November 2011

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HeartLiving amongst the terrible tragedy of the Aids epidemic, a South African pastor began a ministry to mobilize many communities to train and educate their vulnerable young people about the consequences of HIV, unprotected sexual activity, and pregnancy.  After these programs had been established the rate of pregnancies and sexual relations actually increased.  In disbelief, the founding pastor asked the question, “Haven’t they been educated!?”  He started interviewing the kids as to why the problems had actually increased with the provided training and was struck by one young girl’s reply.  “There are no jobs, no housing, we have no hope for a better life… Even though we know better, there is no reason to do anything different.  Maybe if I get aids I’ll get out of this hell-hole sooner!”

When people live in a state of despair and without hope, they often move to a state of despondence and fatalism where they don’t care about the consequences of their behavior.  In these kinds of desperate environments a missional approach of simply training, educating, giving money or establishing programs will not produce long term results.  Only through the establishment of trusting relationships and genuine friendship and love can these systemic issues of despair and hopelessness really be addressed resulting in measurable improvements over time.  When the local Church is empowered to really act as neighbors, and fathers and mothers to these vulnerable populations within a given community, it can stand alongside those in need as “oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor” (Isaiah 61:3b)

As you consider your missional approach to providing training, education, or in funding programs overseas, how are you empowering the local church to be in loving relationship with the beneficiaries?  How is your aid and relief approach connected to indigenous agencies who have established relational approaches for walking long-term with the recipients of your aid?  What changes in your approach might be needed at this point to ensure that trusting relationships and hope will be there long after you are gone?     

Please feel free to respond to these weekly Breakthroughs in Missional Thinking; we need your voice in this ongoing dialogue about how the Christian Church engages in missions in this rapidly changing world and culture.

Blessings,

Mark Mielbrecht
Director of Global Leadership Development

SwordWould you ever consider letting someone do surgery on you with a sword?  Of course not!  Surgery is a very delicate procedure which requires precise, knowledgeable, pre-meditated cuts with the specialized blade of a scalpel.  Not the wide-sweeping, indiscriminate chops of a sword.  I submit to you that in order to be truly helpful in an at-risk or distressed community, the same kind of delicate, precise, knowledgeable care must be taken in your missional approach.  What might feel good to us, and seem to be the right thing to do in our own culture or ministry philosophy, could have disastrous results when exported into another community context.

A friend of Breakthrough Partners told us this story about an aid and relief effort by four different churches in Minneapolis.  With compassionate hearts and a desire to help bring an end to the suffering in Haiti after the devastating earthquake of 2010, they mounted a campaign to ask everyone who bought peanut butter to buy two.  One jar for their own family and one they could donate to fill a shipping container to send to Haiti.  Everyone loves peanut butter, right?  There was just one unforeseen problem.  One of the only viable and widely grown crops for Haitian farmers in the aftermath of the destruction was peanuts.  By having thousands of jars of free peanut butter flood the Haitian distribution centers, the local market was swamped and the price of peanuts plummeted.  Unfortunately, these well-meaning churches began destroying a crucial piece to Haiti’s economic recovery without even knowing it!  

How are our well-intentioned efforts affecting those we wish to help?  How are we killing others with indiscriminate kindness?   How can we learn what is really needed in a given context?  As we know, a surgeon has diagnosed the risks and benefits of the medical procedure before he makes a single cut with the scalpel blade.  How can our approach be delicate, precise and knowledgeable in ways that will help and not hurt them?  Are we using a scalpel or a sword in our missional approach?  

Please feel free to respond to these weekly Breakthroughs in Missional Thinking, we need your voice in this ongoing dialogue about how the Christian Church engages in Missions in this rapidly changing world and culture.

Blessings,

Mark Mielbrecht
Director of Global Leadership Development

RobinsIt is our hope that this collection of thoughts, ideas, rants, stories and models for doing missions will generate more innovative and necessary engagement to how we reach out and participate in Kingdom work for the sake of the nations.  The time has come to re-think how we engage, interact with, and resource those whom we are working with in a variety of contexts.  Leadership development that empowers those whom God has already raised up in their own cultures and contexts must be of paramount importance. 

Furthermore, sustainable spiritual, economic, and societal practices that are owned and adapted by indigenous missional leaders must be developed in ways that bring widespread life and vitality to a community, not dependence.  For far too long many missional paradigms can be illustrated by the robin and her nested young in the above photo.  Without the constant feeding and care by the mature robin, the blind and helpless young will simply perish.  They are absolutely dependent on her unabated procurement of more resources.  How does this picture represent some of the missional relationships that you are aware of?  How has your church or mission organization added to the dependency of the foreign mission field on Western aid and relief?  How have you begun to think of ways to empower local missional contexts to develop their own solutions to the needs of their own communities?

Please feel free to respond to these weekly Breakthroughs in Missional Thinking; we need your voice in this ongoing dialogue about how the Christian Church engages in missions in this rapidly changing world and culture.

Blessings,
Mark Mielbrecht
Director of Global Leadership Development