Mission is not what the West does to the rest.
What are you going to do overseas? It’s a common question that gets asked to a short-term mission team. As Westerners, the project-based or donor-mentality of mission is embedded deeply in our bones. We expect short term teams to accomplish something big for God’s Kingdom, something tangible and practical that would satisfy a mission’s committee financial commitment or make a nice photo of a job well-done in a monthly newsletter. While it is innocent on the surface, this question reveals a temptation to reduce God’s mission to a cross-cultural project that only we, the experts from the wealthy West, could accomplish in a poorer community on the opposite side of the world.
Fortunately, the Lord invites us to a different posture. Over this last year, the Egypt Partnership Team has spent a great deal of time discussing God’s Mission and our calling as disciples. We’ve explored how mission is the heartbeat of the whole church, not just of a committee or a pastor, and therefore it is at the center of the life of a disciple. Each day provides opportunities to proclaim and demonstrate the Gospel here in Winston-Salem, just as is the case for Christians in Zagazig, Egypt. The goal of a short-term team, then, isn’t about a project we accomplish; it’s about encouraging and standing together with the Global Church of Jesus Christ.
Our team read two helpful books that helped us discern how to have a global church partnership that is based on mutual encouragement and relationship, rather than a donor- or project-based framework (see list below). During this time, we were in close conversation with our sister church in Zagazig and the Synod of the Nile. To speak candidly, the Synod of the Nile bluntly told us we are not to spoil the church in Zagazig, nor are we to give to their operating budget (how’s that for a real conversation!?). Instead, we were told that our global church partnership begins when we know the reason for one another’s tears.
So, what are we going to do when we are in Egypt? We are going to have a family reunion. Just as when we visit family for a holiday, we may help out around the house where needed, but the main point of visiting family is to be present and to connect with one another. In Egypt, our hope is to do exactly that. We are going to eat meals together, pray for one another, worship beside each other, and share stories with one another to learn about discipleship and mission and church in our unique contexts. We are going to swap ideas and resources. We are going to laugh together and celebrate what God is doing in Egypt and in America. But we also hope to learn the reason for one another’s tears, about what grieves us, about what it is like to be a minority as a Christian, and about the hardships we face as Christians in Egypt and in America.
Guess what? You don’t have to travel to Egypt to stand with our sister church. As I finish packing my bags for my first trip to the Middle East, I, along with the rest of the Egypt Traveling Care Team, would like to invite you to follow along with our trip, praying for us, watching for video updates and stories, and celebrating our great God who is on mission in every corner of the earth!
Missions: How the Local Church Goes Global by Andy Johnson
Helping without Hurting in Short Term Missions by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert