By Lois Thorpe, former SEND missionary to Ukraine — I’m an idealist. And often a perfectionist. I have found this is a bad combination for effective ministry.
I had long wanted to have a missions group at my church in Southern California. It would be for people who were preparing for full-time, cross-cultural ministry. It would be for prayer and accountability. It would be a group that encouraged those on the journey of raising funds to go to the field. It would be a group where people could find a common vernacular because missions-speak can sometimes sound like a foreign language (partner development, furlough, TCK, UPG, etc.).
But I ran into obstacles every time I tried to plan such a group. My church didn’t seem big enough to support a group that would have built-in turnover as people left for the field. There didn’t seem to be enough people committed to long-term, cross-cultural ministry. People had different ideas of how often to meet or what to focus on. I didn’t feel qualified enough to do this alone. My list of excuses, fueled by my idealism, was not short.
Fast-forward several years. I kept my finger on the pulse of who in our church was interested in missions. I tried to get to know these people and encourage them in their journeys. But it still wasn’t a group; it was one-on-one fellowship.
I started to have conversations with people outside of our congregation about my group idea, and I began to realize it was possible if I started looking at it differently. I partnered with another missions-minded person in our network of churches and we decided to pool not just our two churches, but all the local churches within our network. It was like the light bulb finally turned on. This might work.
We began meeting and making lists of people in our churches who had expressed serious interest in cross-cultural ministry abroad. We began thinking about a central place to meet. We invited church leaders to participate in the conversation. After a few months of planning, we finally invited people to our first meeting.