Quoting Steven Wright, “You can’t have everything… Where would you put it?”
Additionally, you can’t do it all. You… Me… And anyone else you are likely to come across, are finite beings. We are limited in time, space, energy, skills, knowledge, wisdom, power, and just about anything else. That is not so bad. If we had something without limits, not only would we not know where to put it, we would not know how to use it.
As finite beings my wife and I have struggled with what we were supposed to be what we were supposed to do as missionaries. We can’t do everything. In fact, we can’t do most things. We found in our first 11.5 years that we went through four stages:
- Nonstrategic disorganized
- Strategic disorganized
- Nonstrategic organized
- Strategic organized
Note: This is just what we did. This doesn’t imply others should do the same. Quote Rene Descarte, “My purpose here is not to teach the method that everyone ought to follow in order to conduct his reason well, but merely to show how I have tried to conduct my own.” (Discourse on Method and Meditations on First Philosophy)
Stage 1: Nonstrategic, Disorganized. We came to the Philippines as “barefoot missionaries.” Although Celia was born and raised in the Philippines, having been away for 24 years, this was still new territory in many ways. Additionally, I was an engineer and Celia was a nurse, and with no formal training in missions, we were going to learn through doing (and attending a seminary in the Philippines.) We did not know what we were doing or how we would do it. But we agreed that we would be slow to say NO and quick to say YES when we were asked to be involved in ministry. And that is what we did for several months… maybe the first year or so. We did this until we got our lives cluttered and overwhelmed with various ministry activities.
Stage 2: Strategic Disorganized. After being cluttered with the activities that came our way from other people, we decided to be a bit more strategic. We would be more selective so that we did not burn out. We would say NO more often but we would intentionally seek a variety of missionary activities and experiences so that our education was broad-based. During this time we were involved in medicai missions, community development, a church plant, leading small groups, children’s ministry, and several more activities. Disorganized? Certainly, but at least there was a method (or strategy) to our madness.
Stage 3: Nonstrategic, Organized. The problem is that doing lots of different things makes one broad-based, but lacking expertise and focus. We had to be more oorganzed than that. We helped form Bukal Life Care, and CPSP-Philippines, and began focusing on teaching, and supervising in missions and in chaplaincy. We gained expertise, but we were still unstrategic. By this I mean that if we were asked what our overall target group or vision or mission was, it would be hard to define. We had a narrower range or ministries and foci, but lacked an overarching goal or target group.
Stage 4: Strategic, Organized. Finally, in the last few months, we have begun to move towards being strategic, having a clear, primary, focus and vision with regard to our mission work. To a large extent, this happened organically. We saw where the various works were taking us. But it did also require us to make a few changes and step away from certain activities that were burning us out, and were not tied to our vision. Our target group is ministers in Southeast Asia. Ministers means church leaders, missionaries, and layleaders. Our goal is to encourage, strengthen, and train them to be more effective in ministry, and overall, holistic, well-being.
We may need to narrow this down further, but it is good for now.
One might argue that one should just jump right into Stage 4. Maybe that is true, but for us, we needed to go through the four stages. As “barefoot” missionaries, we needed to learn through God, our hosts, and ourselves, what needs to be done and what we can do.