Two years ago I was at a luncheon recognizing one of our members for her sacrificial commitment to missions. The Lord said, “Take Janet with you on your next team trip to Ethiopia.” Janet was 69 years old, partially deaf, had 20/20 eyesight in only a very narrow cone, and had never been on a mission trip. Yet she was stubbornly sturdy in every godly way and had supported mission efforts her whole life. “Jim, if you take Janet with you, it’ll open things up spiritually for the whole church.” At the time, our church was in something of a doldrums. Calm seas, if you will, but flat. As I approached Janet with my idea, she was incredulous at first, though the tears blossoming in the corners of her eyes gave her true feelings away.
We pulled together all the details (and funds) and as the time of the trip approached a few months later, Janet stood up with the team to share about what she hoped for from the trip. There wasn’t a dry eye in the place. We made a run on Kleenex ® that morning and you can hear me crying in the mic I’m about to preach in. There were five of us, from five decades – husband and wife, father and son, single woman – each with various levels of mission experience, yet one team, sent from one local church.
As you might imagine, the trip was a success. Janet loved the Ethiopians and they loved her right back. They took great care of her, she worshipped like she’s never worshipped before, and she taught them about some of the keys to a lifetime of faithful sacrificial service. She rode on the horse carts and drank the coffee and took a little extra rest when she needed to. She had the trip of a lifetime and still keeps tabs with some of the friends she made, and prays with much greater fervor and focus for our partnership efforts.
When I got home I asked my 11 year old son what was the best part of the trip? “Getting to know Janet,” he said, “That was totally my favorite part.” That’s one picture of what makes Local Church Based Mission so great – going to Ethiopia to build intergenerational community in your local church back home. Now Janet and my son give each other high fives when they see each other in the café at church. They stop and chat about how they’re each doing. And you know what else? With the tears that flowed that Sunday before the trip, a fresh wind has blown through our congregation. Worship has been more intimate, prayer ministry has been more powerful, and ownership of our mission from our neighborhood to the nations has continued to rise. That’s Local Church Based Mission in action, as the whole church reaps the reward of the local church engaging in mission together to other local churches.
Jim and his wife, Megan, have four kids. They love living in Ferndale, an inner-ring suburb of Detroit. Jim is privileged to be the lead pastor of the Renaissance Vineyard Church. He also facilitates the US arm of the Vineyard Partnership in Ethiopia. He currently serves as Regional Coordinator for Africa with Vineyard Missions.