|About 17 years ago, I was a happy high school teacher who did speaking, preaching and training on the weekends and all summer long. In those days we partnered often with our dear friends, Scott and Rachel Kramer—who are amazing musical missionaries.
One day while eating pizza at the Kramer’s home, Scott pulled out a large box filled to the brim with envelopes. He said, “Bill, put your hands in here and feel how many envelopes are in this box.” It was sort of weird, but, hey, he just bought my larger-than-normal family pizza. I’ll do anything for a friend like that. I kneeled down by the box and put my hands at the very bottom of all those envelopes. Then I pulled up lots and lots of envelopes.
Then Scott said, “We’ve been raising support as missionaries for a number of years now and every one of those envelopes had a check from a friend or a church.” I thought to myself: That’s a lot of support. While I was glad for them, I wasn’t sure where this was going. Then Scott said, “We’ve been partnering with you for a while now, and I want you to know that if you ever dare to step out by faith to do Cadre full-time, I believe with all my heart God will take care of you.”
I don’t remember saying anything in response because I had six young kids at the time—and every one of them liked to eat regularly. Plus, I must confess, that I was a member of the “I-will-never-raise-support-to-do-ministry” club. (Have you ever said that?) Yet, I still had brief moments when I considered it. But here’s the truth: I was too chicken to trust God to provide. And I loved teaching—and the few benefits that came with it. But in my head, I thought the biggest hurdle would be my wife. I never broached the subject with her, but I was pretty sure she wouldn’t go for the raising support thing.
On the way home from Scott and Rachel’s, I asked Stacy what she thought about Scott’s comments. To my complete surprise she said, “I’ve seen this coming for a few years now. If we don’t take a step of faith and give it try, we’ll never know.”
Not exactly what I was expecting. The rest of the car ride home all I could think about was how I was the one who refused to step out in faith. I was the roadblock. As I drove home, I silently prayed, “Is all this really you, Lord?” There’s a huge difference between a good idea and a God idea.
As we pulled into our driveway, everyone piled out and I walked to the mailbox to get the day’s mail. Once inside, I noticed a personal letter. I opened it. It was from someone I couldn’t readily identify at the time. It said, “Last Sunday you spoke at our church. God kept impressing on my heart to send you this check. I’m not sure why, but I did it anyway.”
Yikes! This was getting a little ridiculous. God was already providing for us and we hadn’t even asked anyone for help. But isn’t that just like God? If we dare to pray, he’ll let us know what to do.
It wasn’t long after that, we reached out to our good friends, Dave and Rennie Garda, to share with them what God was doing in our hearts. Not long after that, God birthed what we know now as Cadre Missionaries. And so far, by God’s daily provision, we’ve never looked back. (Thank you Jesus!) It has been an amazing adventure.
For 16 years, God and YOU have made it possible for us, as Cadre missionaries, to multiply Jesus-like disciplemaking here and around the world. Let me keep this real: For 16 years we’ve had no buffer financially. Every month is a financial adventure. We’re not sitting on a financial nest egg. We literally live month to month. Please don’t misunderstand. We’re not complaining. We joyfully signed up for this adventure. And for sixteen years, God has provided for us through friends like you. I often think of your financial partnership as manna—just enough for today—and each day it is enough.
From our hearts to yours: Thank you!
Those of you who know us well know that over 90 percent of our communications are not about financial support like this. However, on our 16th anniversary as a ministry, we really do need your $ help, so we’re asking God’s people—like you—to join us in this disciplemaking adventure.
We’d love to see 300 of our friends respond with a special gift of $16. That would bless Cadre with $4,800 much needed dollars.
Will YOU be one of our 300 friends?
To donate $16 go here. (Other giving options below.)
In a ministry like ours, every dollar makes a huge difference. Each gift—no matter the size—is a huge encouragement, much needed, and greatly appreciated.
Because Cadre seeks to make disciplemakers, only Heaven will reveal the full impact of your partnership.
We really are your Cadre missionaries. Thank you for celebrating 16 years of Jesus-like disciplemaking with us and to God be the glory!
Bill Allison, Executive Director, for the Cadre team.
Other giving options…
Cadre Missionaries is a recognized 501(c)3 not-for-profit ministry and all gifts are tax deductible.
One of of my favorite chapters in Lois’ new book is Chapter 7. It calls us to the joy of mutual community and hovering friendships as we engage God as a people of friends… a y’all of a faith community:
Here is how the Chapter “Insights from a Communal Perspective” begins:
Did you know that you can now order a copy of a Bible translation called “Your Personalized Bible” which will insert your name in more than seven thousand verses?
Here are a few verses from my copy: Lois like a sheep has gone astray. Lois has turned to her own way; and the LORD has laid on Him Lois’s iniquity. (Isa. 53:6)
Lois is the light of the world. (Matt. 5:14)
You have made Lois a little lower than God, And crowned Lois with glory and honor.
You make Lois a ruler over the works of Your hands.
You have put all things under Lois’ feet. (Ps. 8:5–6)
You might think I’d be a fan of this style of study. I’m single, never married. I’m self-employed. I work by myself out of my own home office. I have no boss, no husband, no children. I’m queen of my own pleasant little world. I’ve heard the siren call of individualism and succumbed as much as anyone, so you’d think I’d want to read my Bible that way.
The more I study the Bible, however, the more I’m realizing the many ways that an individualistic approach misunderstands the text.”
… And later in the chapter…
Part of the reason we read the biblical text as if it were addressed to “me personally” is because English only has one word, you, which can be either singular or plural. Unlike Greek, Hebrew, and many other languages, we can’t distinguish whether a speaker is addressing one person or a group. As a result, English speakers have a habit of reading every “you” in the Bible as if it’s addressed to “me all by myself” rather than “me within God’s larger community.”
American Southerners have an advantage here, because they use “y’all” when they address a group. Maybe the antidote to the “Your Personalized Bible” is to publish a “Southern-style” Bible where Jesus says, “Y’all are the light of the world,” and Paul says, “Y’all are the temple of God,” so that we’d know both were speaking to groups rather than to individuals.
Putting Away My Selfie Stick
I hope I’ve awakened your appetite to read more. I am…
Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus
A Book Report: Communal Reading in the time of Jesus.
An Endorsement by D.A. Carson, Research prof. of New Testament, trinity Evangelical Divinity school:
The last few decades have witnessed a substantial move away from picturing the early church studying texts to assuming that most Christians could not read: orality trumped written text. Various efforts to balance the evidence have collided with one another. Enter this groundbreaking work by Brian j Wright, who demonstrates how common ‘communal reading events’ where in both Jewish and Greco–Roman Contexts. Reading and hearing are suddenly not so far removed from each other as some have thought. Wright’s richly supplied evidence from primary sources is convincing; one wonders why these things have not been brought to light before. These results are important, indeed seminal, not only to those who working this field, but to our knowledge of early Christians who give every sign of being book-driven believers. —End Endorsement
I’ve pulled some thoughts together to highlight a book I’d love to have you read, reflect upon and then share… (Dave)
FollowingThM Studies at DTS–years later when I began my PhD program at Ridley College in Melbourne, Australia, I remember starting with a host of assumptions related to this volume. For example:
- I would’ve told you that reading in the ancient world was largely an elitist phenomenon;
- That text played more of the symbolic role than utilitarian;
- That around 90% of the population in antiquity was illiterate;
- That a “professional” scribe was behind every document, unless proven otherwise;
- That writing materials were expensive and in short supply;
- and more…
My views on all of these and a number of others, however, change during my PhD studies and are still developing today.
Consider this sampling of New Testament PASSAGES that call us to communal reading:
1 Timothy 4:13 NLT Until I get there, focus on reading the Scriptures to the church (devote yourself to the public/communal reading of Scripture—esv), encouraging the believers, and teaching them.
1 Thessalonians 5:27 NLT I command you (put you under oath—esv) in the name of the Lord to read this letter to all the brothers and sisters.
Colossians 4:16 After this letter has been read aloud to you all, make sure that you read communally in the church of the Laodiceans. Make sure you also read communally the letter from Laodicea.
A JESUS EXAMPLE: Luke 4:14-30 NIV
Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
A glimpse into the historic importance of reading aloud together:
Justin Martyr (an early church father) refers to the communal reading of the apostolic memoirs and the writings of the the Lord’s Day: “on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles we’re the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits.” (1 Apol. 1:67)
William Johnson, professor of classical studies, concludes ”Reading in this society was essential in the construction of the community. Group reading and serious conversation devolving from reading [Dave note, havering] are twin axes around which much of the elite man’s community turns.
…According to Augustine, there was one word in Jerome’s Latin translation (the Vulgate) of Jonah 4:6 that differed from what they had been hearing read communally for generations, and it caused an uproar in his congregation.
Insights gained about communal reading events the time of Jesus:
1. No historic doubt exists that communal reading events we’re part of the first Century Greco-Roman socio-historical milieu.
2. “Before launching further into this study, then, these details need to be addressed. Similarly, it should be said from the outset that the more common “public reading” which is used in most modern translations and academic works, Will be avoided because of the confusion that often comes (or may come) from the word public.“ The word communal is preferred because it both highlights the social aspect of reading and defines the reading event as one in which two or more persons are involved. In other words,” communal reading” can be public or private, but not individualistic.
3. The gospel was launched into a season of history where sharing ideas publically (after first having them written down) was more of a norm than a rarity. Also it was a season of great mobility where travel was easier than in previous generations. [The soil of culture was ripe for Jesus House of peace strategy — sending friendship pairs to find others who would welcome them and consider their truths]
4. French historian Jerome Carsopino wrote one of the classic texts on ancient Roman life, with an entire section devoted to communal reading and recitation events. He observes that communal events crossed social boundaries: Examining the contemporary literature, you soon get the impression that everyone was reading something, no matter what, aloud in public all the time, morning and evening, winter and summer.
5. Writing down original or learned thoughts, poems, lyrics or perspectives and then reading them aloud (to be heard and also discussed) WAS THE FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM or SNAPCHAT of the FIRST CENTURY! During 10 to 100 AD we were out social media’d by a pre-technology culture.
a. Some people wrote their ideas and shared them, some even wrote their ideas on the spot so they could then immediately share them, others took a great season and depth to write their thoughts and story before communally sharing them. Others mocked the communal reading (if they didn’t agree or weren’t interested) while others took notes as they listened to what others were reading to later reflect and re-share them with friends.
b. Bookstores and libraries existed as well as publishers.
c. Some wrote thoughts as pamphlets that would be shared as they spoke—the ancient equivalent of keynote or PowerPoint to go along with their “presentation of the text.”
But there is no mistaking the profound social impact and desire to share written documents for others to interact with in the process of shaping thought ideas and connections.
6. Where did communal reading events take place: History reveals that it was common to encounter people sharing communal reading (with 2-3 friends or a small crowd) in the village market place, assembly Halls, at receptions, at synagogues, in a theater, in the houses of both poor and elite, in urban settings including crowded tenement buildings or out in an open space between villages.”
They were both:
- indoor and outdoor settings…
- sacred and secular events…
- Both Christian and non-Christian…
7. The observation is made for the Christian context that, “while church elders had substantial discretion about “how” to do it, they had no discretion about “whether” scripture was read aloud.”
- 1 Timothy 4:13 “Until I arrive, give attention to the public reading of scripture, to exhorting, to teaching.”
- In 1 Thessalonians 5:27 we are given the directive, “I put you under oath before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers,”
- In Colossians it’s taken for granted that they practice communal reading, “And when this letter has been read among you, have it read also in the church the Laodiceans; and see that you read also the letter from Laodicean.”
8. Study showed the pattern that Communal reading started at home and was essential in the education process of the day…
9. The Old Testament has frequent communal reading events starting with Exodus 17:14-16 Where Moses is told to write down the events that just occurred, and then read the written account to Joshua.
10. Synagogues practiced communal reading as an essential component of their community and role.
- Communal reading events were widespread and to systematic to be accidental in Greek, Roman, Jewish and Christian contexts.
- Readers included: clerks, emperors, students, Young boys, politicians, scribes, … fathers, old men and women.
- Hearers included: emperors, children, man, Women, slaves, assemblies, … soldiers, invited guests and crowds.
- People heard these readings while: standing, sitting, running, bathing, eating, and swimming. (Think of how we encounter the modern podcast or YouVersion Scripture reading wearing our AirPods while we sip coffee, workout or relax.)
- The New Testamentt valued what had been written before: In over 300 passages, the New Testament includes 317 direct quotes of the Old Testament. Add in illusions and parallels and there are 2,310 Old Testament references.
My modern applications include:
- Starting with my family but then extended to friends and neighbors we are invited to embrace what I refer to as a Scripture Saturated life that we drip out as we life life together. It so increases the collection of truth lego’s (resources, building blocks, truths, insights into who God is and how he works) that the Holy Spirit can call to mind, heart at the moments they are needed. i.e. The more Scripture in our minds and hearts the more greater potential I have for an aligned life, “I’ve hidden thy word in my heart that I might not sin against thee.” —Psalm 119:11
- We should encourage each other to more frequently write and share our God stories (testimonies), journal, express artistically, write song lyrics and songs, write creative stories to share and to copy down word-for-word sections of Scripture as to later READ ALOUD what we’ve written with family, friends and others who are interested (Remember Jesus House of Peace Strategy).
- Join in with YouVersion or ReadScripture.org to commit to daily reading scripture (even have it read aloud to you and your spouse, kids or friends. Commit and embrace to reading Scripture every day (ever consider like they did in the first century reading more than once per day — See the first chapter of the printed or digital Getaway Like Jesus, by Dave & Rennie Garda to learn more.)
Why not practice right now by reading aloud (to help Word saturate yourself to give the Holy Spirit truth to knead into your life today. How about starting with Psalm 78:1-8:
My people, listen to my instructions. Open your ears to what I am saying, for I will speak to you in a parable. I will teach you hidden lessons from our past— stories we have heard and known, stories our ancestors handed down to us. We will not hide these truths from our children; we will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the Lord, about his power and his mighty wonders. For he issued his laws to Jacob; he gave his instructions to Israel. He commanded our ancestors to teach them to their children, so the next generation might know them— even the children not yet born— and they in turn will teach their own children. So each generation should set its hope anew on God, not forgetting his glorious miracles and obeying his commands. Then they will not be like their ancestors— stubborn, rebellious, and unfaithful, refusing to give their hearts to God.
The very nature of Kavanah is the discovery of a life where God’s presence AND power wraps His arms around us. But not us in any mind-set, but rather us as yielded, available and obedient so that God can work in, through and around us. The understanding of Kavanah is best grasped as an english paragraph contained in a single Hebrew/Aramaic word.
Kavanah transforms life as we know it. We enter a life where we willingly join God with a blank-page invitation for Him to actively live in and through us with His unlimited presence and power. This isn’t a Sunday morning hour of sitting but rather a 24/7 life-together. Kavanah doesn’t fit in a box, program or hour, it busts out all 8 sides of the box and ushers us into a daily way of life with God, together. Kavanah powers and connects us intimately with God and then to each other as we share in His Word, Prayer, Love and daily life. Sadly, Kavanah illustrations have often been limited to the context of intentional prayer. Don’t get me wrong, Kavanah & prayer are essentially linked, but so are Kavanah & the Word, Kavanah & our being loved to love, and Kavanah & all of life.
To better understand the transformational power of a Kavanah life we need to grow in our understanding of how the Bible makes us aware of God’s manifest presence, not only his omnipresence:
Kavanah is the difference that moves us beyond saying “God is everywhere,” to saying “God is here with me.”
As we travel the Route 66 of our disciplemaking friendships we encounter an intentional link between a live lived in God’s presence, our obedience and His active power—these knit together to form the intersection and clarity of Kavanah.
Following are some passages that call out Kavanah invitation to live a transformational life with God. What passages would you add?
God answered Moses: “My presence shall go with thee, and I will give you rest” (33:14). The Hebrew word for “rest” here translates to “a comfortable, peaceful confidence.” Notice how God’s presence results in a change to how I live.
I love how the active presence, power and leaning in of Abraham leads a heathen king to declare, “God is obviously with you, helping you in everything you do…” (Genesis 21:22)
God promised Joshua that no enemy could stand against him when his Kavanah was active: “No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you. Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them.” (Joshua 1:5–6).
The angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon and affirmed his Kavanah, “Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!” … “Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!” (Judges 6:12, 14).
God told Isaiah of a special Kavanah promise he makes to those he loves: “O Israel, the one who formed you says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. … because you are precious to me. You are honored, and I love you.” (Isaiah 43:1-2, 5).
God’s Kavanah comes through the power of the Holy Spirit with us: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere…” Acts 1:8
In the Old Testament God places himself with his people, but they don’t always respond in Kavanah… God leans in regardless of our leaning back because it’s the nature of His grace (WHILE we were yet sinners, Christ died for us, Romans 5:8). So God’s presence alone isn’t kavanah, yet God let’s us know that it’s his desire for his people to have Him in the midst of their daily lives: “I am the one who brought them out of the land of Egypt so that I could live among them” Ex 29:45-46; ‘The Lord says, “Shout and rejoice, O beautiful Jerusalem, for I am coming to live among you.’” Zech 2:10-11.
But kavanah rings loud when he combines his presence and our leaning as pictured in Ezekiah 37:27: “I will make my home among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people.”
In the New Testament God continues to let us know that he desires to dwell with us: “So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness.” John 1:14
But the joy of Kavanah is when his presence is responded to as we receive (gospel) this presence: “And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth.” John 17:3; and ‘For we are the temple of the living God. As God said: “I will live in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people.’” 2 Cor 6:16
I love the simplicity of disciplemaking that shares this life of Kavanah as our bullseye—the intersection of God’s presence, God’s power and my heart in obedience. We see this clarity painted when the Babylonian Talmud Berakat 32:b stresses that four practices particularly require this Kavanah bullseye:
Our Rabbis taught: Four things require to be [always] done with Kavanah, namely, study of the Torah [to intimately know it’s author], good deeds [our response to be being loved as we overflow love], praying at all times, and one’s worldly occupation [in all of life starting with our family].
Jesus isn’t shy about linking himself to this picture of active Kavanah when in Matthew 11:28 he declares “Come to me (with/presence), all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”
I never tire of reviewing how Kavanah is woven start-t- finish into the disciplemaking friendship challenge of Matthew 28:18-20.
“Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” — Matthew 28:18-20
Where do you see the weaving of the Spirit’s active power, our being sent wrapped up in Jesus assurance of his continual presence?
I invite you to join me in leaning in with Kavanah clarity as you live today, tomorrow and the next day. And know like Moses and Jesus that this means you’ll not be alone, you have God’s active presence so that others will notice that “there’s something different about you because God is with you wherever you go…”
If you want to live and grow in Kavanah I suggest you walk through The Disciplemaker’s Living Guide with family and friends. You’ll embrace our 25 favorite disciplemaking passages with Kavanah and each other. I promise you, you’ll look at life and live differently. —Dave Garda, Your Cadre Disciplemaking Friend & Missionary of Encouragement
For the portable digital edition you can go directly to the iBookstore on your iPhone, iPad or computer.
For the printed edition or reader’s PDF edition you can visit us at our online disciplemaker’s store…
For live disciplemaking training, Disciplemaking Learning Communities, Preaching, teaching or training with your church, group or ministry you can contact email@example.com
A Training Tool for Disciplemaking
Friends and teams on mission.
by Cadre Missionary Bill Allison
The fact is that there are a lot of mission trip land mines buried just beneath the surface… waiting patiently… for you or someone from your group to make one wrong step. Shouldn’t you know where these land mines are buried so you can avoid stepping on them?
We had just put the finishing touches on what I thought was a great summer mission trip. For a number of people in our group, this was their first time on any sort of mission trip, and since I love watching God use first-hand mission experiences to transform lives, I was pumped up.
As our group was saying goodbye to our newly-made friends overseas, I watched a fifteen-year- old girl from our group walk over to a teenage male, a national and friend of the missionary who hosted us. I was sure she just wanted to say farewell to him. But she didn’t say a word. To my total astonishment, she simply walked up to him, put her hands on his shoulders, tilted her head, leaned into him, and gave him a
l o n g, s l o w k i s s…
a kiss that, from my perspective, seemed to last for an eternity. The young man looked stunned but delighted. (Let’s just say that he didn’t run away crying to his mommy, nor did he file a sexual harassment complaint. He may, however, still be telling the story to his friends some twenty years later.) I, along with the rest of our group, the hosting missionaries, and the other national believers, didn’t enjoy the kiss nearly as much. I felt my heart jump out of my chest and flop hopelessly on the ground in a mixture of blood-boiling anger and deep discouragement.
Talk about missing the point of a mission trip! How could she even think that was in the realm of the appropriate? How could we ever undo the collateral damage of this little but profoundly inappropriate goodbye kiss?
This young girl had stepped on a mission trip land mine. Our group and God’s work in that area of the world paid the price in damage. Make no mistake about it: On a mission trip, the collateral damage of one small misstep could have a profoundly negative effect on you, your group, and your ministry.
The fact is that there are a lot of mission trip land mines buried just beneath the surface… waiting patiently… for you or someone from your group to make one wrong step. Shouldn’t you know where these land mines are buried so you can avoid stepping on them?
It’s my desire to show you and those in your group where some of the most common mission trip land mines are hiding so that you can avoid stepping on them and, thus, suffering the consequences. The list that follows is not exhaustive or prioritized in order of importance. I simply offer these ten mission trip land mines in the spirit of Proverbs 22:3: “A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.”
Mission Trip Land Mine #1 ROMANCE
Since many people who go on short term mission trips are young and single, a further word of caution needs to be said here. Under “normal” circumstances, romance between two single people of the opposite sex and appropriate age can be a wonderful thing. However, mission trips are hardly normal circumstances.
Romance between two unmarried people while on a mission trip tends to disrupt the unity of the team because those romantically involved only want to be around each other, rather than be a part of the team. The impact of the trip for those who become romantically involved is thwarted because they tend not to be concerned about the mission experience and what God is doing in and through them. They’re focused on their love life. This unmarried lovey-dovey couple can send all kinds of potentially inappropriate messages to the people of the country you are in. (In some countries I’ve been in, just taking a walk alone with a person of the opposite sex carried with it immoral connotations.) We would do well to live above reproach and live life well on the safe side, especially while we are on a mission trip. Short term missionaries must be taught to be very careful in this area because one wrong move could set a missionary’s work back for a long time.
Mission trips are not the time or place for romance.
Compounding the problem is the fact that people from other countries watch American movies and/or television. Consequently, they have ill-informed, preconceived ideas about what American men and women are like based on what they have seen. While we know that this would be like doing a study on rabbits based on Bugs Bunny cartoons, it doesn’t change the way American men and women are perceived. You need to know this. To avoid all possible hassles, I recommend that you have everyone sign off on a “no romance with anyone” rule while on the mission trip. The rule should include no-romancing with anyone on the team, anyone from another visiting team, or anyone living in the country in which you will be serving. It would be to your advantage to repeat the “no romancing with anyone” rule regularly at your orientation meetings and while you are on the mission trip whenever necessary.
If Lance Romance is unwilling to put his love life on hold for the short time it takes to go on the mission trip, then I wouldn’t bother taking him. The same goes for Lucy Lovesick. Those who get involved in romance while on a mission trip often end up missing the whole point of the trip and cause unnecessary problems for the rest of the team—and the hosting missionaries.
How will you ensure that you and those on your team will avoid stepping on the land mine of romance?
Mission Trip Land Mine #2 An Inflexible Attitude
Often, mission trips take people to places that tend to be a little more politically, socially, and economically volatile. Consequently, any given situation on a mission trip can change quickly. How will your group handle this volatility? Furthermore, what many of us consider to be necessities are not always assessable abroad. (Sorry ladies, that 110 curling iron will get fried when you plug it into a 220 outlet… and thus… no more primping.) How will your group make due with what is available? Flexibility is imperative while on a short term mission trip.
One of your rigid rules must be: “Be flexible!”
Once while we were in a very poverty-stricken part of the world, our team bought thirty bags of cement and headed out to build a church. Much to our dismay, we couldn’t get any water! (Where we were, the water came in trucks and you had to buy barrels of it.) We waited for a couple of hours and still no water. We ended up donating the cement to the church for a different group to use at another time when water would be available, and then we went and did some landscaping and a roofing job at another location. Not exactly what we had set out to do that day, but it was a great lesson in flexibility.
Being flexible tends to drive certain personality types crazy because they desire to have everything planned out ahead of time. The hard truth is that ministry in another culture isn’t that cut and dried. That means you MUST be flexible. It’s a real drag for the hosting missionary or mission agency if you and your team are not flexible.
What will you do to make sure that you and those on your team avoid stepping on the land mine of an inflexible attitude?
Mission Trip Land Mine #3 An Undefined Work Project
Not having a clearly defined work project is a fast track to trouble. Many times we create our own problems because of the lack of a simple plan of action.
Each day there should be at least a basic idea as to what the team will be doing. Even things such as mowing the grass, painting the church, and helping in the kitchen can be great daily work projects and help in keeping the team’s focus on serving. Without a daily work project, the team’s focus tends to move from the idea of serving others to being served, from being a short term missionary to a tourist. Keeping in mind what I just said about being flexible, it wouldn’t hurt you to have a daily Plan A, Plan B, and a Plan C just in case. Do your best to have a clearly defined work project each day.
What do you need to do before you leave on this mission trip to avoid the land mine of an ambiguous work project?
Mission Trip Land Mine #4 Focusing Too Much on the Work Project
Considering what I just said about not having a clearly defined work project on which to focus, it’s also critically important to point out that it is possible to focus too much on a work project. A daily work project is very important, but not more important than interacting with people, especially the nationals!
A mission trip, like all ministry, is about people, not projects.
Think about it. All work projects have their end in serving people. Many short term mission groups expend all their money and energy in a work project without ever really interacting with anyone outside of their group. Then they have the nerve to go back to their church and talk about their great mission trip. What good does it do a group of Americans to go on a mission trip, do a work project and not interact with any of the nationals? (It’s possible to feed the homeless but never interact with them… or even smile at them.) That’s not missions. That’s American. Don’t just build a home. Build a friendship. (It’s amazing how much of a connection one can build even with a language barrier.) While on a mission trip, it’s vitally important to keep in mind that missions is people, not projects. Work projects are important, but not all important.
What do you need to do right now to make sure that you and those in your group don’t step on the land mine of focusing too much on a work project?
Mission Trip Land Mine #5 Withdrawl
When someone is in a strange environment, surrounded by unfamiliar people speaking an unfamiliar language, immersed in a totally different culture, the natural tendency is to shy away from it all. However, withdrawing from these diverse cultural situations will greatly hinder the mission trip’s effectiveness. Experiencing a different culture is an important part of a mission trip. Therefore, it’s very important to have a “go for it” attitude! When you come to a cultural situation that is strange to you, don’t shy away. Go for it!
The food? Go for it!
Eating the food of other cultures seems to be a problem for many Americans. But think this through with me. Why would you want to travel all the way to Mexico and turn down the opportunity to eat authentic Mexican food? You may never pass this way again… and Taco Bell is NOT a legitimate substitute! But people often push back and say, “But Bill, if I eat this food, I’m going to get diarrhea.” I smile, look them in the eyes, and say, “Of course you will. But is it a real mission trip if you don’t get diarrhea? I think not.” I then put my arm around this person, double check to make sure we have our diarrhea medicine, and we go eat real tacos. (They are delicious!)
It’s important to note that, in some cultures, if food is refused even in a polite way, it is nearly equal to a rejection of the people and their culture. A person with a “go for it” attitude will eat whatever the nationals are eating and not complain! (A simple prayer that I have said a few times before a meal goes something like this, “Lord, if I can get this down, you keep it down!”) A “go for it” attitude is a must for a positive missions experience—especially at dinner time. Besides it is not everyday you get to eat a grub worm, a lizard tail, or an ostrich!
It is a shame to pass by experiences you are not likely to ever have again. Don’t withdraw. Go for it! One time when I took a group to Mexico, we worked at an orphanage laying cement for a basketball court. The orphanage director wanted to do something special for us, so he had some of the ladies make us some soup. The main ingredient was cow intestines. We told our group in advance at our orientation meetings that they were to eat whatever was set before them, as much as possible. I was so proud of one young man who ate what he could and then went outside to discretely vomit. The irony of this situation is that when this group sits around reminiscing about the good times, this soup story usually comes up—no pun intended.
The once-in-a-lifetime opportunities? Go for it!
When I went to Brazil, they needed someone to butcher chickens so we could have chicken for dinner. Growing up in a housing project, I didn’t get too many opportunities to butcher chickens, so I volunteered. It was quite an experience —especially since I had to use a knife (they didn’t have a machete). I haven’t been asked to do something like it since (thank God), but I’m glad I did it then.
The language? Go for it!
Even though I am among the worst at learning foreign languages, I always just dive right in and try to use what little I know when I am on a mission trip. I always get laughed at by the nationals because I so badly butcher their language, but they seem to appreciate me trying. I have said some real dumb things on accident, but that’s just part of a good mission experience. (One missionary asked me, “Why do you keep calling that kid ‘dog’?” Oops! I guess there is a difference between “Pedro” and “perro.” My bad. No wonder the kid never responded to me. But boy, the dogs hounded me—pun intended this time.)
Having a “go for it” attitude will help you shed the ugly American image that we have in many places. Also, it gets you out of your comfort zone, where you have to trust God. And anytime you’re trusting God, that’s a good thing. Keep in mind that when you get back to America, it’s too late to take advantage of the diverse cultural experiences you could have had during your mission trip. Withdrawing hinders the impact of the mission trip, so have a “go for it” attitude.
How will you ensure that you and the people in your group avoid the land mine of withdrawal—and not miss the opportunity to trust God in a new way?
Mission Trip Land Mine #6 A Lack of Orientation
If you haven’t picked up on the idea that this article should be used in your orientation BEFORE your team leaves for a mission trip let me underscore that right now. Why wouldn’t you want to warn your team about the mission trip land mines out there as a part of your orientation meetings? Prefield training is often the difference between a good short term mission trip and a bad one. During orientation, the leader must communicate pertinent information about such things as culture, interpersonal relationships, and any rules for the team’s trip. Without a thorough and engaging orientation program, the team doesn’t have a chance to build momentum for the mission trip.
Mission trips would be great if it weren’t for the people on the team…
Since I’ve been on mission trips where the interpersonal relationships have gotten ugly (some of our groups put the “FUN” in dysFUNctional), I highly suggest that you strategically invest some time in your prefield orientation training those on the team to love God and each other. You’re going to need this! Cadre Ministries can connect your team with a trainer who can bring Ministry Is Relationships training to your team. At a minimum, you’re going to need a devotional guide that will daily encourage and equip those on your team to love God and people in practical, hands-on ways. For this, we suggest Cadre’s One Another Living Guide. This devotional is a journey through the adventure of living out twenty-five “one another” verses in the Bible. (For example, love one another, pray for one another, and encourage one another.) If your mission trip is a ten- day trip, you can start everyone in the devotional guide fifteen days BEFORE you leave… and walk through the last ten “one anothers” as a team while on the mission trip.
To whom do you need to give this article and how can you use it in your next orientation meeting?
Mission Trip Land Mine #7 Fatigue
Almost every short term mission trip that I have had the privilege to participate in has been physically exhausting. That’s why I always laugh inside when I hear comments like, “They go on a mission trip every year because it’s more or less a vacation.” This comment usually comes from a very uninformed person. The truth is that the schedule starts around 6 AM and runs till around midnight. This is okay for the first two or three days, but then the emotional unravelling begins to show. People get on each other’s nerves. Words are said. Emotions run high to low. Also, work ethic slips and complaints start to surface. Team unity hits a low.
The first couple of nights, the excitement of the trip keeps people up at night. If a group is sleeping in the same room (males with males and females with females), the first couple of nights mean a lot of conversation. About the third day of the trip, you need to make sure everyone gets right to sleep, because if they don’t, you will have problems that you wouldn’t otherwise have had. If you need to, sleep in one day or take one day off. A team that is physically exhausted is not likely to have a positive mission experience. Vince Lombardi said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” Fatigue can turn an otherwise loving person into an angry and emotionally out-of-control idiot—just ask my kids.
Learn to read your group, lest a lack of rest hinders the impact of the trip. What would be the signs that those in your group are leaning on the land mine of fatigue?
Mission Trip Land Mine #8 A Lack of Food
On a mission trip life can get very busy. You might be tempted to skip a meal or eat very little because you don’t have time. Been there, done that, and didn’t like it. (Nor did those in my group.) That’s why I’m telling you: Don’t do it! A wellfed group is a happy group. And a happy group stands to gain much from a mission experience. Your team should have plenty of food to eat. Ideally, water should be available at all times. It may be to your advantage to have light food/ goodies/snacks available too, but not enough to take away appetites for the main meals.
This “feed-the-team” principle especially goes for young men. Young men can eat like horses. I’ve seen the nicest men turn into monsters when their stomachs were empty. But enough about my issues. Save yourself some trouble. Feed the team.
What do you need to do before the mission trip to ensure that you and your team don’t step on the lack of food land mine?
Mission Trip Land Mine #9 A Lack of a Biblical Foundation
It seems that fewer and fewer people who claim to know and love God are intentional about reading, studying, and applying the Bible. Yeah, they go to church and are conversant about God and spirituality. But a mere 9 percent of all people who claim to have a relationship with Jesus Christ actually hold to a biblical worldview. Something is missing in our Christian lives. I think it’s the APPLICATION of the Bible to every nook and cranny of our lives… also known as discipleship (Luke 6:46-49) and spiritual maturity (Hebrews 5:13-14).
A mission trip is an opportunity to reengage Christians with God via The Holy Bible. That’s why I require everyone going on a mission trip to find a verse of Scripture that they can base the trip on and then memorize it. People need to have a foundation in the Word of God for missions involvement. Without a biblical foundation for missions involvement, people will base their trip on emotions. The problem is that our emotions change. When things get tough (and they will), our emotions tell us to quit and complain. The Word of God is stable, and it doesn’t change like our emotions tend to. With a verse or two of Scripture firmly fixed in the mind and heart through memorization, God’s stable Word can override our unstable emotions. As we make our emotions subject to the Word of God, the result is stability in our lives.
Emotional Roller Coaster in Brazil
Let me illustrate what I am saying with an experience that I had when I was on a short term mission trip. Right before I left to go to Brazil for six weeks, my church had a commissioning service for me. One of our spiritual leaders read and expounded on II Timothy 2:3, “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (KJV). I decided to make that verse the verse I would base my trip on.
Three weeks later, I was out in the middle of nowhere in a tribe in Brazil, sick and dehydrated from experiencing dysentery for ten days. I remember laying in my hammock when a tremendous fear and doubt came over me. I started to panic. Did I have something internally wrong with me? I was afraid that I’d die and never see my family and friends again. Just about the time my emotions had a good hold on me, my mind flashed back to my commissioning service three weeks earlier. In my mind, I watched one of the elders of our church read, “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” I can’t explain the peace that came over me as I understood that God wanted me to endure this little inconvenience I was going through and that He would take care of me. The Word of God stabilized my emotions, and I was able to continue on even though my emotions were telling me to panic.
At some point on every mission trip, the flesh will run out of gas and the emotions will start to take over. At that point, people will need to rely on the Word of God—not their emotions.
What practical steps will you take to equip yourself and the team to avoid the land mine of a lack of a biblical foundation?
Mission Trip Land Mine #10 Culturally Insensitive Dress
It’s very important to know what the appropriate dress is for the country in which you will be working. Here are some clothing issues that could cause problems:
- Bright colors scream “look at me.” When you are in another country and culture, the goal is to blend in as much as possible—not to stick out as much as possible. I was reminded of this recently during a trip to Egypt. It was quite easy to identify the tourists from the nationals… and that is not a compliment. Do not wear bright colors unless it’s considered the normal dress for that culture.
- Rethink wearing gold and diamond jewelry. If it’s not your wedding band, you may want to leave it at home.
- At the risk of sounding like a guy with five daughters (yep… it’s true), women have to be very sensitive about their shirts. The problem is, for obvious reasons, women’s shirts can be too tight, too loose, too high, or too low. (Sorry ladies.) The less revealed the better. Be sure to have this missions appropriate clothing chat with the young women in your group before you leave.
- Guys working with shirts off is offensive in some cultures. Find out from the hosting missionary what is culturally acceptable.
- Wearing shorts can also be a problem in some cultures. Again, before you leave, find out what is culturally acceptable from the hosting missionary.
- Use discretion.
- Perhaps the safest bet is to wear modest jeans and a comfortable fitting work shirt to work in. You may want to take something a little nicer for church or special occasions. Do your homework and find out what is proper in the culture in which you will be living. It’s safe to always err on the conservative side.
What homework do you need to do to make sure you and your team don’t step on the land mine of culturally insensitive dress?
1. Give this article to each person on your mission team and have them read it— marking it with a pen as they read.
2. Gather the team together to discuss the article.
3. Have each person sign off on the Checklist Covenant on the next page.
4. Guide the team through the Free Mission Trip Training Session included in this article.
5. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to bring Cadre’s Ministry Is Relationships training to your team.
6. Visit http://www.cadreministries.com/store to get Cadre’s devotional, the One Another Living Guide,for each member of your team.
A Checklist Covenant to Help You and Your Team Avoid Stepping on a Mission Trip Land Mine…
Please check off and sign.
- I have read the article, Ten Mission Trip Land Mines.
- I understand and will obey the no romancing with anyone rule.
- I understand and will obey the be flexible rule.
- I know what work projects we will be doing on the mission trip. Our work projects are:
- I clearly understand that missions is about people, not projects.
- I will do my best to have a go for it attitude and not withdraw when I encounter culturally different circumstances.
- I understand that orientation meetings are critical to the success of our mission trip and will participate in each orientation meeting.
While on the mission trip, I will go to sleep when my leader tells me.
While on the mission trip, I will keep hydrated by drinking water and take time to eat even when
I get incredibly busy.
I have a biblical foundation for my involvement on this mission trip. I have memorized the following passage of Scripture:
I will dress in such a way as to honor Jesus Christ and the culture of the people whom I am serving.
Signature: ____________________________________________ Date: _________________
About Cadre Missionaries…
Our Obsession: Equipping Local Churches to Make Volunteers WILDLY Successful!
To be trained to take Cadre training to your church/ministry, contact email@example.com and ask about Cadre’s certification process.
For information about bringing a certified Cadre trainer to coach and train the volunteer teachers, leaders, and youth workers in your church or ministry, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
For Cadre training resources visit http://www.cadreministries.com/store.
Cadre’s fun-loving staff serve as support-based, God-dependent missionaries who can only do this ministry with Cadre because of generous friends like you.
To make an online, tax deductible donation to Cadre Ministries: Go to cadremissionaries.com
Cadre Ministries is a [501(c)(3)] not-for-profit ministry.
All other tax deductible donations can be sent to: Cadre Ministries, PO Box 278, Sycamore, IL 60178
A Free Mission Trip Training Session…
On Your Own:
Create a list of at least three more mission trip land mines not touched on in the article:
With Your Team:
Gather your team together and have everyone share their lists of mission trip land mines. On a piece of large poster board, create your group’s top ten mission trip land mines. Be sure to discuss these questions:
1. Why are these mission trip land mines?
2. What could happen if a team member steps on each of the land mines on your list?
Recommended Resource for Mission Trips
At a minimum, you’re going to need a devotional guide that will daily encourage and equip those on your team to love God and people in practical, hands-on ways.
We suggest Cadre’s One Another Living Guide. This tool is a journey through the adventure of living out twenty-five “one another” verses in the Bible. (For example, love one another, pray for one another, and encourage one another.) If your mission trip is a ten-day trip, you can start everyone in the devotional guide fifteen days BEFORE you leave… and walk through the last ten “one anothers” as a team while on the mission trip.
To order online, go to http://www.cadremissionaries.com/store.
Cadre Ministries can also connect your team with a trainer who can bring Ministry Is Relationshipstraining to your team.
For questions, email@example.com.