International Ministries


April 19, 2013 Journal
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“Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From quiet reflection will come even more effective action..” Peter Drucker

 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” John 21:12

 I was in a new country with a new group of people and no specific responsibilities for leadership. For an active yet timid person like me, I was grateful when Debbie asked if I’d be willing to pitch in to get things set up at the church that was hosting the European Baptist Federation’s Anti-Trafficking Conference. So where is the first place I head whenever I need to feel comfortable? The kitchen. With a simple, “¿Puedo ayudarles? Can I help you?” I was able to use my Costa Rican accented Spanish to connect with two lovely yet frazzled Spanish women in charge of setting out a 6:00pm supper for 50 when they typically don’t begin eating until past 8:00pm. They were accommodating us out of love, but appreciated the extra hands.  I appreciated their willingness to let me help.  As we cut veggies and cheese, we shared knives, smiles and our stories. I began to feel “at home”.  Those first couple of hours of working side by side set the stage for the rest of the conference and for the building of new relationships.  By the end of the three days in Sabadell, Spain we were bound. Bound by a common love for good food and fellowship. Bound by the grace of a God who created and loves each of us. Bound by a common commitment to see people set free. Bound to continue working together across borders and cultures, to show up where we are and dream along with God for a world transformed.

 At the end of the conference I was again grateful when Debbie asked me to lead a time of reflection, (I guess I need to be needed). I wanted to provide a safe place to ponder how God had shown up for each of us throughout the event.  I invited us to express in words or drawings our image of God’s dream or story as well as the stories of others that touched us during the conference. As we prayed, drew, wrote, sang, wove and created together, significant sharing happened. When given permission and enough time to ponder, these folks, who daily pour out their lives for others, were listened to, affirmed, encouraged and prayed for.  I wrote down the words, “empty chair” because I was touched by a photo essay shared of the meaning of the empty chair as a sign of protest in the UN.  Others drew pictures of fruit bearing trees or penned words like “hope,” “freedom”, and “can anyone hear them?” When invited to weave our stories into what represented God’s Story, there were so many reflections that the participants had to help each other seeing that we couldn’t do it all by ourselves. The workshop participants are all involved in significant ministries of action on behalf of the most vulnerable, but don’t often take the time to renew their own spirits. Our hosts, “the kitchen ladies”, joined in this activity and spoke words of testimony and truth to all of us. In feeding our bodies, our souls were fed as well.  They, like Jesus, knew what we needed to keep moving forward.

 As I begin this new journey as a regional missionary for Iberoamerica and the Caribbean, I’ll be new in a number of countries, working with new groups of people and not always knowing my way around or what my specific responsibilities are, but I know that if I show up and ask how I can help, I’ll meet God there.  In this new role I get the chance to meet with and learn even more from amazing colleagues like those at this conference: Terry Meyers in Bulgaria, Lauran Bethell in the Netherlands and all over the world, Debbie Kelsey in Europe, and Joyce Reed in Mexico. In a couple of weeks I head to Nicaragua to be with IM colleagues, David and Laura Parajon, to support their work with AMOS and learn from village leaders how they address issues of exploitation and trafficking in their contexts.  I trust that I will help and learn.  As we do more collaborative work, each offering what we can, I believe we will be engaged in even more effective action.  One way that Jesus encouraged his disciples to keep moving forward and follow Him was setting the table and feeding them breakfast, but he also invited them to contribute with their own caught fish. Maybe that is how I can help as a regional missionary to my Latin American friends, setting a safe and hospitable place where stories can be shared, vulnerability honored, but never exploited, and freedom and dignity lived out in everyday gestures of love.  Your prayers and support are what hold me up, a weaving of sorts that intertwines with the common grace we have in Christ. Thank you for adding your story to mine and allowing God to make something new, useful and beautiful out of us.

 Stay tuned for an update about Garrett Zambrows' 12,000 mile Ride Against Traffic and my, very small in comparison, one on the way to the Mission Summit in Overland Park this June.

 Bound to and blessed by you,