Won't You Be My Mission Partner?
November 16, 2022
By Jo Wiersema
Midweek Musings is a weekly Covenant blog with a variety of authors and a variety of topics.
As many of you know, I was given the opportunity to spend almost two weeks in Guatemala with the Covenant Mission team, where we were able to live, learn and work side by side with our long-term mission partners. Over these two weeks, we listened to story after story about not only the history of Guatemala, but the current events in people’s lives that broke apart stereotypes and preconceived notions.
Quick Aside: My personal context is one that is heavily influenced by my experience growing up in Texas. Many of my classmates were children of migrant farm workers. We had bilingual classes to integrate new children who had no English skills, and many of the folks in the neighborhood I grew up in were undocumented.
As many of you heard on Sunday, the stories we heard created a narrative we will all hold with us the rest of our lives. The friends, the family in Christ, and the relationships built there were more than any words, English or Spanish, can cover. But I’ll try.
I made a good friend, a great friend. She’s two months older than me, she has two young boys, and no husband. Throughout our time in Santo Domingo, she stepped up as a matriarch of the church. Along with the generation of women her mother’s age, she wanted to contribute to the life and work of the church, providing meals, checking in on people working in the church, translating where she could.
She made a joke that the only English she knew came from Adele songs. I joked the only Spanish I knew came from the grocery stores I went to growing up.
We laughed more than we talked. We used Google translate and hand motions and I smiled more than I did at any other point of the trip.
This mission work wasn’t to serve the less fortunate. It wasn’t to use our White American experience to show the impoverished people we were here to fix everything. It wasn’t to be a benefactor throwing money at people and feeling good about us.
Mission work, with long term mission partners is about Joy. It’s about working together to reach the Missio Dei. Mission has been so messy in the past 100 years. Your idea of a mission trip might be one like ours, one full of long term relationships. Or your idea of a mission trip might be foraging through a long forgotten third world country with a Bible and a mission to convert as many people as you could.
Missio Dei is a theological concept that mission is more than going into the world and bringing the Gospel through force like a Barbara Kingsolver novel (please check out the great book The Poisonwood Bible!).
Missio Dei is the idea that Mission is not just sending God’s Church into the World but God’s purpose is the renewal of all things.
It’s an invitation to participate in God’s saving initiative on behalf of God’s creation. It is not an invitation to force the Gospel so we can save souls, but an invitation to embrace God’s love in creation.
(Note: this is content directly quoting Dr. Mary Emily Duba from her class God’s Redemptive Mission at University of Dubuque Theological Seminary, Hi Mary Emily!)
Yes, yes, that’s a lot of seminary malarkey. But it’s important.
It’s important that we went to Guatemala and brought our time, talents, and treasures.
It’s important that we went, not with a sense of saving anyone, but to live alongside where the Kingdom and creation are already fully encompassed in God’s love.
Last week my friend called me on Facebook audio. Her English hadn’t gotten any better, my Spanish has likely gotten worse in the last 2 weeks. We said hello, we giggled, and I said hello to her boys, and we hung-up in a little under a minute. It was the best minute of my week. I didn’t spread the gospel. I didn’t baptize children in a river, I didn’t pass out Bibles, but I can pray for God’s children by name. I can pray for the churches in Guatemala, not because they need fixing, but because God’s mission is fully being lived out in the lives of the church and I pray that those churches continue to hear and feel the Spirit.
Stories are what hold us together. Stories and relationships are a key part of God’s Mission. I’m not the main character in some heroic mission, but I’m grateful to be one small little side character in the narrative of God’s Mission.
Blessings on Blessings on Blessings,