Central African Republic Trip Report

I’ve never experienced a culture this way before.

Whenever I visit a new country, I want to get out and explore and see as much of it as possible.  After all, I want to learn all I can about the place.  Walk around and observe people, drive around and see the lay of the land.

But not much of that happened during my recent trip to the C.A.R.  Out of an abundance of caution caused by recent rebel activity, I could count on one hand the number of times we ventured out of our secure (but un-air-conditioned) guest house compound.  I only rode about 60 miles total in a car all week, a quarter of that just to and from the airport.  And I only walked about a block to an artisan market once.

Here’s what my week looked like:

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  • A half day dedication ceremony for our new theological training facility (outdoor ceremony, coat & tie required). The Prime Minister of the country pinned a medal on me during this ceremony!  Ok, that’s a completely accurate but misleading statement.  I didn’t earn the medal, but I was asked to stand in proxy for a missionary who spent 40 years there but couldn’t make the ceremony.
  • I preached (through a translator) to a congregation of about 2,000 people on Sunday morning.
  • I successfully (I think – again through a translator) trained a Bayaka villager how to use a new water filter system.
  • Three half-days were spent observing seminary classes (English/French translation). I shared a devotional with them one morning. They brought the students to us instead of us going to the seminary.
  • One full day and three half days were spent in meetings with various national church and ministry leaders. (English/French translations again.)

That wouldn’t make a very good action movie unless you like watching sweat drip in humid, 90-100+ degree temperatures.

But sitting in meetings addressing real-life challenges was far more insightful than playing tourist.  I sometimes teach about cultural differences – collectivist/individualist; monochronic/polychronic; high/low context; high/low power distance, honor/guilt/fear, etc.  And I’ve been places that exhibited most of these characteristics before.  But the difference here was more intense.

Part of the reason I felt the differences so acutely was that, in a culture where titles and social standings are extremely important, I was there as a Board Member representing the organization that gave birth to the largest Evangelical denomination in the country.  The potential for social miscues to send wrong messages was high.

I come home with a deeper appreciation for three things:

  1. The challenges our Christian brothers and sisters face making disciples and planting churches while dealing with malaria, rebel threats, and poverty;
  2. Some wise and passionate leaders God has raised up to meet the challenges; and
  3. Our Encompass World Partners staff who navigate these and other cultural challenges around the world continually.

A big thank you to those of you who prayed and supported me through this ministry opportunity!

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Why Even Rich People Should Ask for Money…

The Ministry of Asking…

When I was in my teens and twenties, I could easily have been persuaded to become a career missionary except for one thing: There’s no way I was going to ask other people for financial support. If I was being honest I probably would have said, “God, I’ll do anything you want except ask people for money.”dollar-2091736_640

As my life journey continued, I thought maybe God was prospering my career so that one day I could afford to send myself into ministry without burdening others. But even as my bank account grew, God was transforming my thinking. I began to see fundraising not as something we do so that we can do ministry, but as an important part of the ministry God intends for us to embrace.

After all, God has no shortage of resources and could easily fund every well-intended ministry without having to involve other people. But He rarely does that. Why?

Here are some of the reasons why I’ve decided that I need to ask others to financially participate in my ministry activities even if I can just write checks and pay for them myself:

  1. I need to know that others believe in what I’m doing. If Godly people who know me are not supportive, I should question whether this is really something I should be doing.
  2. Asking for money is humbling. Admit it, this is the big hurdle. But there is no more appropriate way to enter into a ministry opportunity than from a humble posture. The more money I have of my own, the more humbling it is to ask, and the more I need to be humbled — especially when I’m engaging with those who have so much less than I do.
  3. God wants to use me in the lives of those who support me. It may be helping them learn the joy of giving; learning to discern when to say “yes” and when to say “no”; or possibly something totally unrelated to money that God gives me the opportunity to speak into.
  4. It allows givers to fulfill their calling. Not everyone is called to go; but those who aren’t may still be called to give or pray for those who do go. I don’t want to deny them the opportunity to participate in God’s work according to their ability.
  5. Supporters get connected to other aspects of God’s work. I may be connecting them to a ministry they’ll become part of for a long time. Their eyes may be opened to the breadth of God’s love and work around the world.  That ultimately expands their view of God himself.
  6. Not asking may deny the ministry additional resources. Involving others may generate more funds that if I just wrote a check covering my own portion. Donors to each of my disaster relief trips have provided extra money to help the survivors.

If those are good reasons to raise support, why would I just pay for it myself?  Pride.