Can I be honest with you? Can I pull back the curtain? Can I share some missionary secrets with you?
Will you still like me when I’m done? As I write this know, I do so in love.
MISSIONARY SECRET #1
First, let me start with a little context and some background. I have been on, led or hosted almost 30 short-term trips. During my first year in Mexico where our family was serving at a large church, I hosted 14 teams here in the Yucatan. I would create schedules, book hotels, arrange meals, and transportation. I would create the ministry schedule similar to the way I’ve always known short-term trips to be. I would focus on high traffic, densely populated areas. I wanted to give the teams the opportunity to reach as many people as possible. We would visit over 20 different cities and share the gospel to thousands of people in that first year. But early on, I started tracking the numbers. I would count how many people would show up to these large outreach efforts, then I would follow up with the local pastor to see how church attendance was that Sunday. I was blown away at what the truthful numbers were. After a year of tracking the outreach efforts and comparing that to the people who actually showed up to a Sunday service to be discipled, it was 0.02 percent. So out of the thousands of people that had faces painted, balloon animals made, dramas performed for, 3 people showed up at least once in a church. For the record, I know every person is of great value and I do not want to devalue the 3 people that did come to church. In my heart, I felt this model was broken. I thought things could be done different. So when we had an opportunity to church plant Calvary Motul, we prayed for guidance on how to best host teams. The result? We placed a grenade in that model of mission trips and blew it up.
Click pictures to enlarge and read caption.
MISSIONARY SECRET #2
We love hosting teams. But to be honest, I feel pressured and stressed to make sure it is a good trip for the incoming team. If done well, a team can bless the local church and we enjoy it when they come. But at times it feels like a competition. A competition with other locations the leaders or team members have been. As a long-term missionary with a good amount of short-term missions past, I know what teams like. To see tons of kids, to visit homes so poor no one could imagine living there, to take pics that show what they are doing, and where they did it. You know the typical pic of a single American surrounded by 100 local children, or the facebook post of visiting a super poor family. But for me, I wanted to do missions trips different. I want to bring teams into what the other 51 weeks of the year looks like; to build lasting relationships, to invest into people.
With this said, we had HSM Boca come to visit us. And as I shared my vision for how the trip was going to look during our orientation time, I could see for many with past experiences this was going to be a bit challenging. And while the numbers may be lower, the fear people have of entering a Christian church is overcome when they see they are greeted with love and acceptance and so that is just what we did.
We first used the gifts and talents of Pastor Mike to share some truth about Jehovah Witnesses at a conference held at the church. A few days prior, people at Calvary Motul were busy handing out and inviting people to this event, even standing outside a local JW church meeting inviting people. When the team got here we went door-to-door inviting people as well. We were blessed to have over 30 new people enter into the church and hear the truth Pastor Mike shared from the Word of God. Our church is small and we rent the building so there aren’t many work projects we can do at the moment, but we were able to get a couple of painting projects in. (The team did great and were meticulous with their work!) But for our main team work project we went to the community. We went into neighborhoods where we have trusted people who attend the church. This person is our point person; the person that continues the work of sharing the Gospel long after the team is gone. To bless people, the team broke up into small groups and offered to weed people’s homes. This was all done by hand. It was slow and tedious. But the locals were blown away that Americans/Christians would serve them. The team also had a chance to share in a school; again, some of our church kids attend this school (do you see the theme of relationship building yet?). This is a big deal. In my 3 years of living here and 4 years of visiting on short-term trips to the Yucatan, this is the first time a team has been allowed to enter a school! The team offered English classes, performed dramas and invited the students to a park outreach later that night. It is truly a door God has opened.
Speaking of the park outreach, it went great - we had people waiting for our arrival! That never happens! We had close to 200 people come to visit us in all. The team also got to spend time with some families in the church as the team split into small groups one evening and went to have dinner at their homes. As the pastor, I was so blessed at what I saw when I went to go pick up the team groups from the different homes. At one home, I hear worship music being sung from a distance, while hearing a person from Calvary Motul say it was her best birthday ever. At another home, I show up to pick some team members up 3 hours later from a home of a single mom with her teenage daughter only to see dinner is only half finished. They said, “Sorry, we were so busy talking we haven’t even eaten yet.” At another home I arrive to hear laughing as I approach the door. The stories go on and on. Thank you HSM Boca team, leaders, and CCBR, you have blessed our little church. During this time we had Julia and her brother Gabe fly in from Fort Lauderdale to help whilst Natalie was in the states helping her mom recover from an operation. It was a blessing as they helped daily in the Coffee House and allowed me to take time off to love and minister to my 2 sons. Noah & Caleb get pretty neglected when teams are in town. Thank you, guys, for letting me have that time with them!
We then had Michelle from CCFTL come join us for a week. She was such a blessing and so encouraging. She fit right into our family, both ours and at the church as well. She dove right into serving in any way needed. And everyone loved the conversations. It was great seeing Michelle build relationships with the people. She would sit in the café, grab her phone, and uses Google translate. The people were blessed by her effort.
written by Len
MISSIONARY SECRET #3
Natalie and I can’t do it all. As a pastor, I have never mopped more floors, fixed more things around the church, washed more dishes, and ministered to people in such a way. It’s a blessing and we love it. But we have limits. So the question about VBS came up. We are going on our second year here at Calvary Motul and still have not had a VBS. I see the need, but honestly, we need help. I announced to the church last week that “we” would be having a VBS. Then explained I chose my words carefully when I said “we” I said we all have an opportunity to show the love of Jesus in the community. That Natalie and I (and Alex) can’t do it alone. So at the first volunteer meeting we had 10 people show up wanting to roll up their sleeves and serve at VBS. It is such a blessing to see this church growing wider and deeper. We are sending invites out to community. Church families, people who both come to church and that do not. My hope is to love these kids and share the Gospel with them in a way that is so impactful; they share with their parents. I want to go all out. But here is the secret: we can’t afford it. We are moving ahead in faith and asking for your prayers and financial support. If you feel led to help in any way, please visit the page on our website to help out. Any amount will help. I look forward to sharing pics and stories next month of what God did during this VBS.
Thank you for your time.
We love you, but Jesus loves you more.