Partnership. It’s probably an over used word. Maybe even buzz word right now. Like all overused buzzwords, they run the risk of becoming tired and trivialised. ‘Partnership’ is slapped on business plans, on free trade agreements from the Trans Pacific to the Trans-Atlantic, business cards, in employment titles and I could go on. ‘Partnership’ is everywhere. Being employed as a “Partnership Development Consultant” I quietly wonder if pretentious titles sometimes contribute to the partnership burn out.
But then as I wander around the churches of NSW & the ACT, and visit the various Global Interaction Teams and the people groups we serve among internationally, and get to see the reality of what partnership makes possible, partnership strikes me as something that is well… beautiful. My crusty cynicism falls away as I get to see the reality of empowering, collaborative, creative, generous, and sacrificial partnership that changes the world little bit by little bit. Each part doesn’t always look that significant, but each part enables the whole.
It could be the little fellowship groups who meet to pray and support our cross-cultural workers. I have visited groups like this in places like Eastwood, Springwood, Pendle Hill, Narraweena and Islington They meet, eat and gulp down any news we have from our cross-cultural workers, they learn, support and pray. Sometimes the people at these events have hardly left Australia but they could name a person or a small village in remote Malawi, Thailand or Cambodia with the familiarity of family. They have prayed, supported and given for so long.
We have seen Mission Action Teams, or Mission Committees from our different Baptist churches, who conspire, organise, encourage and challenge their church to make a Global difference. I have seen them at work from Mosaic in the ACT, Wellington in the Central West, Morisset and Erina on the Central Coast or Baulkham Hills, Castle Hill and Epping in Sydney. The ideas range from lemon butter and knitting needles, to a life-size heard of cows in the church foyer for a rural income generation project, to a go-pro camera attached to a helmet, motorbike tour around a Yao Village in Mozambique. They come up with all sorts of creative and crazy ideas in an attempt to build living relationships with people who live on the other side of the world in the hope that they experience a life changing relationship with Jesus.
We have appreciated the advocacy and support of pastors and churches’ across the country that have focussed significant time and preaching energy for the sake of people from different cultures and people groups with very little access to the gospel of Jesus.
We have encountered individuals who give and give sacrificially. From the person who sneaks a $50 into my hand whilst visiting a church, or the sweet elderly lady who enquires to see if her payments for the three workers she regularly supports, on her pension is up to date, or the extraordinarily large gift from a generous corporate donor who helps a family get across a support target line and back to their context of service.
We have worked with churches that send out their own to get exposed to long-term work and be a blessing to our teams and people groups. Teams have visited or will visit Thailand from Carlingford, Narara Valley, and the Plunge Students from Morling College. Teams from Ingleburn and Green Point have worked with our team in Central Asia, and Toronto to South East Asia. Each team is an expression of love and concern that has expressed its self in embodied love for our teams and the people they serve.
Then there are those communities of faith that send their own out long-term service. They give their best people, for a long term, for the cause of Christ. Sometimes it’s their son or daughter, grandkids that they release to serve Jesus and his Kingdom and his purpose. They give and pray like crazy as suddenly Global cross-cultural mission has become very personal. We praise God for this kind of partnership and trust.
All of this giving, praying, conspiring and planning begin to make the most sense when we get to see our cross-cultural workers in action. After years of learning language and culture, building relationships, establishing a legitimate platform to be present in a least reached group they share the greatest gift of life transforming relationship with Jesus. The work is slow. Our people groups are hard to reach because they are hard to reach!! The barriers are myriad, culture, language, socio-religious identity, heat, cold, poverty, kids education, culture stress, and loneliness, getting and maintaining a VISA. But a partnership with God, and partnership with each other as Baptist Churches and cross-cultural workers makes it possible to be there. We are in it together. We couldn’t do it with out each playing apart.
And because we partner amazing things happen. As a result of partnership, we will hear a man praising Jesus in his heart language Ci-Yawo – the language of the Yawo. ‘Partnership’ means that a Thai farmer living in a village hamlet in the country’s north brings an offering of fruits from his fields to honour the God who has been made known to him through Jesus. A Cambodian DVD sales woman no longer lives in fear of the spirits because she has met Jesus who over comes evil. A group of believers will meet behind a curtain and study the word in South Asia before they go off to work for the day.
I reckon being a “partnership development consultant “ for Global Interaction (though a mouthful to say) is a great privilege. Above all else I get to bear witness to the power of God at work through the partnering of his people. So let’s keep at! Let us get better at it! Can I affirm your part, however small it may seem, is incredibly significant.
With Paul I pray “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now…”