Friday, October 21, 2011
Itineration. I think that perhaps it is one of our United Methodist words - like connectionalism - a word not understood by spell check or most of the United Methodist church.
Itineration used to be known as "home assignment." Many denominations refer to it as "furlough." It's an intentional period where missionaries go and visit churches. It's an opportunity to build relationships with local congregations. The goal is to raise financial support for the entire missionary community.
This is also an excellent chance to raise awareness for mission at the local church level. Did you know the United Methodist church has over 300 missionaries? Did you know that we still require NO pre-departure itineration? With most mission organizations each missionary needs to raise the full amount of support for their ministry before they leave for the field. Some missionaries spend years trying to raise the financial resources needed; but not with GBGM. We raise money for the entire missionary community. My way was payed by a missionary raising financial support a decade ago - and I'm raising money for the next generation of missionaries.
I wish that everyone could see the way that teenagers lean forward while we speak about missions. The way that young people are completely engaged and awestruck. The look in their eyes that seems to say, "Is this really a career choice?" or "Could I do this?" This is an exciting time to be a United Methodist missionary. The global United Methodist church has grown by 4 million+ members outside of the US in the last few years.
We are beginning a new age of young adults in mission. This could end up becoming a whole new mission movement. Thomas Kemper shared a vision for GBGM that included sending 500 young adults into missionary service. In every church I visit I can't help but be moved by the idea that God is calling 500 people my age or younger to follow the call of the cross to the ends of the world. It's an unbelievably powerful idea.
So, I'm itinerating now. I'm raising financial support, sharing the good news of how the Gospel is being spread around the world, and inviting others to join in the adventure.
Friday, October 14, 2011
The commissioning service was beautiful. Jorge Lockwood planned a really engaging and multi-cultural worship service for all those present in person and over the web.
My boss, Hans Vaxby - the Bishop of Eurasia, preached a challenging sermon - commissioning us to "do whatever it takes." He quoted a Swedish rock star throughout the sermon ... such a fun man. I wish he could be my boss forever.
This weekend I begin itinerating. I will travel around the country drumming up support for the United Methodist missionary movement. Thomas Kemper laid out a vision of sending 500 young adults onto the mission field. This will obviously be a tremendous undertaking - and can only be accomplished if the standard support missionaries are able to fundraise well. More than financial support, it is imperative that our local churches reconnect with the idea and theology of mission.
We can be nothing more than a dying institution without a connection to mission. If we can embrace the mission of God we can return to being a missionary movement again.