Tuesday 19 February 2013

What is a luxury?

Just read a thought provoking blog post from Pubol's Post on Cultural Economics - basically how it's not easy to compare the cost of living from one country to another, because of so many variable factors. Where one thing might be cheap in one place, other things may be more expensive in another.

Living abroad, but getting funding from home means that you continuously have to work out exchange rates and compare prices of what is available to what you can afford. What might seem like an unnecessary luxury for some, may well be essential for another. For us, the debate is often about healthcare. Coming from the UK, health expenses were never really a big discussion and certainly not something that would need budgeting. Yet, living in South Africa, where healthcare is insurance-based and expensive, you can find yourself having to pay a significant portion of your budget on sickness prevention. I know for some missionaries, working in difficult situations, security is one of the big expenses. Many have to have private security guards and insurances - an expense which can prove very costly, yet completely unnecessary in the UK (and therefore often not easily understood).

From this must come a certain measure of trust from the supporters who keep us here. When we pay out a significant sum for something, we have to ask our supporters to trust us that this item is important/necessary for our continued work here. That, in itself, is a step of faith on their part.

Right now, I'm fixing my car. If this was in the UK and I had a car which was 15 years old, with over 260,000km (c.160,000 miles) on the clock with the engine that needed a whole overhaul, the cost comparison to getting it done compared to scrapping the car and buying a new one would be laughable. It would be considerably more expensive to fix than to replace. Yet, here, to fix the car will cost a fraction of what it would cost to replace. The reason? There's a flat second hand car market, making used cars really expensive. Therefore, even if it's expensive to get the car fixed, it's still worth doing, even if it is an old car!

We all look at financial decisions based on our own culture and experience. The more you travel, the more you realise that these decisions are different in every place and not always easy to make. The missionary is always in a difficult place, because they face criticism from local people on searching out 'unnecessary luxuries' that the missionary is missing from home, and spends a 'fortune' buying, whilst facing the need to defend actual necessities that those back home think are an 'unnecessary luxury'. Therefore, part of our job when we budget is to explain clearly the importance of spending extra on the 'unusual' things and why they are important to budget for. And never underestimate the importance of local knowledge!

Thursday 14 February 2013

Learning to wiki

As I gradually learn that, as a team, we can work stronger than any of our individual contributions, I'm also seeing that the same can be applied to the mission movement – that is, YWAM – as a whole.

YWAM Knowledge Base
Today I've been learning how to write 'wiki'. It's all in an effort to build a connectedness in Africa without 'doing everything' for the people we're trying to reach out to. With the advent of social networking and wiki sites, it is now perfectly possible for the masses to be literally in control of web content. Rather than just having a central office which updates and maintains the information about YWAM, we are now entering a season where any and every location which calls itself YWAM can update not only about themselves, but also about history, books, learning experiences, people groups, health care, biblical worldview etc. In fact, anything that would be useful for others to know about is now shared - or available to be updated through the YWAM Knowledge Base.

YWAM KB, as we refer to it, is a wiki website which, once registered, can be accessed by anyone, anywhere in the world. The principle behind it is: we all have things to share and here's a platform with which to do it. Things (techniques, experiences, knowledge) change over time and to have one office that is responsible for keeping up with all that is YWAM would be impossible. AfriCom champions some great stories on our website, but we are so pleased to be working on a project that hands the responsibility and ownership back into the hands of those working at the grassroots.

Writing in Wiki takes a bit of learning (hence my lessons, with my trusted friend and AfriCom staff member, Arnoud). However, when you've got the hang of it, you can share with the world some of the expertise that you know that someone else may benefit from.

As a movement, we are made up of many organisations from very different backgrounds and different giftings. It's really exciting that a tool like this can be used to pool our knowledge and resources together. It's right to the very heart of AfriCom's vision and mission.

Friday 1 February 2013

Our heroes are also human

It is wrong to idolise, but let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater!

It is human nature to idolise - God knew that, and he told us not to do it! Yet there needs to be a balance between idolising the people we admire and showing them the respect they deserve. Though others are not above us (humans are all made equal), we can have a healthy respect for those who have gone before us and done many great things. Many have sacrificed their own wants and desires to serve God in amazing, life giving way. Yet we are not called to worship or idolise these people.

The reason I write this is because I am prone to idol worship in this way. As I stand in their presence, I find myself urging towards worshipping them. A colleague once teased me about this, suggesting that I admired our heroes a bit too much, going glassy eyed and tongue-tied in their presence! Many talk of Loren Cunningham in this way, though I have yet to meet him in person, so haven't had the opportunity to go all weak kneed! Yet not idolising our heroes doesn't mean that we don't hold them in respect and see what they have achieved in life and the anointing that such obedience (often sacrificially) carries. There is an anointing on those who serve Christ in the mission field and yet so often we focus on what they do not who they are. We idolise their obedience and sacrificial service, rather than the God who made them. This leads to an expectation that when they come to a natural turning point of handing over the work that they're doing, they become 'redundant' in the minds of the world. Yet, the anointing does not go from them, if they continue to walk in obedience with what they carry (i.e. by stopping 'works', they do not become passive in their walk with God).

Right now I'm sitting with members of the Africa leadership team for Youth With A Mission. If you look at what they have achieved in their time serving with YWAM (pioneering, maintaining, building, relating) there are many books that could be written. Just the longevity that they carry is so inspiring.

I hope and pray that these heroes of our faith will continue to be long after they complete the projects that they are doing. That way, the new, younger leaders and pioneers can have a stable foundation on which to build the next season of YWAM's work in Africa. The next generation, if they understand the anointing carried by the previous generation, will lean into them and look to see how they display Christ-likeness, giving stability and wisdom. Good leaders don't step down, they step aside, maintaining a presence and a love for what God has called them to do; they stand at the sidelines, cheering others on to achieve higher and better than they did. They coach, love and support; they bless and cherish.

But if they 'disappear' back to their home countries (like has happened many times before), without maintaining contact and good communication, the orphan spirit which exists across YWAM in Africa will be  perpetuated over and over again.

I admire these leaders and they have my vote to stay here, supported by us - the next generation - and being the stability for us to continue to press on towards the higher goal. (Phil. 3:14)