23 September 2010

A Need to Paint


This week I attended an event at the Compassion International headquarters in Colorado Springs to discuss the upcoming Lausanne Congress on World Evangelism. It was fascinating to hear how God has moved among Christians around the globe to pull off this event, to be held in Cape Town, South Africa.

I encourage you to read up on the Congress as a way of seeing how we in camping ministry fit into the worldwide effort to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. Then, after the event, which runs Oct. 16–25, keep your eyes open for the outcomes as reports follow the Congress. (You may also follow the Congress on the Cape Town 2010 Web site where video from the Congress as well as a video podcast will be available.)

Following the handful of international trips I’ve made, I always feel small coming home. Like my vision isn’t big enough, my understanding not broad enough, my influence not deep enough. One story told last night exemplifies the way our U.S.-centric view can be a handicap.

On one missions trip, an American went to a missions office and asked what he and his crew could do to serve the local missionaries. The man took him to a wall and said, “This is the wall for Americans on short-term missions. They seem to have a need to paint, so we bring them here and let them paint, and they seem to enjoy the activity. Then, when they’re gone, we repaint the wall the color we wanted it in the first place.”

Oh, my. Is it really all about us?

I need to do regular mind-expansion exercises to keep me sharp and stay aware of what God is doing all around His world. (The CCI Worldwide Summit in Panama last spring was just such an exercise for me.) We may not change all of our strategies or processes in our ministries as a result, but by studying the work of God and His people in other parts of the globe, we can come ever closer to knowing Him.

Do you have an eye-opening, mind-expanding story of international ministry you’d like to share? Please leave a comment here.

7 thoughts on “A Need to Paint

  1. Dan, thank you for the very insightful challenge! Camp can be used for more than programming and having a good time. Part of the evangelistic role of camping can be motivating guests to become disciplers overseas. One group from a church that uses our camp accepted the challenge to come to Haiti with us to do church and clinic construction. They were exposed to the needs and the beliefs of Northwest Haiti. They fell in love with the Haitians and have returned multiple times. The Christians and non Christians alike there need to be shown the love of Christ coming from someone who cannot benefit in a material way. They have heard the Word, yet they have not always seen the love. Teaming with missionaries who live there, we can be effective and not repaint the wall!

  2. This is dead-on true! I have done a couple of youth group trips where most of what we do is paint… I do think that many people view “missions” in the wrong way. It’s not about us — we should not do something so that we feel like WE helped.

    This summer I had the amazing privilege of traveling to Tanzania with Compassion International on an Advocate Tour. The thing that shocked me the most was not as much the poverty, but the spiritual wealth and the connectedness that we all had as brothers and sisters in Christ (across a language barrier nonetheless!) The people that I met in Tanzania are so on fire for God — there is no such thing as a “Sunday Christian.” Compassion has done incredible work in reaching out to the people of Tanzania and letting God use their RELATIONSHIPS to make an impact on lives. For two days our groups did some manual labor that included planting trees, roofing, floor repair, and (of course) painting, but I must point out that the RELATIONSHIPS are what really seemed to have the largest impact.

    Another thing to add is the radical differences that can be made when our missions are focused on truly meeting the needs of the people we are serving. One of the women in our group told me that her sponsored child in Tanzania had five different cases of malaria on her health record (all within about 3 years’ time). To her surprise, the cases halted at the year 2007. That is the year that Compassion began to provide bed nets.

    When we have our minds and hearts focused on loving people, developing relationships, and meeting their true needs, God can use us in ways we cannot even begin to imagine!

  3. We are a camp that recieves American work teams to a culture that to some is quite different here in Alaska. Alright, our customs aren’t extremely different, unless you wish to work with say the native culture. This can be like a foreign country to a new person.

    Sometimes it does end up being more about the team, allowing God to expand their understanding of what He is doing elsewhere, and gaining the insight that Americans don’t have all the answers. We’ve seen God work in a lot of lives this way.

    On the other hand, work teams for us have been such a tremendous blessing, moving us ahead on projects far beyond what we could do by ourselves. Groups who go with an attitude of humility and service are much more beneficial than those who have all the answers.

  4. Last summer, for the sixth year, at the invitation of a mission agency, our team provided a week of day camp programming for orphan children housed in a summer camp. At the end of the week, the mission agency asked our team to take an additional day, normally used for sightseeing, to work along side nationals doing a community service project aiding a family of four orphaned children in a small village. Specifically, we were asked to provide the tools, supplies and labor to paint a fence and cut discarded pallets into firewood. And we did that.

    However, despite my concern to be culturally sensitive and respond to their expressed needs, I couldn’t resist the urge to additionally use four of the pallets (there were plenty) to construct a compost bin as a way to help them manage their vegetable food waste and garden refuse. In retrospect, it was something they had not asked for, likely do not understand and probably won’t use. The pigs in the pen next door probably get first claim on the food and garden refuse.

    I’m glad for the work our team did as requested, but your reflection reminds me of how difficult it was for me to resist the urge to have others do it my way. Actually, I am only marginally successful at managing a compost bin myself. It was a humbling experience for this American… and that too is one of the benefits of short-term missions.

  5. Thank you Gregg, for your comments. Would you be able to challenge and stretch us a bit by sharing some comments from the CCI Worldwide Summit in Panama?

    Thank you,


    P.S. – The paint story was challenging.

    1. Before trusting Christ, my dear foreign friend told about praying on the street more than once with Americans who “witnessed” to him using a gospel tract. One night in a bar he told his friends, “Well, I prayed with two different guys today to receive Jesus.” A friends replied, “Really? I prayed with three!” The well-meaning “missionary” probably wrote his supporters about the souls saved that day. What he failed to understand was that in that culture, no one takes your message seriously until they see the fruit of your professed beliefs lived out in your life. And that takes time. In our task oriented culture, we’re used to “instant salvations.” But in that culture, spiritual fruit is the result of relationship + time.

      1. Dan, I so agree with what you have said. But I believe it’s true in EVERY culture. Jesus didn’t say go save souls. No, in fact, He said, Go make disciples. You don’t make a disciple with one prayer from a tract, indeed, you must spend quality time with them and build a relationshp so that they can see your fruit.

        I have been to Port-Au-Prince, Haiti twice and we didn’t paint anything! 🙂 Instead we ministered right along side of our national ministry team in sharing the gospel and establishing ongoing contacts, so that after “the Americans i.e. blancs” were gone, the national team are still building into their lives.

        Perhaps if we were to use the term Disciplers instead of missionary, we would maintain the perspective that Jesus gave us. Food for thought.

        P.S. I don’t even LIKE to paint!

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