Having packed up my family, said teary goodbyes to loved ones, boarded a plane, all after having waited for what seemed like a few eternities back to back, we arrived in hot, humid, rainy, beautiful Lae around six months ago, and almost immediately began working with the staff at Lae City Mission, on the Suambu plantation, with 150 young men in the program run here. What better opportunity could anyone have, to work in mission? And obviously, that would mean that I could have a direct impact on those 150 young men right?
Well, as it turns out, there are more sides than one, to working in missions. One side is the obvious: preaching, teaching, church planting, discipleship, training pastors, training leaders, and seeing Christ formed in the hearts of those He calls through human means. Not only the obvious side, this is arguably the most important, the ultimate goal of going into the "mission field" (also known as: "stepping outside of Church after Sunday service"). The reason anyone would go to another country for missions, would likely be this one.
However, there are different sides to mission, which is clear once you think about it. Another major side, is that of building physical things, and providing physical support. For example, City Mission aims to house over sixty children in their Children's Crisis Centre by the end of the year. We aim to relocate our current women's refuge and increase our capacity from two, to twenty. We hope to be able to build a centre for teen-aged boys, too old for the children's centre, but too young for the work program. Future plans include more classrooms for our rapidly improving literacy program, more classrooms for our vocational training, more dorm space to increase our program capacity up to 220, a Bible college to train national pastors, and much more than even this. Looking over at Reformed Ministries, we can see that they are in much the same place, with plans to build a school, and a local training campus to work hand-in-hand with the RCBC in Port Moresby.
I'm quite certain that no-one will argue that these are not good things to be doing - Christian charity is kind of a big deal.
So, what's my point?
In all of the staff here at Suambu, there is one thing in common. We all have different backgrounds, different roles, different abilities. We have a great deal of differences, in our life situations, our relationship statuses, our temperaments, our intellects, and our giftings, yet there is one common burden we all share: seeing the "boys" become men, and men of God.
Now, obviously, that is a tremendous blessing, but what does it mean for the staff whose role is to build all of these things, whose role is to maintain all of these things, or who - like me - are separated from the work by virtue of being in a management role? What does it mean for our General Manager, whose heart is to teach and preach, but whose job is to oversee all City Mission operations?
Sure, some of the staff might actually be in the wrong job, and there is no way any of us will stand in the way if they called to do something other than the job we might have available for them. However, some (*ahem, me) have not been called to preach, but have been gifted with some form of management capability, and so I find myself torn between my heart's desire to work with the boys, and my giftings in other areas of management and building.
And so, I had to come to terms with the fact that I build these things, so that the greater work can be done. I organise materials and schedule work, and spend an obscene amount of time in getting quotes every week, so that when I am done in one place and move on to the next, the work of counselling, and caring, and teaching, and training, and discipleship, and charity can be done by people in those roles.
To be clear: I'm speaking of primary roles. Wherever I have time, I can work directly with the boys, and pass on whatever skills I might have, that they might not. The converse is also true, in that I learn a few new things every week, which others consider common knowledge. It would be foolish (some would say sinfully so), if I were to abandon my gifts and try to take a position that I'm not really called to, not only because I'm not called to do it, but because I am called to use my gifts.
The same goes for you: maybe you want to go and work with Pindari Ministries, or Shalom House, or Have-A-Cuppa, but are not gifted in counselling, or teaching, or any other skills which are necessary. But you still have a place in helping them - you just need to find it, maybe as I am finding my place here, and am slowly coming to peace with it.