There have been some recent changes to the IMB team here in Bangkok, and I now have a new supervisor and a new team - but one with very familiar faces. Read the remainder of the blog if you'd like to know the details, but suffice it to say I will now be working together in ministry much more closely with these six friends than we did previously, and I am so excited to see how God will use us together to further His Kingdom here in Bangkok!
1. Please lift up our new team and ask that we would be one in heart and mind as we seek to start new churches here in Bangkok. Ask for the Father to mature us and to lead us to those who will choose to follow Him, and ask that we would be diligent to guard the unity of the body.
2. Please be in prayer specifically for "Pearl" and "Jess," two ladies I've recently met who are both considering following Jesus. Pray that He would reveal Himself to them and that they would recognize that giving up everything to follow Him is completely worth it.
3. Pray that I would have wisdom to know how to proceed in some upcoming ministry changes.
Inquiring Minds Wanna Know:
Some of you might be aware of this, and others might not but, towards the end of 2015, the IMB went through some major changes. Due to financial hardship, the organization was in a precarious position regarding its future. In order to put the agency back into a more stable financial position, our leadership made the very difficult decision to cut personnel. They offered a generous compensation package to anyone over the age of 50 and with at least five years of service with the organization who would choose to voluntarily retire early. Following this phase, they offered a smaller package to the remainder of us who were not eligible for early retirement and gave us the opportunity to resign voluntarily as well.
Our leaders were hoping that 600-800 of our personnel, between field missionaries and home office staff, would take the package.
More than 1100 accepted.
Prior to December of 2015, the IMB had approximately 4800 personnel on the foreign field. As of now, there are around 3800. It is a 20% reduction in our workforce. Our numbers haven't been this low in 25 years.
Over the last several months, I've shed so many tears over and said so many goodbyes to beloved brothers and sisters that I cherish, people who have invested years of blood, sweat, and tears into their people groups, men and women whose experience and wisdom and relationships, quite frankly, cannot be replaced.
And I've often wondered how we as an organization would ever recover from such a loss.
In the last three months, I've helped friends sort through and categorize any number of items as they sought to pack up the minutiae that make up a life. I've made two separate airport trips with three of my very dearest friends in this country, have helped them push multiple suitcases that were so very inadequate to hold everything that would remind them of this life and hoping that their memories and hearts were sufficient to store all they would need. I've given ridiculously quick hugs goodbye at that same airport - though it was far from the minutes-... no, HOURS-long embrace I wanted to bestow - simply because none of us wanted to break down in so public a venue.
|Saying goodbye to precious co-workers|
And I walked away from all of that wondering how I personally would ever recover from such a loss.
But the Father is good and ever faithful. He knows our deepest needs and exactly how to meet them. And He knows them even better than we do.
A few weeks ago, just as all of these goodbyes were coming to an end, I was informed that our team would be undergoing a major overhaul. While we previously had one large team of IMB personnel in Bangkok, we would now be divided into two teams with two different leaders. Those changes went into effect immediately.
At first, I wasn't sure what to think. I've been on the field long enough now to recognize that change comes frequently, and it is in your best interest to adapt quickly. But that is sometimes not a very simple task.
Over these last few weeks, though, it has become obvious that this change is something that God has brought along for good in the lives of each of us who was affected. Where my previous team had members doing such a variety of ministries that it was nearly impossible to work together, this new group is made up of a smaller number of people, seven of us, who are planning to work as a team to start new churches. We have spent some time getting to know each other and learning about the strengths and giftings of our teammates so that we can work better together to accomplish the goal of seeing new disciples made and new churches started here in Bangkok. I can't begin to tell you how much this excites me!
While in South America, I experienced real community with my team. We frequently lived in extremely difficult circumstances and learned to depend on each other. There were times when my team partner and I were the only believers in the area, and we had to rely on each other to provide true church, true family. I learned what real community was like, what it should be and what it should not be.
It's been more difficult to find that community in Bangkok, for the reasons detailed above. This division into two closely-knit teams with real community on each will be good for all of our personnel in the city and will, ultimately, be better for the people we have come to reach. After all, the kind of church we are will be reflected in the kind of churches we plant. If we are individualistic, whatever churches we begin will be as well. But, if we learn to work together as a unified body, that's what our churches will look like, too. I personally prefer the latter.
As much as I still feel the grief and the sharp pain of those recent losses, I feel like, through this new community, I am starting to heal. God Himself is knitting that gaping wound back together, and it is a joy to watch Him do it!