnership coordinator of our convention received a message from the Austrian Baptists that they wanted to send a Strudel-making Team to us to help out our local ministries. The coordinator did not know how to respond. What would he do with a strudel-making team?
But, of course, one doesn’t want to say “NO”. That is part of being partners. They take us seriously and we take them seriously and seek to grow together.
So a few weeks later, the coordinator was having a meeting with various local ministriesministries. In an almost off-hand manner he says, “Oh yeah, the Austrian Baptists want to send a… ummm…. ‘strudel making team’ to us. So if you have any way to use them… let me know.” He wasn’t sure if anyone would have any use for a strudel making team. But to his surprise he got many quick responses.
One said, “Oh, sign me up for them! We can definitely use them at our student union.” Another one said, “Hey, they would be great for our coffeehouse outreach.” Soon the team from Austria had too many places to go. They came and had a successful ministry, and then came back the following year to finish what they could not do the first year.
What can one say to this?
-Everyone has something to offer, and everyone has something to learn. We need to simply be open to recognizing what we have and don’t have.
-The big can help the small and the small can help the big. It is not size… it is willingness to use what God has given you.