The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien is one of our favorite trilogies.We first read these books in High School.Every 3 to 4 years, we read them again!When we heard that the books were being made into movies, we couldn't imagine how it would be done.The scope of imagination it would take seemed beyond one person's capabilities.But Director Peter Jackson proved us wrong!We found the movies to be as captivating as the books.
In the first movie, The Fellowship of the Ring, there is a scene that captures our hearts.Everyone is gathered in Rivendell, the city of the Elves, to discuss what will happen with the legendary One Ring.As the tale unfolds, we soon learn that the ring must be carried back to Mordor and destroyed, a journey of epic proportion and danger.An argument ensues about who will take the ring.Suspicions and age-old jealousies cause an eruption of anger that starts an argument among the men, elves, dwarves, and wizard present.
Finally, Frodo, a humble Hobbit from the Shire, steps forward and says, "I will take it.I will take the Ring to Mordor."Everyone is stunned into silence.And then Frodo adds, "But I do not know the way."Amazed by the sacrifice he is willing to make, the others step forward, one-by-one, to pledge their allegiance.Boromir, guardian of Gondor (the last stronghold of men) offers the protection of his shield.Legolas the elf offers the protection of his bow.Gimli the dwarf offers his ax.Aragorn, the reluctant heir, offers his skills as ranger and swordsman.And then Sam, Pippin, and Merry, Frodo's closest friends, offer their loyalty even though they have no idea of what they're getting in to.
These eight form the Fellowship of the Ring.A fellowship based not on their differences or weaknesses, but a coming together of their strengths and a willingness to be in relationship with one another.
International Ministries has embarked on what we like to call The Fellowship of the MPT.MPT stands for Missionary Partnership Teams.It is a relational model of mission support.When a person receives the call to become a missionary, he or she is often like Frodo:there is a willingness to go, but the question arises, "I do not know the way."This is when staff at IM, regional and World Mission Support staff, family members, local church pastors, lay people, and even other missionaries rally around this person to build a fellowship.The purpose?To build a network of support so that a missionary's spiritual, emotional and financial needs are met.The missionary becomes surrounded with people that intentionally choose to journey with him or her in this call to missions.
There are many questions about this new model.It is a paradigm shift from an institutional model to a relational model.It will take time to work out the kinks.Some things will be tried and then discarded.Other things will take off in a flash.As with all things new, it requires a mind-set of flexibility and tolerance.
When IM sends missionaries to the field for their first term, they tell us, "Focus on relationships.Don't worry about what you will do.Concentrate on who you will be.For when you have built accountability, authenticity, and trust with the people you partner with, then you have a foundation on which to start doing.Otherwise, without trust, it will all fall apart."This is easier said than done.Americans are better at doing than being.We had to continually set aside our cultural biases and simply get out of the way, so that God could work through us in Mexico!
And so now what we practice with our overseas partners, we are bringing back to our own organization.For in many ways, IM has forgotten how to BE with the people in the local churches.We have let relationships stagnate or be taken for granted.The MPT, then, is a desire to rebuild and revitalize relationships with the local churches & regions, our partners in the United States. As American Baptists, we know the one thing that has historically always held us together, has always given us a common focus, is missions.Therefore, we pray that this new relational model will be an impetus to cast the new vision, not just for IM, but for the greater health of our ABC family.
In Isaiah 43:18-19 the Lord says this:
Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.See, I am doing a new thing!Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. (NIV)
We invite you to relationship.
We invite you to participate in something new.
We invite you to the living water of God.
PS:We will be sharing more information soon about how the MPT works specifically for our family.This was simply to whet your appetite!