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6 Personal Thoughts on Partnership

My great-grandfathers farmed with oxen using yokes to pull wagons, plows and other machines. We had an old yoke on the family farm and it stirred the imagination of me, my siblings and my cousins. My dad can remember helping Pappy hitch the mules to equipment or a wagon, but they had stopped farming with oxen before he can remember. There are ways to train mules and oxen to work together as a team rather than individually. I have heard about some of those methods from my 90 year-old friend Wayne and also read about it as a child in Laura Ingalls Wilder books. While most teams are comprised of two animals and a farmer, there were teams of several animals yoked or harnessed together to pull loads of Americans and Europeans across the American West.

Partnership is a lot like training and working together as a team. At Mission Resource International we don't think we are driving the team. We are yoked with donors, family, friends, co-workers, churches, individuals and others here in the United States and in the places where we work. I have taken some time to share about my training as a yoked partner.

My fear and faith come around in developing partnership support for our ministry. In my case, it has been a greater exercise of faith to approach churches and individuals for partnership in prayer and funding than any other factor. As we face the last 50% of our funding, I might be talking with some of you who read this.

I am more excited about finding a partner than you are about finding a missionary. Yes, our family and Mission Resource International has a certain “UF” or “Unique Factor.” We work among the poor in Africa, among people groups groups who follow a different holy book. We are focused on long-term business and community development. We partner with local experts who run business and churches. Other things stand out to different partners, but those are some we hear from people.

Our partners have unique qualities that stand out to us.

  • You all are generous with your time listening to our dreams and stories

  • You want to see the world differently than you do now

  • You put time into our relationship by reading newsletters, posts, emails, and such—just because they are from us.

  • You remember to pray for us—often.

  • You are interested in knowing our kids and how they are planning to adjust.

  • You have faith to follow God in giving money, time and yourself—like a real partner.

That may not sound impressive to you, but trust me, supporting those who reach out to others puts our partners in a minority. Worldwide, only 2% of all income, about $700 billion, from Christians makes it's way to Christian causes (church, youth group, local and foreign missions). Only 1% of that $700 billion makes its way to serving people groups who do not know the teachings of Jesus. You partners stand out to us.

Partnership development is a healthy soul exercise for us. Certain aspects of fund-raising are focused on following a good process, like in sales, but here are a few things that are different.

  • Finding partners makes me vulnerable & transparent about my family, faith and finances that we now share with others. I have to speak of the quality of person that I am and am becoming rather than the quality of a product and its competitors.

  • Partnership development makes me depend on others through communication with each other, prayer and concern for what I am doing and our family.

  • Partnership development makes me live in faith and not rely on Africans to share their faith or Americans to share their money.

Anna and I have strengths. We are seasoned in ministry and life. I have worked in West Africa in some pretty dramatic situations—and survived. We have waited, prayed and have some stories to tell about God shaping and reshaping us.

We are not intimidated by the idea of living in Africa among people of another culture. Life in African is a normal idea--if not a normal everyday experience for a Mid-Western American boy. The risks people associate with living in Africa, especially for our kids, look more manageable to me than they did 10 years ago. When people ask about weather, malaria, doctors, hospitals, etc., we tend to acknowledge it as a fact of living in Africa.

Getting yolked for ministry is a training process. Thanks for pulling alongside of us we serve Jesus.


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