One goal for our teams is that they will be multinational, multiagency, and multigenerational.
A majority of our team members today are young and full of energy and excitement, which we love. Being multi-generational gives us depth and experience. Older people tend to lower emotional temperatures (i.e. kids may argue in front of parents, but they won’t in front of their grandparents). Multi-generational teams have openers and closers, young people just starting their missionary careers and long-time missionaries joining later in their careers. Teams will also have people coming mid-career, leaving a job back home to bring their experience to the field.
We love this story from one of our “closer” couples serving in North Africa. After serving for thirty years in Latin America, they made the move to North Africa to join a training team. Their story is a great example of why we desire our teams to span the generations.
As my wife and I shared with people about what we were doing, we got two basic responses. One was: “This is of God!” The other was: “You’re crazy!” We agree. We believe the move was of God, but we don’t discount there may be a little something of the other in there as well.
During the last several years of ministry in South America, we started to send Latin missionaries to other parts of the world including to North Africa. I then started to take an annual trip to visit those workers and minister to them. Those visits had a profound impact on me as I encountered a world I knew nothing about.
Latin America has been greatly blessed by God, and there are hundreds of thousands of churches and millions of believers. What a contrast to what I discovered in North Africa where it was difficult to find churches or even followers of Jesus.
Over time the access (or rather lack thereof) that North Africans have to the gospel really started to bother me.
I realized that the people I ministered to in South America had all heard the gospel many times or at least had a means to hear it, while many of the people in North Africa had very little or no access to the message.
Because of our age, lack of experience working with Muslims, etc., it took my wife and I a while to actually make the move, but once we were convinced God was leading us to work with Live Dead Arab World, we were excited about using the last years of our ministry in a strategic effort to take the gospel to people who had no access to it.
I would be lying if I said that moving to North Africa to work with a Live Dead training team wasn’t a challenge. I often say that everything I know how to do (in terms of missions work) is illegal here, which isn’t far from the truth.
Ministry here in North Africa is 180 degrees from what we experienced in Latin America. And learning Arabic isn’t all that easy for a guy over 60 either!
But I think the biggest concern we had with joining a team was the idea of actually working in a team. Thirty years ago when we began our overseas ministry, “team” was not a real popular concept in our circles. Thankfully, I can say that it’s been a blessing and a great learning time.
We have a lot more experience on the field as workers than most of our team members (there’s only one other couple our age), but we are novices in terms of working with Muslims in the Arab world. So while we have something to offer the younger team members, we are learning with them at the same time.
We are learning the value of team—we don’t have to do everything. God has placed a lot of people with distinct gifts together here. There are things we can do that others can’t, and there are things they do better than we do. At the same time we went from being the people in charge to being support workers who help younger members launch into their ministries. This has been a huge blessing as we see new workers grow in faith, wisdom, and spiritual maturity. God has brought together a wonderful team and we are thankful to be a part of it.
What a joy to invest our lives and share our experience with these great young people God has called to His harvest field.
Of course, as with any team there are things we aren’t completely happy with. There are plenty of opportunities to “live dead” by turning it all over to Jesus. With all that, I wake up every morning and say, “Thank you, Jesus, for allowing my wife and I to be here.” I believe God has great plans for the Arab world and we are so blessed that He and Live Dead gave us the chance to invest our last years of ministry into this needy, strategic field.