Thursday, March 17, 2011

Team Meetings

Добре дошли (Dobre doshli... "Welcome")!

Our team has grown again with the addition of Jordan Hunt (who has been to BG several times before) and Chelsea King, one of our high schoolers who will be going for her first time. We are excited to have both of them! Jordan has experience and will be building on existing relationships with our Bulgarian friends. Chelsea has a real heart to serve and and a youthful excitement that will bring energy and joy to the team.

Our team of thirteen is now meeting regularly on Wednesday evenings before church to prepare for our trip. The meetings are every other week for now, but will switch to weekly as we get closer. We take the time to prepare everyone in a number of areas, but also to grow closer to each other so that we are already functioning as a team before we even leave the country. To foster discussions, we will be working through a journal together entitled, "Before You Pack Your Bag, Prepare Your Heart," a tool we have found useful and challenging in years past.

On the spiritual front, we want each person focused on selfless serving. We consider ourselves a servant team, not a missionary team (more on that in a later post). To that end, each of us will be expected to completely deny ourselves for the needs, joy, and comfort of others while we serve. We will need to lay aside our own emotions, tiredness, discomfort, hunger, etc. and focus on the needs and opportunities around and before us. That applies to how we interact with our fellow team members, but more importantly, with the Bulgarian people we are called to serve.

We are not traveling to Bulgaria to do "our ministries", but to make ourselves completely available as servants to the Church that God is building in that nation. We are, in the theme of Paul's New Testament writings, to make ourselves slaves; willing to do whatever is asked of us, and even to go beyond that... seeking opportunities to serve in any way we can. That is not a natural mindset for many, even in the Church, which is why we will spend much time in teaching and equipping the team in this area.

We will also examine our individual strengths and weaknesses in order to better work together as a team and to support each other well when things get tough. We talk about our personal pet peeves and areas of spiritual, physical, and emotional struggle. We examine the areas of our lives where we know we absolutely must grow and change in order to do the work we are being led into by the Holy Spirit, then trust in His power to affect that growth. The new members are continually encouraged by those of us who have been before and can testify personally of God's incredible providence and grace that we have experienced!

In addition, we work to prepare the team at an emotional level for the "culture shock" of spending time in another country. Many of our new members have never left the United States before and have no concept of how different the rest of the world can be. We discuss and sample the food we will be eating, talk about the language barrier, and try to prepare them for the many small things that will be unknown or challenging for them. We also encourage them to remember that we are going as Christians, not Americans. While our American culture has truly gone global, seeing many of the worst elements of our own nation being embraced elsewhere can leave a bad taste in our mouths. To be able to minister effectively, we need to be able to disconnect ourselves from peoples' perceptions of what an American is. Instead, we focus on our identity as members of the Fellowship of Believers... the Body of Christ.

Of course, we also educate the newer members on the ins and outs of traveling to, and throughout, a foreign country. We stay on top of the teams' passport status, discuss luggage requirements and suggestions, talk about how to move through airports easily, and much more. The shared experience of those who have gone many times before is quite valuable to our budding world travelers.

Keep the team in prayer over the coming months as we begin our journey together before we even leave Bullhead City!

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