Recalling our Staff Conference
Dear Harvest Team,
In our staff conference last year, I talked to you about mentorship and encouraged each of you to not only see yourselves as teachers and trainers, but also as mentors. I actually don’t like the word “mentor” because it implies that the mentor is above the mentee (the one being mentored). Instead, I like to think of my role in this area as walking with a brother/sister and sharing our life experiences with each other. We walk as brothers or sisters with each one sharing their own perspectives with the other. This includes learning from the one with whom we are walking – whether they are the mentor or mentee.
Here is an example. I have been walking with a brother, Shun Jinnai, from Japan whom I have come to love. I met Shun at a cell church conference in Hong Kong in 2004 and then again at a Vision Conference in Japan in 2005. Shun heard my teaching on the Discipline of Love at the cell church conference and began practicing it. After the Vision Conference the next year, a small group that was practicing the Discipline of Love with Shun sent me their journals and I sent them my reflections. This group’s spokesman was Shun. In the meantime we have become close friends. Since that time, Shun has resigned his government job as a veterinarian and has moved into vocational missionary service. He now works with Food for the Hungry Japan and recently spent several longer periods in India, and then most recently in Ethiopia observing culture and development practices for Food for the Hungry Japan.
On Shun’s return from Ethiopia he wrote me a summary of his observations and conclusions. One thing that I found very interesting was his summary of the characteristics of a development worker that has godly impact among the people with whom he or she works. I had not personally done this kind of analysis before and find it very useful in my thinking. You see, I have been learning from Shun and this is an example of that two-way learning process.
Godly wholistic impact
I want to share Shun’s conclusions with you so that you, too, can learn from him. But, I also want to encourage you to be actively and intentionally learning from those you are mentoring/walking with. I quote from Shun:
In India and Ethiopia, I was privileged to see more than 10 wholistic mission case studies. My observation was not just a superficial look. I studied them intensely. What I learned is that there are two different kinds of wholistic mission. One brings godly impact in the community and the other seems not to fully bring that kind of impact. I asked myself why, what makes the difference? I conclude that the essential element which determines the quality of the ministry is the “person,” not what they do. In other words, the characteristics/qualities of the person doing wholistic mission is more important than what they do. So I asked myself what are the criteria for the person who brings this Godly wholistic impact. As you will see, I’ve listed six characteristics or criteria. Here they are:
a. They know the community well.
b. They work in the community face-to-face with the people in order to get things accomplished rather than trying to direct activities from an office.
c. They faithfully focus on small actions rather than large projects.
d. They focus on serving the poorest of the poor in that community.
e. They focus on a specific problem before generalizing that problem and trying to find a solution to the generalized issue. For example, they see a person suffering and they respond to that need of that person rather than first looking for the cause of the suffering in a general way, and first trying to solve the general issue.
f. They are rich in personal and sacrificial giving, irrespective of their personal wealth (I have observed that the people who have the greatest impact are often those who are the materially poorest.)
As I shared this with Eli, a co-worker at the Harvest office based in Phoenix, she asked, “Where is the aspect of obedience to God?” Though that isn’t listed as a specific in Shun’s list, I know him well enough know this is an overall assumption as it should be in all of our individual walks as followers of Jesus.
That’s my story. I’d love to hear from you and would like to open the dialogue about this story. What are you learning from those with whom you are walking? Please answer this question in the comments section of this blog so we can experience “mentorship” – learning from each other – in the best meaning of the concept.
Under the same Wings,