Teams… Embracing the Challenges
1 Dec 2009
It has been said that teams are what keep missionaries on the field, and what send many missionaries home.
Teams can be places of incredible warmth and support, providing a caring environment for personal and spiritual growth; our ‘safe place’ when we are working in a dark and hostile environment. Teams can also be the cause of deep frustration and pain – sapping our energy and distracting us from the work we have been called to do. Working in teams is not always easy, but it is a Pioneers core value that we gladly embrace.
Working in teams requires humility. Humility to recognise that we cannot be the body of Christ on our own! Humility to value other people’s opinions and beliefs. Humility to genuinely listen to and seek to understand a teammate who comes from a different background, understanding that this cannot be done quickly. Humility to realise that our way of doing things is not the only way. Humility to love a teammate whose personality or idiosyncrasies may be challenging for us, and to ask for forgiveness when we have been insensitive to others. None of this is possible in our own strength, so our personal ‘team’ relationship with God must be the basis for all our other relationships and ministry activities.
Working in teams is biblical. The Trinity is a wonderful example of God as the perfect team: Father, Son and Holy Spirit working together in perfect unity. Jesus’ time of ministry was spent with his team of 12. He was actively engaged in caring for them, training them and nurturing their spiritual development. Paul writes often about the Church as the body of Christ, with each member having a role to play to perfectly complement one another, and to work together to accomplish what cannot be done individually. He also addresses many areas of conflict within the early Church ‘team’.
Team life is reflected in two dimensions. Each worker has their own ‘home-side’ team, as well as being part of a team on the field. Both aspects of team are vital to the long term wellbeing of the missionary.
The ‘home-side’ team consists of our home churches, families, prayer and financial supporters, pastoral carers and close friends, and the mobilisation base. When these supportive relationships are working well, the missionary feels loved, nurtured and supported – a solid foundation from which to tackle the daily challenges of life on the field. Maintaining connections with our home-side team is an important priority for us. We do this by sending regular newsletters and prayer updates, monthly reports, emails, Facebook messages and Skype phone calls, and by joyfully receiving those who are able to come and visit us.
Time invested in strong relationships is never wasted time. We believe this is just as true for our relationships with folk back home, and for relationships within our team, as it is for our ministry relationships with local people.
Our team here in Thailand reflects the diversity of Pioneers as an international organisation. We consist of a family with teenage children, and three single women (aged from 27 to 55). We come from Australia, America and (former East) Germany. We come from different denominational backgrounds. By the grace of God, we have been drawn together to love and serve one another, as well as serving in ministry together. We are also well supported by our Area Leader, who is a great resource and encouragement to us.
We did not come to the field planning to be team leaders. We see ourselves as very ordinary people: lacking in many ways, but with our heart’s desire to serve God. When God laid it on our hearts to serve him overseas we were not confident about what we had to offer, but stepped out in faith as an act of obedience to him. When we were first approached about being team leaders, our initial thoughts were like those of Moses, ‘Not me, Lord. Please choose somebody else.’ However, God convicted us. He had called us overseas in obedience to him, and now he was calling us to serve him in this new way as an act of obedience.
We love our team deeply. We spend a lot of time together: in weekly planning and team meetings; teaching English together; celebrating birthdays and special occasions together; supporting each other in various ministry activities; praying together; sometimes crying together. It is a joy for us to serve alongside this special group of people.
We are thankful for the way our team works together so well. Our team’s main ministry activity is reaching out to Thai university students through English teaching. About 18 months ago, a young man called ‘B’ (not his real name) started coming to English class, and soon after decided to attend one of our chronological Bible story groups. Over time, team members developed a very good friendship with him. When B decided to study overseas, our team helped him through the long and difficult application process. When he was accepted, we arranged for B to be met at the airport and introduced to some Christian students. He has now started attending church every week, and talks to us on Skype every few days. He has commented how very different Christian singing is to Buddhist chanting. B’s family and their neighbours have started coming to us for English classes. B is not a Christian – yet. But God-willing, when he makes that decision, it will be in response to a team effort covering three different continents. ‘I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow,’ (1 Cor 3: 6-7). The body of Christ in action!
Joining a team can be a bit like an arranged marriage – you never quite know what you are getting into! However, we trust our loving Father who perfectly arranges all things for his glory. We are honoured to be serving God in Thailand: sent by an amazing team of supporters; partnering with our precious team of co-workers.