Learning to give up control

Samantha* looked at me one more time. Our intern, Julia, was now fifteen minutes late for our planning meeting.
This was our first attempt at running a vision trip to inspire Christians from this country towards ministry among ethnic minorities. Julia, a native of this country, was joining us to learn how to run vision trips herself. That was going to be rather challenging if she didn’t arrive.

In this country, most Christians belong to a majority people group and live in well-developed cities. Most people from minority ethnic backgrounds live in remote areas. They have little opportunity to ever meet a Christian or hear the good news about Jesus in a language that makes sense to them. Local Christians are essential to God’s kingdom growth in these distant parts of the country.  But I’m getting a bit carried away with the theory behind starting locally-led church movements.

So, I was sitting with my teammate in a hotel room in a remote city, hoping that Julia would show up. Should I go to look for her? The hotel layout was complicated, and I wasn’t entirely sure I could find my way back to this room if I went
out of it. Julia’s knock finally came at the door. The double corridor setup in the hotel had completely flummoxed her. Right away, I rearranged the meeting agenda in my mind. First order of business: navigation.

We were about to lead a group to five different locations, visiting gospel workers and major sites in each place for prayer and cultural learning. At this point, I wasn’t entirely confident that our small planning team could find our way out of the hotel, let alone handle maps and other logistics for the five local Christians who were due to join us. We decided to ask one of the vision trip participants to be our leader for navigation. The participant who volunteered for the job did it fantastically. We all rejoiced. So what was my first real action as a leader for locally led missions? To lay down control.

Navigating breakfast

Several days later we were in a small city, home to a people group who don’t yet have a formal written script for their language. Even now, no part of the Bible is available for them. We talked with a gospel worker and prayed together for God’s love to reach these people. We stayed overnight and the time came for breakfast.  Growing up in the UK, my stomach has strict rules about breakfast foods, but no such rules exist for most Asian cultures. 8am found me with Julia and several of the vision trip participants in a spicy noodle restaurant. For these brothers and sisters to embrace the vision of God’s kingdom among these ethnic minority peoples, I needed to embrace them in genuine friendship. During the trip, that meant sharing hotel rooms, answering questions about my daily habits and speaking so much of the national language I kind of forgot how to form sentences in English. That morning, genuine friendship meant spicy noodles for breakfast. My brain was rebelling loudly, but my heart was fixed on God’s kingdom. I ate, my tongue burned, and I was thankful.

At the end of our trip, we had debriefing conversations with each participant: what had gone well or badly; what had God said to them through the trip? Julia sat in on one of my debriefs, and she was markedly unimpressed. I didn’t handle the time well; my questions were too vague.

Yet again, my weakness became God’s strength. After seeing my level of skills, Julia felt able to lead debrief conversations. She also felt ready to lead vision trips.

In the years since that trip, Julia has brought groups of local Christians each year to pray, learn and catch the vision for God’s kingdom among these people. She brought her boyfriend along on these visits. Soon he and others were leading vision trips too. Today hundreds of local Christians are carrying forward the vision of God glorifying his name among these ethnic minority people. How did it all start? With spicy noodles, ropey debriefs and getting a bit lost. In other words, it started with God’s great love that welcomes us in our weakness and binds us tight to each other.

Now, Julia and her husband are preparing to move with their young child to one of the cities we visited on that first vision trip.

Pray for local gospel workers:

  • Pray for Julia and many others like her. Pray that they too will lay down personal comfort for the sake of genuine relationships.
  • Pray that God’s kingdom among these people will be the first and last thing in their hearts.
  • Pray that that God will help each one to embrace weakness for the blessing of others and the honour of his name.
Written by Rose Scott

Rose* and her husband both grew up in the UK and joined OMF together in 2006. Since then, God has led them on a series of exciting adventures. Their greatest joy is doing whatever it takes to see God's kingdom grow among people who have the least opportunity to hear.

*Names changed for security reasons.

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