By Jim Pool
It was Sunday morning when I received the email. I was walking to our church building for our morning service (walking and reading email—a regular practice I’d recommend for anyone able to do it) when I finally received the message from our indigenous leader on the ground in Ethiopia.
Seven of us were leaving for our trip on Wednesday—four first-timers (including my own nine-year-old daughter), two second-timers, and me—and the details for this particular trip were slower than normal to develop. The “rough contours” in terms of topic and timing were in place, yet with so many newbies, my inbox overflowed with unanswered questions. However, by the next day—three days out from our flight—our very-able indigenous point person had settled all the details.
Our bags were soon packed and our team (which spanned six decades) was off. It is missions in Africa, so the trip that happened wasn’t quite the trip that was planned, yet we had a fantastic time! We worshipped, we danced, we cried, we laid hands on elders, we prayed for the sick. We helped deliver one girl of three demons, led another young woman in a prayer of commitment to Jesus, encouraged a trio of women who were persecuted for their faith, and drank a lot of amazing cups of coffee. As always, I’m convinced we received at least as much as we gave.
I’m sometimes asked, “Why missions? Why bother?” How does participating in the Ethiopia Partnership strengthen our local congregation at Renaissance Vineyard Church? Missions is a great context for discipleship. Jesus did so much of his discipleship “along the way.”
This trip I watched as two different team members heard the teaching I offered to the first few churches we visited, and they turned around made it their own teaching in our later stops. Then a young woman developed and delivered her first sermon, contextualizing the Vineyard value of remembering the poor, and our translator told her it was a key moment in the trip. My heart thudded as I watched my daughter read bible stories to kids and help facilitate discovery of God through his Word.
We expect everyone going on these trips to be equipped in prayer ministry, so missions is also a great tool for fostering greater training in this area too. Team members come home with a greater passion for mission in our neighborhood, having experienced it in the nations. I’ve witnessed an increased passion in loving neighbors and sharing Jesus with friends. One of our team members last year came home to help launch a clothing closet at the church and then took over leadership when the founding leader had a baby.
Mission trips are a great field for developing leaders. That young woman who wrote her first sermon in Ethiopia now wants to immerse more deeply into Vineyard values so she can return and help “train the trainers” of local Ethiopian leaders and help our movement grow.
I can’t wait for next time!