Podcasts for single mission workers

IMG_20160812_084512One of the (many) challenges single mission workers face is finding resources to help them in their challenge to live a rich and fulfilled life without a life partner.  Sometimes their perception of a huge hole in their life where their life-partner should be can become so overwhelming that it dominates every aspect of their life, and often there is little in the way of resources to help them refocus their attention on the amazing possibilities and opportunities of being single.

Now Syzygy has partnered with Member Care Media to produce a series of 5 short podcasts which include some essential teaching for single mission workers.  We hope that these introductions to material shared more fully in our regular retreats for singles at Penhurst Retreat Centre will help single mission workers thrive in their singleness and learn to see it as a blessing rather than a challenge to be overcome, or even better, ended.

The podcasts can be found on the singles page of Member Care Media, and the subject matter includes:

  • An introduction to singleness and why it is a challenge for so many mission workers
  • Biblical characters who were successfully single
  • A Biblical perspective on why singleness isn’t intrinsically bad
  • Unpacking the ‘gift’ of singleness
  • Strategies for a fulfilling single life

It is our hope that these resources will be used by single mission workers worldwide, to help them get the most out of their singleness.

Another resource we produced a couple of years ago is the book Single Mission, which we believe is the first book by single mission workers about single mission workers for single mission workers.  Many agencies have used it as part of their training and orientation – and not only for their singles!  It has been greatly appreciated by married people too, who have used it to learn about the challenges of being single later in life which they may not have experienced.  Why not try it out?

 

“Orphaned” mission workers

backpackerSyzygy has recently come across several cases of ‘orphaned’ mission workers, which reminds us how tough life in the mission field can get for some people.

These are mission workers who suddenly find themselves in the field without adequate support, and they are often desperate and tragic cases where people are unable to support themselves.  They frequently have a deep conviction that God has called them to serve in a certain place but are then unable to sustain themselves in ministry.  Such situations can come about for a variety of reasons, such as:

  • a supporting church closes, leaving mission workers with no funding
  • mission workers choose to go independently without proper support and cannot maintain themselves in the field
  • an agency withdraws from a particular region but the mission worker, feeling a strong sense of calling to the local people, declines to leave and stays on as an independent
  • mission workers fail to maintain good relationships with their supporters and over time gradually lose support, or are even dropped by their church because there is no communication

Such people sometimes come to Syzygy for help.  While we can debrief them and provide advice, we cannot do for them what they really should have done in the first place: build and maintain strong relationships which give them lasting support and accountability.  Sadly many mission workers go independently of churches, agencies and even their families because they are strong independent types, and in many ways they can be just what is needed for pioneering situations.  But it can make them reluctant to collaborate and listen to others.

Our advice to such mission workers is to return to your sending country (wherever possible) and spend time rebuilding the foundations that should already have been in place.  Advice for those thinking of going independently, and those who need to return and rebuild their support base, can be found in our Guide to Going It Alone.

Some of these ‘orphans’ are indeed so alone that they do not even have the funds to get themselves back to their sending country.  Sadly Syzygy does not have sufficient money to help them, though a visit to their national embassy may help them at least get a flight ‘home’.  Mission workers should always have an exit strategy before even going, and the question

What do we do if this all goes badly wrong?

should always be part of the pre-departure planning.  Sadly many people only start to plan for disaster once it’s already happened.

We recommend that a relative, church or agency always holds sufficient money in a designated account to pay for flights back for the whole family, and ideally enough to help with ongoing support costs through the transition too.  Setting aside such a large sum before going may seem impossible to mission workers on a tight budget, but it should be factored into the set-up costs.  Some may think that is not trusting God to provide, but we think it’s just trusting God to provide up front so that we have one less thing to trust God for when things all go belly-up in the field.

Blessed are the Peacekeepers?

Source: www.freeimages.com

Source: www.freeimages.com

I recently stayed overnight in a typical British guesthouse where breakfast was an interesting experience.  Not because of the food, service or facilities, but due to the interesting social interaction – or lack thereof.

In a small dining room where guests sat at separate but adjacent tables, conversation was curiously stilted, as people were aware that their private discussions were being overheard.  A men’s football team tried to joke with each other about the previous night’s escapades without incurring the scorn of other guests.  A harassed father tried hard to keep his disobedient toddler under control without losing his temper.  A browbeaten woman took the opportunity to chide her husband at a time when he couldn’t answer her back.

It occurred to me that often conversations between mission partners can be similar.  We often refrain from saying the things that we’d really like to because we are aware that others are listening.  We don’t like to disagree in case we sow the seeds of dissent, or act as a bad witness in front of others.  So we bottle up the things we’d really like to say, and if we don’t blurt them out in a fit of self-indulgence they can build up inside us to such a point of frustration that they contribute significantly to our levels of stress.

Why do we do this?  Because we mistakenly believe that when Jesus said “Blessed are the peacemakers” he meant that we shouldn’t rock the boat.  But by failing to address relationship issues and by sweeping things under the carpet, we are not making peace, we are only keeping it.  Peacekeeping may prevent outbreaks of open hostility but it takes real peacemakers to bring reconciliation and harmony.

So how do we make peace?  First, we need to recognise that disagreement isn’t necessarily the same thing as disloyalty or rebellion.  There is such a thing as what the British parliament calls “loyal opposition”.  Somebody who has a theological, missiological or personal disagreement with you may actually love you, share your vision for ministry and be committed to your success.  Disagreement doesn’t necessarily mean that people aren’t on the same side as you.

Secondly, we should remember that leadership can be a lonely and vulnerable place.  Every objection can seem like a personal attack even if it’s intended to be a constructive suggestion.  To a leader, people who speak out can seem like critics, people who oppose can appear to be rebels.  If you’re going to disagree with somebody, ask yourself first how your comments will appear to them, and do your best to show them that you are not challenging them personally, or their position, just their decision.

Third, we should remember that if someone disagrees with us, they may actually be right.  It can be tempting to surround ourselves with people who always agree because it is so much more affirming and comfortable, but it’s also the path to bad decisions.  The person who disagrees with you may actually help you to come to a better decision, even if it can be hard work getting there.

Many mission workers carry unnecessary stress because they feel unable to speak their mind, whether it’s through concern that they might find their service terminated for causing trouble, fear that a person they challenge might lash out at them in pain, or because a misguided sense of loyalty tells them that they ought to agree with everything.  The current trend towards confidential personal debrief with a person from outside the mission worker’s agency is to be welcomed, because it gives mission workers an opportunity to get issues off their chest in a safe environment, and find a constructive way of dealing with unresolved issues.  If your agency does not provide this service, consider asking for it.

Syzygy offers a confidential debriefing service to any mission worker, whether serving with an agency, church network or fully independent.  Contact us on info@syzygy.org.uk for further information.  We find that it often helps people see past their immediate frustration and find long-term solutions to unresolved issues.

Marriage in mission

A long road ahead? (Source: www.freeimages.com)

A long road ahead? (Source: www.freeimages.com)

We’ve blogged a number of times about the challenges of being a single mission worker, and we wouldn’t want to imply we don’t care about married mission workers, so it’s time to write something about marriage.  In fact we here at Syzygy meet more married mission workers facing significant challenges in their marriage than we do single mission workers struggling with singleness issues.

Cross-cultural mission can take a heavy toll on marriage through such issues as long and unpredictable hours of work, the stress of coping with living in a different culture, missing family in the sending country or children away at boarding school, spouses’ differing competence in learning a foreign language, disagreements over education and childcare, lengthy time apart, and the spiritual dynamic of being in mission.  Husband and wife will probably cope with all of these issues differently, which can lead to tension and resentment if one partner seems to be managing better, or one seems to the other not to be pulling their weight.

As if that were not enough, many mission workers marry cross-culturally, which means both partners bring into the marriage their own unexpressed (and possibly even unacknowledged) preconceptions about marriage and what it involves (see Janet Fraser-Smith writing in Single Mission by Hawker & Herbert).  Karen Carr’s research indicates that a healthy marriage can increase mission workers’ resilience and help them thrive in their vocations, while a demanding marriage reduces a mission worker’s ability to cope with stress and may aggravate burnout and even lead to attrition.

A healthy marriage needs work, and there’s no need to be embarrassed about wanting a better marriage.  Taking time out to work on marriage is important, and we recommend that couples get away together regularly with the express purpose of having plenty of time to communicate, get to know each other better, and intentionally discuss issues which cause tension in their relationship.

To make this even more intentional, they could buy a book to work through together, and we can heartily recommend:

In Love But Worlds Apart (Grete Schelling & Janet Fraser-Smith, AuthorHouse 2008)

Love Across Latitudes (Janet Fraser-Smith, AWM 1997)

The 5 Love Languages (Gary Chapman, Northfield 1992)

The Highway Code for Marriage (Michael & Hilary Perrott, CWR 2005)

The Marriage Book (Nicky & Sila Lee, Alpha 2000)

Other good ways of doing preventive maintenance on a marriage include:

  • Doing a Myers Briggs profile together. This may help couples understand why the two of them think or act differently, and why when they have different preferences, neither of them is wrong… just different!
  • Finding an older couple to spend time with, to pray together and discuss issues. Having people you can be honest with about the stresses in your relationship can bring perspective and support.
  • If time permits it, doing a marriage course together. There are several different models but we recommend the one which comes out of Relationship Central at Holy Trinity Brompton, which is called, unimaginatively, the Marriage Course.  It’s ideal for couples to do over 2-3 months on home assignment.

And finally, here are some handy day-to-day tips for continuing to work on a marriage while in mission:

  • A compliment is better than a complaint.
  • Make time to pray together each day, even if it’s only for a few minutes.
  • Have a regular date night to keep romance fresh and make time to talk about your relationship
  • Don’t compare your partner with an ex/ideal/colleague, either in your mind or out loud, and take steps to make sure your partner knows you’re not doing this.
  • Don’t use expressions like ‘you always…’ or ‘you never…’ which only polarise a disagreement.
  • When you apologise don’t make excuses – “I’m sorry, but I wouldn’t have done it if you hadn’t…” Just say sorry.
  • Talk your partner up, not down. You’re there to help them grow not to cut them off at the knees.
  • Say “I love you” at least once a day, and more often if you can – but mean it.
  • Remember that the only person you can change is yourself.
  • Marriage works better if you focus on your partner’s needs and your own shortcomings, rather than your partner’s shortcomings and your own needs.

And finally, don’t be ashamed to use the 12 words which can save a marriage:

I am sorry.  I was wrong.  I love you.  Please forgive me.

Which sweet are you?

Which one are you?

Which one are you?

Karl Dahlfred’s recent blog on Why missionaries can never go home’ prompts us to introduce you to another missiological breakthrough from Syzygy – the Confectionery Model of Cross-Cultural Adaptation. This is our version of the excellent Pol-Van Cultural Identity Model[1] which provides a way of understanding how people fit into the culture around them.  In this model we use sweets as a visual aid – and the best bit is that you can eat the visual aids while doing the presentation.  The drawback is that our model is still culturally-embedded: you may have different sweets in your country!

Most of us will grow up as Maltesers*.  They look the same on the outside and are the same on the inside.  Every Malteser is alike.  So as we grow up in our home culture, people who meet us will see the way we dress, and hear how we speak, and assume that since we’re the same on the outside (more or less), we’re the same on the inside – we share common cultural assumptions about the way the world works.

But when we first go abroad into the mission field, no matter how much cross-cultural training we’ve had, we’re like Haribos.  On the outside, they have different shapes, and they taste different.  In the same way, on the mission field, we probably look and sound different to the nationals, and we think differently, which is why it’s so easy to assume (erroneously, of course) that people from another culture are ignorant/stupid/uncivilised  – because they think differently, and we don’t understand why they can’t see things the way we do.  That’s why we can so easily suffer from culture shock – because we can feel like a fish out of water.

But slowly, over the course of time, we begin to understand our host culture, and start to think in the same way as the nationals.  That’s when we become M&Ms – still looking different on the outside, but the same on the inside.  So nobody looking at us would think we’re a national, but we’ve learned to think and behave like them.  Which is really good when you’re in the mission field.

Then we go back to our ‘home’ country.  But we’ve changed on the inside.  So although we look like everybody else on the outside, we’re different on the inside.  Everyone assumes we fit in, but we feel displaced.  ‘Home isn’t home any more.  This is when we can get reverse culture shock.

Sweets

So what do we do about it?  Some people would suggest that our goal is to try to become a Malteser again.  But that’s not possible unless we can forget our experiences abroad and unlearn every lesson.  That’s why returning mission workers can never really go ‘home’.  Trying to be a Malteser will only lead to frustration and disillusion.

The alternative is to try to thrive as a Revel.  They look reasonably similar on the outside, but inside they’re different.  It’s notoriously difficult for mission workers to do this, because everyone around them expects them to be Maltesers and can’t understand why they’re not.  So they try hard to fit in, even when they don’t feel like they do.  This can be dispiriting, and Revels can even end up leaving the church in frustration.

Syzygy’s response to this situation is to create Crash Landing, a day workshop for returned mission workers experiencing the challenge of life back in a ‘home’ country that doesn’t feel like home any more.  We’ll explore these issues, look at questions of our identity, and try to identify strategies for thriving.  Contact us on info@syzygy.org.uk for more details.

* Other types of confectionery are available.

  • [1] Pollock DC, Van Reken RE (2009). Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds. Boston: Nicholas Brealey Publishing.

Tech notes: new apps

doodleIt’s been a while since we provided any technical updates, so here’s some information on three products you may find useful.

Doodle – this is an incredibly useful programme for helping you to schedule meetings and it’s surprising that not more people use it.  It is free and simple to use.  You don’t even need to set up an account!  You just enter into a table a number of dates and times for a potential meeting, and send a link to the invitees who then fill in the table to indicate their availability.  You are notified when they’ve done it, and then you can look at the results – it’s easy to see which is the best time for the meeting.  Just visit http://doodle.com/en/ to get started.

MailchimpMailchimp – Those of you needing to upgrade communications with your supporters may find this helpful.  It presents your news in a much clearer format than the more basic programmes you may be using, and creates a more professional impact with little effort from you.  Over 4 billion emails a month are sent using Mailchimp!  It gives you a number of templates to choose from, or you can drag and drop pre-formatted text or picture boxes into your own message space.  It can import mailing lists from your current database, and allows people to unsubscribe independently – no more embarrassing emails asking not to receive the monthly bulletin!  It also allows you to see who has read your news, so you can offer to stop sending it!  To sign up for a free account, go to http://mailchimp.com/.

moodscopeMoodscope – Many mission workers suffer from mood swings or depression, and feel there is little they can do to counter this.  It makes them feel vulnerable but this simple program can help them feel back in control.  It helps them to monitor their feelings, share them with trusted friends for support, and understand what causes the fluctuations in their moods.  It’s been compared to dieting: it works best when you measure the results, chart your progress, and receive encouragement.  Moodscope is currently free and has received a lot of positive comment.  Each day you play a simple card game to record your score.  Find out more at https://www.moodscope.com/.

Featured ministry: Christian Vocations

cv_logo_webWe’ve mentioned Christian Vocations a few times on this website before, but it’s worth stopping to draw your attention to this excellent ministry.  CV (as it’s known to its friends) has been active for many years helping people get into the right place in mission.  Its focus is on helping people to understand themselves, know their giftings, and find the right opportunity for ministry.

STS2014_cover_165x215Probably the most well-known product is the Short-Term Service Directory, which is the best place for anybody thinking of doing short-term mission to start.  It lists agencies which provide short-term opportunities, and tells you where they work and what they do.  No church should be without it.  How else are you going to know where to send people when they tell you they’re thinking of doing some short-term mission?

In addition to the thousands of opportunities for short-term service listed in the directory, CV also maintains a huge online file of vacancies in the mission world both at home and abroad.  A simple search engine on their website will help you identify roles that might be appropriate for you if you’re looking to serve God in mission.  In the event that you don’t find anything appropriate, they also have a registration service where you can tell CV what you’re looking for, and if anybody registers a vacancy that matches your requirements, they email you.

68547_10151597577244603_1250709866_nAnother CV ministry which Syzygy has been involved with for quite a while is the Vocationzone, which is a major feature of events such as Spring Harvest, Word Alive and Keswick.  Drawn by the opportunity to complete a simple computer questionnaire to help them identify their giftings, hundreds of people each week are helped by CV advisors to explore God’s plan for their lives and consider how God might be calling them to serve him.  As a result, many people go away enthused with a new vision and purpose for being used by God in mission.  If you’re at Spring Harvest this year, drop into the Skyline and check out the Vocationzone, and you may even meet a Syzygy representative helping out.

reignite_green_500x175CV is also behind the renowned retreat called re:ignite, which is designed specifically for mission workers on home assignment in the UK.  The well-planned programme balances time to relax and reflect with input on issues like transition, stress and communication.  There are still spaces available on this year’s retreat in May.

Other reflective exercises are available on the CV website which can help people understand their gifts and role in church and mission more effectively.  For those who want to explore this more thoroughly, there is an excellent personal advice service called designate, which uses professional advisors to help people gain a clearer picture through one-to-one mentoring.  While there is a nominal charge for this service, we think it’s excellent value and people we know who have been through it speak very positively of it.

MM2014_cover_180x250CV also produces the very helpful magazine Mission Matters.  This contains articles, testimonies, stories of mission from around the world, and a sample of the vacancies CV advertises.  This is an ideal resource for sharing with a youth group, giving to people considering a vocation in mission, so make sure you have a good stock on your church bookstall.

In addition to all this, the CV website also has a collection of guidelines, articles, and other resources which all contribute to CV’s goal of helping people find the right place for them in God’s mission.

St Patrick – the man who saved Civilisation?

st patricksToday is St Patrick’s Day.  A visitor to this planet could be forgiven for thinking Patrick is the patron saint of green wigs and black beer, but the Irish national festivities bring colour to a celebration of the life and work of a highly influential missionary without whom the history of Europe might have been very different.

Little remains in verifiable fact about Patrick’s life.  He was born in late fourth century in Britain in the dying days of the Roman Empire, though the date and location are unclear. Even his given name is uncertain – Patrick may actually be a nickname given him by his captors – ‘posh kid’ – as in the Roman Empire a patricius was the opposite of a ‘pleb’, a commoner.  Nearly all of what we know about him comes from two documents which are believed to have been written by him, one a ‘confession’ which was written towards the end of his life.

Despite this, modern mission workers can draw inspiration from this brave man who was so used by God:

ShamrockCross-cultural mission.  One legend is that Patrick used the shamrock as a means of explaining the Trinity, its three-lobed leaves representing the godhead with each lobe distinct but part of the whole.  In fact, the shamrock was already a sacred symbol of rebirth in Ireland, and the Morrigan was portrayed as a ‘trinity’ of goddesses in pagan Irish religion.  He picked up on features within Irish culture which would help him communicate his message.

The role of suffering in our lives.  When he was 16, Patrick was captured by pirates and taken to Ireland where he was sold as a slave.  He spent six years there before escaping and returning home.  He later claimed that this experience was critical to his conversion to Christianity.  Although he grew up in a Christian family, he had never personally accepted Christ.  He felt that through his capture was God disciplining him for his lack of faith, and as a result he became a Christian while working as a shepherd.

A sense of calling.  Having returned home, Patrick writes in his confession that he became a missionary in response to a vision calling him over to Ireland, rather like Paul’s Macedonian vision.

Perseverance in adversity.  As a foreigner, Patrick did not enjoy the protection of Irish kings like some other British missionaries did.  As such he knew beatings, imprisonment and theft.  He also was accused of financial impropriety by other Christians, possibly jealous of his success, and he also felt lonely.  He commented “How I would have loved to go to my country and my How_the_Irish_Saved_Civilizationparents, and also to Gaul in order to visit the brethren and to see the face of the saints of my Lord!  God knows that I much desired it but I am bound by the Spirit.”

Patrick planted churches, baptised thousands of converts, and as bishop appointed church officials, established councils, founded convents and monasteries, and laid the foundation for Christianity to take root in Ireland.  He was also, notably, the first great celtic missionary, unlike others at the time who came out of a continental catholic background.  As such he was the direct ancestor of that great missionary movement which came out of Ireland to take the gospel to the Scots and from there to the pagan Anglo-Saxons.  And as we all know, the Irish missionaries didn’t stop there but went on to save the whole of Civilisation .

Book review: online publications

The latest issue of Vista was released earlier this month and for those of you with an interest in mission in Europe, this is a helpful and informative resource. Produced by Darrell Jackson, Jim Memory and Jo Appleton, this quarterly online journal features research-based information and analysis of life and mission in Europe. The latest issue of Vista features an exclusive interview with Mike Frost which involves a discussion of his new coinage ‘Excarnation’. It also features the results of useful research into what Generation Y Christians understand by the word ‘missional’ and an analysis of how we can identify and measure what ‘missional’ is.

Vista is a free publication produced by Redcliffe College and previous editions include a discussion of the increasing urbanisation of Europe, a review of the Atlas of European Values, a discussion of the demographic changes facing Europe and reflections on migration within and into Europe. Vista also invites contributions from informed missional practitioners working within the European contexts. It can be downloaded from the Vista blog, and you can also follow Vista on Facebook and Twitter.

You may also be interested to hear about a new resource called The Missional Network. This is a global partnership of missional thinkers and practitioners whose British partners are Springdale College: Together in Mission.  Their useful website provides you with articles, resources, links, information and videos from a wide range of excellent presenters, which are encouraging, informative and challenging. The Missional Network is also launching a brand-new academic resource: The Journal of Missional Practice.  The introductory issue is already available and features articles by Juan Martinez, Stefan Paas, Martin Robinson and Alan Roxburgh. The first full issue is due in February 2013 and contributors will include Bishop Graham Cray, Craig Van Gelder, Babatunde Adedibu and Dominic Erdozain.

Other online resources for mission include our old friends at Oscar, which is a veritable mine of useful information containing over 1000 pages of links, advice, information, blogs and access to the accumulated experience of hundreds of mission workers.  People engaged in mission in Europe may also like to connect with Eurochurch.net, who facilitate a missional conversation between church-planters and academics, and also have regular challenging updates on Facebook.  Those interested in member care will also find a wide range of resources listed at the Member Care Europe website, where member care practitioners can submit their own resources and events for listing. And churches looking for inspiration and support on becoming more focussed on global mission will find Passion for Mission very useful – it contains advice, testimonies and a wide range of resources to help your church become more missional.


Prepare the way of the Lord

Prepare the way of the Lord in the wilderness,

Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.

Let every valley be lifted up

and every mountain and hill made low.

Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed,

and everyone will see it”

(Isaiah 40: 3-5)

During advent it is customary to prepare for Christmas by reflecting on the various parts of the gospels which tell the stories taking place prior to the nativity.  John the Baptist becomes involved in this, because he was born not long before Jesus, and all four gospel writers use this quote from Isaiah to place him in context – preparing the way for the Messiah.  These words are frequently quoted in Christmas services and sung in performances of Handel’s Messiah, but what do they really mean?

John is calling for a motorway to be built!  He wants a smooth road like the Romans built, not a rocky Hebrew path.  He wants one that goes straight to its destination, not meandering through the clefts and wadis and up and down mountains.  And he wants one that’s elevated.  The Hebrew word used by Isaiah for ‘highway’ literally means a raised embankment – so that it’s not susceptible to flooding.  Modern civil engineering in the 8th century BC!

We have a love/hate relationship with motorways.  We don’t like millions of tons of concrete being poured on pristine landscape, or thousands of cars and lorries pumping out greenhouse gases (see last week’s blog), but when we want to get from A to B quickly and conveniently we’d much rather get in a car and drive along the motorway than hike along a tortuous mountain route.

But how does this prepare the way of the Lord?  John prepared people to meet Jesus.  He fomented an atmosphere of religious revival into which Jesus could step.  He got people talking about what God was doing.  He created the idea of entry into God’s kingdom not by birth but by choice, a choice which involved a change of heart about our attitudes and behaviour.  He saw himself in the role of Isaiah’s precursor to the suffering servant.  In this way he creates a context into which Jesus steps.  John is essential his warm-up act.

This Christmas, as we have an opportunity once again to present the new-born Christ to millions of people who do not yet know him, let us reflect on whether our attitudes and behaviour act like a motorway, bringing him swiftly and effectively into the lives of the lost, or like a religious roadblock.

Featured Ministry: Member Care Media

We have mentioned before in these pages the extraordinary ministry of Member Care Media, which provides a valuable service to mission workers worldwide.  A project of TWR, Member Care by Radio (as it was originally named, was set up to provide a daily radio broadcast aimed specifically at the needs of cross-cultural mission workers in places where they were physically beyond the reach of regular and proactive member care.

With the arrival of the digital age, the project became Member Care Media, though the basic concept remains unchanged.  Each recorded ‘broadcast’ is now available to listen to online, with some of them also featuring as transcribed articles, and an entire library is available on the website for you to browse through.  They cover a range of subjects including emotional health, family, short term mission, cross-cultural living and working, teamwork, leadership and TCKS, and are all dealt with by professionals working in the relevant field.

While the broadcasts are aimed primarily at people working in a cross-cultural context, there is a wealth of resource available on emotional health, marriage and leadership which will be of use to all Christians in helping them cope with the demands of their life and ministry.

We suggest that you may like to use these broadcasts as part of your regular times of self-maintenance.  They are all fairly short, so listening to each daily broadcast might be a bit demanding on your time, but it’s not unfeasible to listen to one a week.  Couples could listen together to ones about marriage and family, and work teams could listen to the ones about teamwork and use them as a basis for discussion afterwards.  Small groups could use them as part of their devotional times together.

This collection of resources by some of the member care sector’s most prominent practitioners is too good to be kept a secret!

Working with Generation Y

While many of us are still coming to terms with Generation X, Generation Y sneaks up on us unawares!  Leaders in missions will be starting to encounter this generation, and they’ll be starting to realise that Ys aren’t quite what they expected.  People working in short-term have been dealing with Ys for quite a while now, so will be coming to terms with the fact that they do things differently to previous generations, but these people are now coming through into doing long-term where their differences will be rubbing their leaders up the wrong way.

Generation Y is the unimaginative name given to the generation following on from Generation X, and consists of those born (roughly) from 1980 to 2000.  They’re also called Generation Next or Millennials, but I’ll stick to Y as it’s easier to spell.  These people grew up connected, having mobile phones and computers from their youngest days.  Their families may have been broken, leading to a highly important need to belong, but their parents will have invested heavily in them so they are used to getting feedback and encouragement.  They also grew up after the end of the cold war, so they were promised peace, but now find that their lives overshadowed by the war on terror.  This can lead them to distrust authority and value honesty, authenticity and integrity.

What are these people going to be like as your co-workers? Their workplace expectations are not that different from those of previous generations, but they are far more reluctant to toe the line in the way their parents or grandparents might have done.  Older people might think of them as lazy, uncommitted, overconfident, disrespectful and impatient, but those are the flip side of great strengths:

Lazy?  These people are digital natives.  Because they grew up in a multi-media world they are able to surf Facebook, send text messages, listen to music and get on with their work at the same time.  But they don’t live to work.  They’re flexible and will be more concerned about getting the overall task done than by being at their desk at the right time.  They might be working at home at 10pm, not because they’re workaholics, but just because it works better for them.

Uncommitted?  Well, they’re not committed to things just because you think they ought to be.  Duty is not a word that features frequently in their vocabulary.  But they will be highly committed to things they believe in, even though it may not look like it to older generations.  Their desire for authenticity leads them to reject much that is latently hypocritical, but when they find something genuine, they will embrace it.

Overconfident?  Because they’ve had a lot of positive parenting, Ys believe in themselves, and because they’ve seen through authority structures, they won’t tolerate spending ten years doing the filing before they’re allowed to have an opinion.  They believe they have a contribution and they don’t understand why they can’t make it now.

Disrespectful?  They respect people, not positions, so if you aren’t confident as a leader and hide behind your position, they’ll see through you.  They respect people who show that they care, make wise decisions, and don’t try to give them corporate flannel.  If they speak out of turn, it’s only because they can see a problem and haven’t had a good answer for it.

Impatient?   Ys were born connected.  They get the answers they want off the internet in seconds.  They instant message their friends.  They just want to get on with things without being held up.

So as Ys become your partners in mission, how do you need to treat them?

Teamwork.  Their whole life is made up of connections, so the idea of working alone doesn’t exist.  They’ll share problems, bring in specialists, and network with anyone they need to.  So create a flexible team structure in which they can thrive and don’t tell them they can’t talk to someone in another office just because you have a territory dispute with another manager.

Managing.  Top-down hierarchies don’t work.  These people have had positive parenting.  Create for them an environment in which they can learn and develop skills.  Feedback to them regularly.  Don’t impose rules, explain reasons.  Don’t manage the process, mentor the person.

Communication.  Give them all the facts and explain why you’ve made a decision.  They need to know the reasons before they can believe.  Your answer doesn’t have to be 100% logical; you can bring in emotions as well.  Let them ask challenging questions.  When they see you communicate openly and honestly, and allow them to be part of the solution, they will trust you and become committed.

Fulfilment.  In the secular workplace, Generation Y is more concerned to find a job they can believe in than one that pays well (although they expect to be fairly remunerated!).  This is true in the Christian world as well.  You need to ensure that they believe in what they’re doing in order to get the best out of them, and try to make sure they feel they’ve been treated fairly.

Obviously, these are huge generalisations, and individual personalities differ greatly, but this information may help to explain to you why people under 30 seem to think and act strangely at times.  These generational characteristics may not be so pronounced in Christians, since they have also been subject to the unique influences of Christian discipleship and training in church, community and possibly Bible College.  However, they grew up in the same conditions as non-Christians, were educated together with them, and used the same media, so will demonstrate similar generational characteristics.  Get to know them better, and you’ll all end up working better together.

 

Dropbox

Continuing our series introducing you to technological solutions, this month I’d like to show you Dropbox.  This is a method of storing files online so that they can be easily shared and accessed from more than one computer (and your mobile phone) as long as you have an internet connection.  If you don’t have a reliable internet connection where you live, don’t stop reading, as it may be useful to you for sharing files.  If you’re a Mac user, you’ll already have access to iCloud, but you might find Dropbox helpful as well.

What is it? Dropbox is a very simple online storage facility which adds a new folder to your documents folders.  Into this you can drag any existing document, which is stored by dropbox independently of your computer.

How does it work? Whenever you update a file in your dropbox, the online master will automatically be updated.  When you log on with another computer, the copy on that one will be updated automatically by the one held on dropbox.  If you’re sharing files with someone else, the copy on their computer will automatically be updated almost instantaneously.

Why do you need it? Dropbox means that all your files are kept in one place, not on your computer.  So if your computer breaks down or is stolen, your documents are still safe.  You also never need to back them up again, as Dropbox takes care of this for you.  If you use more than one computer (for example, one at home and one at work) you no longer have the hassle of transferring files between them.  It also makes it easy to share files with colleagues.  You do this by inviting another person to share a folder with you.  They can then see, and amend, anything in your computer.  So in future there are no more problems copying files to one another, and being uncertain who has the latest version.

What are the drawbacks? If you don’t have reliable internet access, you may not have access to the cloud copies of your files.  You can still work on the copies stored on your computer, but if you have previously made changes to the dropbox copies, you will have to reconcile the two files.  This could become a significant problem if people sharing files are frequently offline, but if two modified files clash, dropbox informs you so that you can sort it out between you.

How do I share files? Create a folder and drag the files you want to share into it.  Then using my computer, right click on dropbox, and select ‘share this folder’.  Enter the email address of whoever you want to share this with, and hit send.  When they respond to an email they’re sent, they will be able to see (WARNING: and amend!) all the files in this folder.  They will, however, have no access to your other folders on dropbox.

Is it safe? Adam tells me that the data encryption is of good standard and the risk of your documents being hacked is a low as it can be.

What do I do now? Go to www.dropbox.com and join up!  It’s simple and they’ll talk you through it.  WARNING: if you drag and drop all the files on your computer into dropbox, it can take a very long time to upload them, particularly if they’re photos.

 

If you have any problems, email technical@syzygy.org.uk for support!

 

 

Introducing Google+

Back in July we suggested that skype was one essential form of social media you might like to use, and many of you will be familiar with this great way of communicating with family on the other side of the world.  Yet you will also be aware of its shortcomings.  The call quality is often poor and the video can lag behind or freeze if your bandwidth isn’t wide enough.  And if you want to video call with more than three people, you have to pay.

Now Google has introduced its antidote to skype: Google+ and we think you need to be on it.  It only went live last month, so it’s early days, but it already has over 25 million users.  The platform uses the familiar facebook format of friends and status updates, but incorporates a conference facility called ‘hangouts’ which we think you will like.

One innovation is in the area of ‘friends’.  On facebook, there is no distinction between different groups of friends, so your boss, your maiden aunt and your 13 year old daughter all see the same information about you.  G+ is more discriminating, allowing you to create ‘circles’ to put your friends in, for example ‘work’ or ‘family’ so that you can keep discrete groups, and share different info with them.  Friends can be added to more than one circle.

To hold the equivalent of a skype conversation, you start a hangout.  Up to 10 people can take part in this, they can all use video, and there is a large central video picture which automatically moves to the person who is talking.  The one drawback is that anyone else in the your circle can just butt in on your conversation.  So if you need a private conversation, you need to make sure that the people you’re talking to are in a small circle.

Getting started is easy.  If you already have a Google account, just login as normal.  If you don’t, you’ll have to sign up, but that’s not particularly onerous.  Once you’ve done this, in the very top left hand corner of your screen, where you see the tabs for gmail, calendar, and so on, you’ll see a tab called +You.  Click on it, and it will take you through a simple registration process.  The rest is intuitive.  There’s no software to download, though you may need to install a plug-in to get your webcam working.  I was up and running in under five minutes.  After that, from your Google account, just click on the same tab (now personalised for you) and you’re in.  No password to remember.

Expect this to be big, and pretty soon people will be trying to connect with you through it.  Needless to say, access to G+ is blocked by some countries, including China and Iran.  In some ways that’s good, because you know Google isn’t trading your information for permission to operate.  Even so, don’t rely on it to be secure.  I didn’t give it my real date of birth for example.  Just in case.

Also expect skype and facebook to retaliate with product innovations before they lose too much business!

 

Getting started on Facebook

With over 400 million users, you’re obviously not the first person to succumb to peer pressure – or curiosity – and sign up to join the busy Facebook community!  I’ve been plugged in for years, but it’s only in the last year or so that I started to find it interesting and fun.  Prior to that, it was basically the same people who I interact with in other forums and mailing lists, so there wasn’t much news.  Now I keep in touch with dozens of friends who otherwise are far beyond my usual circles.

It’s actually pretty easy to sign up, but if you want to do it right, allocate enough time to fill in at least some of the basics.

To start, go to http://www.facebook.com/ and you’ll see right on the home page:

Fill this in and click on “Sign Up”.  You’ll be asked to verify that you’re not a robot (really!) – it’s a measure to prevent spammers infecting Facebook with bogus accounts):

Enter the two words you see – in this case “view” and “doorways” – and click on “Sign Up” again on this page.  You’re in!  You have an account set up on Facebook.  You’re not done, however.  First up, it’ll suggest some friends you might connect with:

I have no idea who these two people are, so perhaps they’re special potential friends to everyone who joins Facebook, I dunno. :-).  Since Facebook isn’t much fun without friends being online and connected with you, the system tries all sorts of ways for you to identify your potential friends. Next up is its ability to scan your address book:

If you’d rather not have Facebook scan your mailbox and figure out your correspondences, no worries, just click on “Skip this step”.  Next attempt to match you: enter your high school, place of work, or some other sort of identifying information:

Still want to stay relatively anonymous? Click on “Skip”!  Next step is to set up a profile picture for yourself, something I highly recommend as it will help your friends out there recognise you:

Click “Save & Continue” and you’re set and will be dropped onto your new, relatively austere, Facebook newsfeed page.  Along the top it’ll remind you that the system has sent an email to confirm your email address, entered in step one, and in your email inbox you should get a message that looks like this:

Click on the link and you’ll have confirmed that the email address you entered is legit.  Now you’re good to go on Facebook and it’s time to start sending friend requests and filling in all your personal information so others can find you too.

 

 

 

 

 

Adam Brown, Technical Director

Why every mission worker needs to use social media

Source: www.freeimages.com

Many mission workers (particularly ones of a certain age!) are completely unable to understand the fascination with things like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube (other social media tools are also available) yet these applications are considered almost indispensible to a younger generation.  Together they are referred to as social media, and they have become a key feature of how people relate to one another, keep in touch, form community and express themselves to the world.

For a lot of mission workers there is not the perceived need to be involved in this seemingly self-obsessed activity in which many people can spend a significant amount of their time.  Why would you want to, when there’s already so much work to do?  Here’s why: one of a mission worker’s greatest needs is to be able to communicate effectively.  We all need to ensure that our supporters buy into the work God has called us to, know what to pray for, and how they can support us, particularly in an emergency.  Many of us spend up to 10% of our time communicating with our supporters, which may feel like a distraction from the work we’re here to do, but if we communicate effectively, we maintain the support that keeps us doing that work.  Using social media enables us to communicate quickly and effectively to a large number of people, and the added bonus is that it’s free!

Facebook now connects over 400 million people.  You have a ‘status’  which tells people what you’re doing, or more frequently how you’re feeling.  If you’re having a difficult time, just type ‘FRUSTRATED!!!’ into your status and see the rapid and empathetic response you get!  Facebook also gives you an opportunity to post photos of what you’re doing, and if you have family on different continents, grandparents can see how their grandchildren are growing up.

Skype is an internet application which allows you to use your computer or mobile to make free phone calls to another.  The quality is highly dependent on your connection but it’s a great way to talk to people on the other side of the planet!  You can also use a webcam to see the people you’re talking to, although this can damage the audio quality.  If you have a good enough connection, you can also try conference calls, which cuts down the need for international travel.

WordPress is a simple way of building a website using templates already created for you.  You can keep it simple, and just have a blog page, or build something more complicated if you feel adventurous.  You’re reading a WordPress screen right now.  You can use it to tell people what you’re thinking, doing or feeling.  It’s important to many people as a way to express themselves and it’s a great way of communicating with supporters.

YouTube is an easy way of posting videos onto the internet where anyone can watch them.  You can use it to show people where you live, where you work, and what you do.  Using it helps maintain the link with your supporters.  Record a simple greeting to your church once in a while, upload it to YouTube, and the church can show it during a meeting.  If a picture’s worth a thousand words, a video’s worth a million.

Twitter only allows you 140 characters to communicate with ‘followers’, but its brevity is its strength.  It forces you to distill your thoughts when you might be tempted to ramble on.  In urgent need of prayer?  Send a text to Twitter and hundreds of followers can be praying within minutes.  Use it to post links to your blog, other websites, or just tell people what you’re thinking.  Be careful not to overdo it as your followers may get bored with constant tweeting.

Of course, your ability to use all these tools will be highly dependent on the quality of your connection, but even if you’re using 56k dialup it’s still worth having a go.  See Adam’s post from last March for help on making the most of this, or try using your mobile either to surf or to connect your computer to the internet.

Please remember that if you’re in a creative access nation some of these tools can be risky to use, but BlackBerrys are pretty secure devices and so is the IronKey which we reviewed last year.  You can also use a false name known only to your friends, and password protect your video postings so that only your closest confidantes can watch.  But still be careful what you put out on public media.

Next month: Adam will explain how to get started on Facebook

Missions 2.0 – spreading the gospel using social media

Source: www.freeimages.com

I’ve been pondering the ways in which ministry could use internet technology and social media in the missions context – particularly as it relates to micro-enterprise and missions-based social entrepreneurship.  There is a cornucopia of social media communication tools to help you get your message across, and if you’re not using them, you’re not getting technology to work for you in the postmodern, hyper-connected world.

Pick up a crayon and get creative. Blogging, podcasting, and video blogging offer unique opportunities for spreading the gospel.  If you can use a microphone, a camera, or email you can pretty much do all the above. Cameras are super cheap these days.  You can buy a Kodax Zx1 for around £80 to £100 which is a (super) small hand held camera you can use to record key church events.  And you should be able to grab a tripod on ebay for around £15-25.  Also, most new Macs come equipped with technology and software to be multimedia studios (you can purchase a new mac for £1,200 – £1,600 or a used one for half that price).  You could post lessons and sermons, as well as short 1-3 minute updates about what God is doing in the lives of people in your church.

Get that in writing. If you go the video or audio direction, you may want to pay for transcription.  You can find cheap transcription via one of many outsourcing websites like Get a Freelancer or e-Lance.  Search engines can’t ‘see’ your video or podcasting content, so it helps people find your content.  Also, it can help people spread your content by simple cut and paste.  You may also choose to use Safari’s summarize function to create an executive summary of your lessons.

It’s all about show and tell. The use of Slideshare to post existing powerpoint presentations slideshows online.  It’s a very easy to use tool and you can create groups around issues like ‘missions, ‘theology’, ‘sermons’, ‘evangelism’, or ‘Christian social justice’.  This would allow mission workers to stay in visual contact with churches without having to visit each and every church.

Adapt to your audience(s). Think about the bi-lingual nature of your ventures.  Add a Google translator and even consider having a church member translate your content if you can’t do it yourself.

Start a digital water cooler to connect for free or almost free. You may want to consider a Ning social network, a message board to share information and ideas internally, a wiki, a Change.org website based on your particular issue of concern.  There are tons of options for using social media platforms for Christian communication and kingdom ends.

Create an inviting digital living room. Look into simple, user friendly navigation which can be provided by WordPress (like the one your reading now).  With WordPress you can get inexpensive webdesign for under £300 by purchasing a professional looking premium theme. Ask in your prayer letter if anyone is willing to create you a website for free as part of their support.

Plan for the future. Down the road you may think of creating a group blog that key members of your staff or volunteers can blog.  Or you may want to target one blog for the surrounding community and one blog to churches overseas that have funded your ventures.  This will allow you to target your message to a very specific audience.

Ignore these Droids. They aren’t the ones you’re looking for. Don’t fall for “shiny new object syndrome.”  You don’t need to stay up to date on the technology.  You only need to learn how to use it.  The technology is only an enabling platform.  Creating relationships is clearly the goal and focus.

It’s a Balancing Act: Creating an information diet, time management and workflow are all issues you will want to consider.  The key is to find time you weren’t using before, such as surfing online, playing video games, or watching television.  All in all stay focused on God and relationships and you should be fine.

Principles to Consider:

• Focus on God’s word and God working through you.  In other words, ask how your story and your community’s story tell His story.

• Once you’ve listened a while, it’s important to dive in to explore to get your feet wet.  Its actually a lot of fun.

• It’s easy to be come a stats-o-holic.  Be forewarned.  Connections beat stats everyday.

Next time: why mission workers need to be using Facebook and Twitter!

Adam Brown, Technical Director

technical@syzygy.org.uk

FYI – tips on writing a newsletter

Source: www.freeimages.com

Source: www.freeimages.com

If you are involved with Christian work, there comes a time when it’s necessary to keep supporters up to date with what’s happening. Whilst modern technology provides various ways of communicating, it still means that most people send a regular form of newsletter. Whilst some have natural skills in writing, others struggle with this whole area of communication.

As the Alumni Co-ordinator for a Mission Training College, I have the privilege of receiving over 350 newsletters per year!  You can imagine that there is every conceivable type of newsletter that arrives on my desk, but the great thing is that each one is a reflection of the person who has sent it and a small window into each situation that they are living through.

It is not an easy job to be able to communicate all that you are living through onto one sheet of paper (or one brief email), choosing how to balance both the good things and the challenging aspects of life.  Communicating reality without being too negative or too positive is a skill that often develops over time.

Given that you send the newsletter to a diverse list of supporters, some of whom you know well and some who you don’t know very well, is a challenge in itself.  I don’t think there can be instructions for the ‘perfect’ newsletter but here are a few pointers that may help you communicate the things that you want to impart.

The Title – Having a letter that is clearly marked by some title is good, perhaps a memorable rhyme or phrase using the surname of the authors of the letter. One of the best examples I’ve seen was  ‘The Heintz Catch-up’ written by the Heintz family! It is also good to see a prominent indication of which organisation and country the writers are working with (this may be different for those who are in ‘sensitive’ situations … we will tackle this later).

The Body of the Letter – Most newsletters take up one or two sides of A4 at most. Some will fill every corner and have you reading the extra notes written in the margin all the way around the outside of the page. It’s good to write enough detail to involve the reader whilst also keeping it ‘readable’. Most folk include photos, which always brightens up the letter. It’s good to have one of the family occasionally, but perhaps not necessary every time.  I was very pleased to see that one family I write too added a photo of themselves in their newsletter recently as I had been writing to them for four years or more and I didn’t know what they or their children looked like.  Now I stand some chance of spotting them if they come to visit.  It also seems to help with praying for people if readers can picture them.

The Family’s Viewpoint – Some families get each member to write a paragraph or have a children’s section. This can be good as the view of life is often quite different for the job holder, as it is for the spouse or the 8 year old child.  It also means that readers remember the needs of the whole family and not just the work that they are there to do.

Situation ethics – Involving readers in your situations is good. There is one couple who have a section called ‘Going Deeper’ where they pose several questions asking ‘what would you do in this situation?’.  Most of the time there is no right or wrong answer but it allows readers to see some of the day to day dilemma’s that you are faced with and it gives them a good insight into living and working cross culturally, allowing them to pause and consider.

Living in a Sensitive Situation – Having a role which you can’t be so open about (e.g. because of security), provides challenges for communicating through newsletters. Some organisations give guidelines on what you should and shouldn’t write, along with instructions about using secure email. Some give very little. A few points of advice for sensitive situations is to never mention names (of places or people), to avoid using overtly Christian words or terms (like mission and evangelism) and to always think what the consequences might be if your newsletter got into the wrong hands. It’s good to explain to your readers that writing certain things might endanger your family or your work. The reader then knows to take a step back and read ‘between the lines’ in order to discern how things are really going. It is ironic that those who face the most difficulty in communicating their news due to their situation are often those folk who need the most support and prayer.

How Regularly? – Having a regular pattern to sending your newletters is good. The traditional stance has been to send a full letter 3 or 4 times per year. However, the ease of online communication means that you can send a brief update more often enabling your supporters to walk your journey with you, rather than only meet you at the staging posts along the way. Some people do this monthly, the keen ones weekly! Beware, however, that more often doesn’t always mean more interest. Some readers will be fatigued by the amount of communication if you send it too often.

Prayer Points – One of the main reasons of writing is to ask for prayer, and having a few ‘prayer points’ is a really helpful way of guiding the thoughts and prayers of supporters.  It is encouraging to see how God has answered previous prayers so having some points of thanksgiving is good too. This also helps the writer to stop and give thanks rather than just have a rolling ‘shopping list’ of prayer.

Whilst not comprehensive, maybe this has given you enough inspiration to get writing. Perhaps my final point would be to encourage you to remain true to yourself. Don’t try to dress it up too much but just write about what you are doing and what you are facing. That way your readers will get a true window into your situation and will feel privileged to join you on the ups and downs of your journey.

This article was written by Cheryl Frith and originally appeared on the Oscar website – http://www.oscar.org.uk.  It is reproduced with permission.

Secure communication – the Holy Grail of mission workers in CANs

One of the principal challenges for mission workers in Creative Access Nations is the security of communications.  All of us have heard stories of people whose visas have been rescinded because the word ‘Christian’ in an email has been traced back to them.  The risk of their communications being intercepted and something incriminating being found is a major concern to mission workers in large parts of the world, as it is not only their own ministries which are vulnerable, but the work of the mission and the safety of local believers.

Syzygy is therefore happy to bring to your attention something which may solve this problem once and for all – the IronKey.  This is a flash drive which inserts into the USB port on any computer.  The difference is that we believe it to be significantly more secure than anything we have found to date.  While nothing is ever completely secure, the physical structure of the IronKey prevents it from being taken apart for analysis, and it is utterly durable.  The data on it is 256-bit encrypted, which is a military standard.  If it detects any unauthorised attempt to decode it, the data on it will be destroyed.  We believe that it is so hard to get into, that it will just not be worth anyone’s while to invest the resources necessary.

The IronKey is of particular value to missions workers in CANs because it contains its own browsing software and virtual keypad, so that it can be used in any internet cafe in the world without passwords being hijacked or an IP address being traced.  Emails are completely secure as the recipient can only open them when armed with a predetermined code.  This of course means that you can’t instantly email everyone in the world securely, but with a bit of planning you can have a new level of confidence in the security of your communications with your family, church and mission headquarters.

For those of you who are interested in the full details, our Technical Adviser Adam Brown has written a product review – just click here.  Or read more of the official stuff at https://www.ironkey.com/