That team you sent us
October 2014

By Anna McShane — Dear Pastor Jerry, 

We are thrilled with the continuing involvement Pine Creek Church has with us here in Asia. Each year you send us teams to help us with our ministry, and we feel that both sides of the world are benefiting from the partnership. Your people have become good friends with our contacts here, and we’ve seen a number of our local friends move along the path toward salvation. In return, I think that the experience of returning yearly to the same place is giving your congregation a sense of lasting presence in a very different part of the world.

I do need to talk to you frankly, though, about how you screen the people who come. There are times when I sense that Pine Creek leaders think coming to Asia will be the “magic bullet” for some of your folks who are struggling with life issues. It is like your leaders say, “Perhaps if they get overseas and see what God is doing in another part of the world, their personal struggles will seem minimal and they will grow spiritually.”

Maybe so, maybe not. The problem is, if they have problems at home, those problems come with them. And once they get here, those problems are greatly magnified by the stress and intensity of living in a very cross-cultural setting. 

Remember the year you sent Brenda? Your young adult leader thought it would be a good thing for her to get away from home after her engagement was broken. I will grant you that she was an excellent professional and she thrived in the classroom, but she was emotionally needy and desperate for attention. She latched onto one of the young single guys on the team, five years younger than her, and he, trying to be “nice” began to spend time with her. She quickly isolated him from the rest of the team so he had a hard time building broader friendships. We invited them to join us one night for dinner with some local young adults. Her behavior was embarrassing. She talked to no one but him, had her hands all over him, and in essence, acted like a lovestruck 15-year-old. Finally the guy came to us in desperation for help, and we told her she had to stop seeing him individually. Then, we were the bad guys.

This year it was Cathy. I just reread your reference form for her, and if I read between the lines, I can tell that you had hesitations. But you gave her 4 out of 5 on all but one character quality. You did put a little note at the bottom that we could call you if we had questions, but with a glowing report, we didn’t catch that we should call. When we had to actually kick her off the team for sowing dissention, belligerence, and outright insubordination, and we called you, we found that you had problems with her in your church. You told us that she was divisive and often stirred up trouble among others. Why did you think she’d IMPROVE halfway around the world? 

Then there’s Randy. Did you know he has huge phobias? Did you know he doesn’t eat most meat, anything fried, anything made with white flour, or seafood? These aren’t allergies—they are personal choices. I’m hoping he survives the five weeks he’s here because he’s living on very little. The good news is that he is a gracious, helpful, and teachable man. Some of the other men on the team have really reached out to him and I think he’s going to make it. In fact, he’s realizing that most of his fears and phobias are not real, and may even be allowing the Enemy to get a foothold in his life. He’s been so afraid of evil, but in coming here to Asia he met Evil face to face! He’s actually learning how to deal with real evil—but it would have helped us to know more about his issues before he arrived.

We need to be able to trust you to send people who can handle heat, weariness, hard work, stress, uncertainty, and constant change. Am I asking for too much? I don’t think so—we’ve got about two dozen others who are doing just that. Age is not the issue. We’ve got an 18-year-old and an 80-year-old who are both doing well. They are equally unflappable.

Is it easy for those who are doing well? No! It’s hard, 24-7. But they are the kind of people who reach out to each other, who share ideas, who see a need and fill it. They get up with the dawn, work all day, and sleep little. In fact, most of them are exhausted, but I still see smiles on their faces.

Most of all, they are impacting the lives of many, many students who are for the first time seeing a follower of Jesus. They see kindness, concern, and care. One student wrote to her visiting teacher, “Our teachers here don’t tell us things about their own life. The conversation topic is always between school and study. You put forward good questions. These questions we will never be asked in school, not to mention asked to write it down on paper. Your questions have made us willing to express our thoughts with you. Thank you for sharing your life with us. This summer will always live in my memory.”

Today that student visited a church for the first time in her life. Then she had lunch with fellow students and that teacher who has shared his life. He has a pinched nerve and he’s not sleeping well, but he’s 100% there with his students. He can see a chiropractor and sleep when he gets home.

Jerry, we want to partner with Pine Creek and we want to continue to give your people a deep look at what it means to be a believer in a society with no understanding of God. But, please, send the ones who can cut it in a very, very different world from Pine Creek. Those who you are not quite sure about? Ask them to be the prayer warriors at home, or to collect supplies for those going, or to be the airport runners. Give them a job within their gifting. If you are having a hard time fixing their issues at Pine Creek, you can be sure we can’t do it here.

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Anna McShane
Anna’s lifelong involvement in missions has included serving throughout Asia.