Change is an unavaoidable part of life, so they say. But it seems like I have been experiencing more than the usual amount of rapid and dramatic change lately. I feel like the world is spinning so fast, I'll fly off if I don't hold tight. Who could have seen these changes coming just four or five years ago?
The mission organization of which I'm a part, SIM, is in the process of changing dramatically. Our old pooling system of support changed to a new, more individualized system on January 1st of this year. After 21 years of dealing with finances the same way, we have to get used to new methods and new ideas. We have several new financial accounts. We have support agreements. We are using a new medical insurer. Taxes will be handled differently. We are responsible for our housing costs and have to arrange all our travel and visa costs. Support levels are much more flexible.
Our financial support base is also changing. In the past two years, we've lost a lot of support, including three key churches. Individuals have picked up the slack, but we are down to just over one-quarter of our support coming from churches. So our support base has become more individual and has spread out geographically. And of the eight churches that still support us, many of them have changed pastors in the past three years, and some have had big changes in membership.
Not only is our financial system and base changing, but the mission is changing in dramatic ways. New leadership has begun to steer the organization on a slightly different course. We want to be able to send missionaries from anywhere to anywhere. This parallels the worldwide trend of missionaries coming more and more from non-western countries. We want to be more flexible and stream-lined. Any organization that is more than 100 years old can easily become lifeless or petrified unless it changes. We also want to focus on key priorities and be less scattered in our focus. Our field office has a brand new administrative structure which is regionally-based and responds more to the needs of the churches.
My life is changing dramatically in personal ways as well. My son will be entering his senior year of high school this fall, and in 2007, we'll launch him off to college (he's still in the process of deciding which one). May daughter will finish high school in 2009. We are returning to Africa inless than three months, and for thosewho know what it's like to move cross-culturally, that is a huge change even when you've done it before. My close-knit family is changing as well, nephews and nieces moving on with their lives, a brother living in Oklahoma (we've been in the US nine months and still haven't seen him or his family), and parents and in-laws aging and experiencing more health problems.
Then the world outside is changing rapidly. Technology is moving so fast, who can keep up with it ? You need to be at it 24/7/365 to understand it. Even doing this blog is a bit frightening for someone who likes to master something before he does it. I don't feel like I understand it as well as I would like. Will I get anonymous and/or critical comments? Air travel is becoming more and more complicated with all the threats. We are more aware of global realities, and yet I think we understand them less. The USA is experiencing a religious shift, one that has huge implications for the church. Our faith is being challenged like never before by neo-Gnostics ("The Da Vinci Code," "The Gospel of Judas"), homosexual activitis, post-modern "toerance," and different worldviews such as those found in Islam or Hinduism.
We are also contemplating changes in our work, changes that will likely remove us from the place where we are currently working and transport us in a few years to another ministry worlds away. I am considering going for a doctorate. And I'm in the process of doing things I've never done before: writing articles for publication, doing radio interviews,
Change can be a good thing, but too much at once can leave us unstable, groundless, and fearful. Where do I go? What is right and true? Is there anything I can stand on that is not moving? Stop the world! I'm getting dizzy. In a world of change and decay, there remains one constant, one steady Rock that I can rely on, and to it I hold tight: Jesus Christ. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. I'll conclude with a poem I wrote years ago that always encourages me to keep on in the fight and not let go when the world is spinning. I entitled it "Emmanuel."
He walks before me
To guide me in the right way.
He walks beside me
To guard me lest I stray.
He walks behind me
To goad me into the fray.
His presence is my peace.
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