I've just brought up one week (to the hour) in a new (for me) unnamed country in Asia.
Most of that time has been spent in the company of the unnamed J&R, D, and R - mission workers with a combined total of 120 years working in this country. A staggering figure! It reminds me of the company I kept as a child in India. God is delighting in letting them see plenty of harvest after all their years of seed-sowing.
Why? How? What is it that has worked?
The value of learning a people's mother-tongue
I've listened and I've watched the way fluently speaking a people's language builds a highway into peoples' hearts. Eyes and faces, minds and hearts - they all open up as people hear a foreigner speaking in their mother tongue well. I kinda regret that I've never invested in doing this with any language.
The value of longevity
A long obedience in the same direction is what it is all about. Staying faithful. Standing firm. Enduring all the seasons of life and ministry. These folk, now in their 70s, have been through it all - but just when the West puts you 'on a shelf' (at about 60), the people in this country are beginning to respect you and hang onto everything you say. It is the way it should be.
The value of ministry among students
I kept bumping into people with mind-boggling leadership roles in this society. I daren't start mentioning them, but you'd scarcely believe it were possible for Christians to be doing these things in this country. And they were all fumbling and bumbling undergraduates, or postgraduates, with J&R a generation ago.
[NB: the person who was my translator this week is a woman from this country who is about to start working among graduates with NZ's student work, TSCF - in exactly the sort of role that has been so undervalued by the church in NZ ... and a generation or two later, it is showing up in our public and civic life].
The value of discipling around the Word
This is what J&R have been doing with these students over the years - and not much more than this. Taking an authoritative Word, revealing a Saviour and Lord, and in the power and patience of the Spirit working to shape lives according to that Word & Lord. It is not Duckworth & Lewis - it ain't rocket science. That smart investment in the deep work among a few, rather than being seduced into a more shallow work among the many.
The value of warmth and love
Loving people deeply and then being able to transmit it with warmth sabotages so many potential cross-cultural challenges. These qualities radiated from the '120 year brigade' this week. It was so impressive to watch.
The value of humility and integrity
This was also very evident about them. Most unusually in this work, there is some serious money from within this country meeting the costs of what is being done. After a week I am persuaded that it comes partly because J&R can be trusted - they have a reputation for being people of character and people want to contribute towards making their vision happen.
POSTSCRIPT (one week later):
I've just brought up a further week in a familiar, unnamed country in Asia. Most of that time has been spent in the company of the unnamed S - a mission worker (together with his wife J and their kids) with a total of only 10 years working in this country. They are not veterans at all - but as I reread this post about the veterans - everything in it is true of this young family as well. These are the very same reasons why their work is proving to be so effective. We need more people like them! I often find myself praying that they will be able to stack up the years in this country...