Who am I?

My photo
Monrovia, Liberia
I live in Monrovia, Liberia, West Africa with my wife and youngest son. We are recently arrived in Liberia where we are serving as missionaries with Evangelical Church Missions working under the Liberia Evangelical Mission. For most of the last thirty years we have served under ECM in Bolivia, South America. We are the happy parents of four children and the proud grandparents of two grandchildren.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Shaping A Ministry

It has been some time since I have posted. I appreciate everyone who has patience with me and keeps coming back to see what I've written.

We have been in Liberia now for going on six months. In those six months we have participated in a variety of events and experiences. We have had "good" days and "bad." We have had times when we wanted to return to Bolivia where everything is normal and familiar. Other times Liberia is home.

I've decided that green isn't my color.
 We've met new food and new friends.

Palm Butter is a Liberian favorite.
New worship styles at church have lost their quaintness and now seem familiar and expected. We have experienced cultural stress and communication failure on one hand and love and acceptance on the other. So we are here, to stay, to serve, to live. But we have also been sent here to minister, to represent the Evangelical Church and, more importantly, to be living examples of Jesus' love and grace in our corner of Liberia. So how do we do that? How do we shape a ministry that will have lasting impact?

How to shape a ministry is a thought that has been on my mind since arriving. And how to shape it from scratch. Literally, the mission had nothing when we arrived, not even a pencil, so we have the responsibility of building a ministry that will outlive and outlast our time in Liberia, that will provide a solid foundation for those who will come after us.

One thing that I have learned during my experience in cross-cultural ministry is that people are more important than programs and equipping more important than buildings. That is not to say that neither programs nor buildings are important but is to recognize that unless we are able to impact people and equip them to serve others in ministry, programs and buildings are useless. But if they are used to build relationships and equip people for ministry, then they have a vital role to fulfill.

So far we have become involved in a couple of things to help build relationships and to equip. Niki invites the pastors' wives to our home each month for a time of fellowship, sharing and relationship building. The pastor's wife plays a very important and unique role in the Liberian church. She is considered the mother of the church. As such she fulfills a role of encouraging and welcoming the other members of the church. She may be actively involved in the teaching ministry of the church or as a part of the worship leadership team. Niki has the opportunity to encourage these women, to help foster relationships between the group of wives and to equip them with teaching and ministry ideas that they can use in their churches.

Niki watches as the ladies draw a picture illustrating the pastor's wife.
I host the pastors bi-monthly for the same basic purpose, fostering relationships between the pastors as well as encouraging them. When the pastors come it is a very informal time together. We serve them a light meal and share something from the Bible, but mostly just visit. This is the only time that these pastors get together for something besides a business meeting or church service. The hope is that these diverse men of God will begin to see and understand each other in a new way which will help them to effectively work together as they build the ministry of the Liberia Evangelical Mission (LEM).

We had one afternoon with both pastors and wives. Pastor Bill and Marthaline  are from the Careysburg church.
The first attempt at formal equipping has been a class on Christian education and children's ministry. The focus of this class has been to encourage the churches in the development of their Sunday Schools and to challenge them to a better organized outreach to the children in their neighborhoods. This four week class will be offered twice, each time being for a different group of churches. It has been an interesting experience for me to lead this class. There are so many cultural things that I need to learn from the brothers in order to effectively teach them. So we have been learning and exploring together. I have tried to not be the man with the answers but rather to be a facilitator to help those attending to determine what needs to be done in their own local churches.

Working on a class assignment.
My goal is that by fostering these relationships and beginning to equip others for more effective ministry we can develop a program that will help LEM to move forward in outreach and discipling. That will probably lead to the need for building. Each LEM congregation has its own building where services are held. At least three of them are involved in projects to expand the size of their meeting place. There is a need for some sort of central office where pastors can find resources and meet together. These needs will be met in time. Meanwhile we will continue to do what we can to build relationships and equip for ministry and by doing so hopefully shape a ministry that will last for years to come.