So the journey started. We split on the first mission, we went to Vrångö, an island with less than 500 inhabitants in the sea of Sweden, and the Burgs went to Gothenburg. After a week we came together again and worked together in Hemsedal, on the Norwegian mountains, and finally in Grimstad and Arendal, on the southern coast of Norway. A big ship brought us to Danish coasts, from where we drove back home after 6 weeks of hard work, fun, battles, technical problems, joy, and above all, many lessons learned about discipleship.
All in all, I have to say that we learned more than what we could give. This life is a journey, and one of the secrets that has helped me to grow the most in my faith and my service to other brothers and sisters is that everything we do is a learning experience. We come to give what we have, but also to learn. The axis of everything we do and everything we learn is them, the people we serve, the church, the body of Christ. They need to grow healthy, strong, fruitful, but that never happens immediately. If it happens, it’s usually long after we are gone. So what is it then that we have to do so that they reach that goal in our absence? That is the lesson we have learned in this journey.
The Practical Side
That is already too much to describe in detail. The love of our hosts was beyond description, but still we had to discover their cultures and religious background before we could be of any help. All of this while finding a routine for our families: homeschooling, cooking in the camper sometimes, making many appointments, sleeping at people’s driveways, many other nights in the woods searching endlessly for a moose. We baptized a brother in freezing cold water under a bridge at midnight, gave many teachings, had hundreds of conversations, were guests at many different houses, and had very long nights planning strategies with the Burgs. And of course lots of coffee and chocolate milk!
Through all of this we had to give also priority to our family life. We cannot serve others at the expense of our families. They need our love, attention, instruction, correction, and fun, to bind with each other. This also became a challenge for us since for the first time we were sharing such a journey with another family with young kids. That meant we had less time for each other than usual. We had a great time nevertheless, but we should have also probably respected our original plan to take some time alone with our families between every mission. It all went well, but I must admit it added stress in the back of my head that I could only discern after I was home for a while.
Ok, let me be honest with you. In the past, my highest expectation was to heal the sick, cast out demons, and bring people to a new birth: lead them to repentance, and baptize them in water and Spirit. Maybe bring them to the streets and show them how to repeat the process I had just had with them. But then I would leave them to themselves, trusting (or hoping) the Holy Spirit would lead them to growth and maturity.
Having that in mind, I didn’t need a lot of time to reach my goal wherever I went. In a weekend I could already reach it, and in a week I could reach more than what I dared to expect. Nevertheless, I realized that they needed more than the Kickstart Weekends I would give under the TLR banner, or any other format I would use. I kept contact with many people I baptized or helped, and realized that many were unnecessarily shipwrecking in their faith, or having a very hard time because they were not strong enough to make it on their own. This journey became a confirmation of that thought.
Before we left home, we had plenty of appointments for our 2-month journey. All of a sudden many got cancelled just a couple of days before departure, and only 3 appointments remained. I thought we would have a lot of time in between appointments, but as usual I trusted God knew what he was doing. And I was right.
Our goal now was to give our brothers not just doctrine or basic training on evangelism or gifting, but also some solid foundation upon which they could start building and growing. I came to the realization that a week (or even two) were extremely limited to reach that goal. Actually impossible. We did what we could, but what we could do would not be enough for them to build up something solid. Our brothers and sisters needed love and shepherding more urgently than learning how to make disciples and set up new churches.
So we did what we could, but it was not what they needed. After our departure, we saw them with a broader vision, a higher goal, which actually brought more questions than we could answer. Most of those questions need no answers, they need example and coaching, that is, discipleship. A couple of weeks are insufficient to do that.
So, what did we learn after all? We learned that apostolic work requires a lot of love, a lot of patience, a lot of sacrifice, quite some humility. And above all, it requires time on-site. Bible schools don’t get this kind of job done since they train people in a bubble but then send them back to a field full of cactus. Or even worse, they get absorbed by the foam, never to return to the field where God had sent them to. We need workers that make and take the time to stay on the field.
This work needs experience. We cannot teach or be successful on the field if we were not first successful at home. Likewise, it requires experience in other practical areas of life: marriage, counseling, family relationships, work discipline, raising kids, and so on.
And the last thing is senders. Apostol means sent one. If we are to get involved in apostolic work (planting new disciple communities, or strengthening existing ones) we need people to equip us, send us, support us, and pray for us. Above all, a community to report the fruit of our work to. Paul and his team would always submit themselves to the ones who sent them. This protects our hearts from becoming proud or getting crazy.
So what now?
So now we are really busy getting trained and inspired for becoming more effective the next time we go to the field. We are taking a time off the wheels to focus on raising a local work that will hold the hit of rain and waters, and most importantly, that will keep the focus on the Kingdom of God and multiply, and it’s going great. This gives us experience, and allows us to replicate ourselves in local workers that can take over this field in the future.
Thank you my Scandinavian friends for being used so mightily by God to teach us how small we are, how large and ripe the fields are, but most importantly, how to help you better next time we see you! We love you all deeply.