Last month I did something that was one of the most refreshing and energizing things I’ve done in a long time: I went to Emerald Hills for the Team Leader Summit. Emerald Hills is Team Expansion’s home office, and every two years, team leaders from all over the world gather there for training. Here are the best parts from this year’s Team Leader Summit for me:
1. Coming home.
When we first drove up to Emerald Hills, Jonathan announced, “Welcome home!” He was right. It felt like coming home. In some ways, missionaries are “homeless,” but Emerald Hills holds all these memories for us and for our kids. We have memories of bonding with other missionaries, of training, of catching the vision of disciple-making movements*. The people at Emerald Hills love us, understand us, and provide a safe haven for us.
Thank you, God, for our home at Emerald Hills.
2. Missionary wives.
I love women, and I love hearing their stories. Getting to know women from across the globe makes me feel like I’m a part of something bigger than myself, and it really sets my heart at ease to know that someone has done this before me! I love meeting ladies who live in my part of the world, and I especially enjoyed the ladies in my small group, who were full of both grace and truth. I learned from them and bonded with them, and I am thrilled to call them my sisters.
Thank you, God, for the ladies.
3. Hope for the parents of missionary kids (MKs).
Missionary kids’ negative stories have left an impact on me, and I tend to live in fear that my choice to be a missionary in Asia will affect my children in a mostly negative way. (My husband pointed out that I developed this negative perspective by reading books, not from talking to actual people. He’s right.) At the Team Leader Summit, however, we listened to a panel of parents whose stories were generally positive. They enjoy their children and are proud of them.
And while I would be thrilled if my children went into ministry or missions, I sometimes fear my MKs will feel “boxed in” to live and work overseas as adults. As I listened to these parents, I learned that sometimes their adult children settle in America, and sometimes they choose to become missionaries themselves. Their stories reassured me and gave me hope that our family can stay happy and healthy while living overseas, and in the years beyond.
Thank you, God, for parents who share their lives with us.
4. Renewed church-planting vision.
Team Expansion lives and breathes unreached people groups. I’m supposed to live and breathe unreached people groups too. But it’s all too easy for me to get bogged down in daily routines, distracted by daily life, distracted even from the entire point of living in Cambodia. My husband has been able to attend several training events in the concepts of church multiplication movements*, and I have heard about church-planting movements* mostly from him.
That’s why I was so glad to have the opportunity to hear these teachings myself, in person. My sense of purpose has been reinvigorated, and I suspect I’ll need this injection of vision and energy every two years to remind me what in the world we’re doing over there.
Thank you, God, for visionary leaders.
5. Discipleship School of the Outdoors (DSOTO).
DSOTO offers team-building activities in the great outdoors. I have never been involved in team sports, nor am I a particularly outdoorsy type of person. However, all my DSOTO experiences have been amazing. They might even border on life-changing. (This sounds cliché, I know. It’s still true though.) I always learn something about myself, confront my fears, or process something in my past. Each time I am shocked at the ability of these exercises to illuminate real-life experiences and lend meaning to them.
This time, I learned something about myself in group settings: I am not a competitor. Our first activity was competitive, and even though it was only a simulation, I was totally stressed out. I do, however, love cooperating with other people towards a goal, and in each of our team activities, we accomplished the goal set before us, even if there were mishaps along the way. It is such a satisfying feeling to work together with people to accomplish a task. I was quite impressed at our ability to function as a team, actually, since we were a group of team leaders trying to work together.
Thank you, God, for teams.
6. Being in awe of courageous Christ-followers.
Many Team Expansion missionaries serve in closed places. This is because some of the most unreached places in the world can be hostile to Christianity. But Cambodia is an open country. We do not need to keep our mission work a secret. We are not afraid of losing our visas because we are Christian workers. We do not need to have a platform to enter the country.
In talking with these missionaries, I was reminded once again that I don’t actually have very many hardships. I can live freely in my country, relatively safely, and can even shop at westernized grocery stores, where I can buy such luxuries as peanut butter and cheese. I don’t face the hardships so many other missionaries face, and I’m grateful for that. I was in awe of the faith and dedication of missionaries serving God in closed, hostile, and lonely places. And they don’t even complain!
Thank you, God, for heroes in the faith.
7. Hope for the weary cross-cultural worker.
The main speaker talked about burnout. Just as listening to the parents of missionary kids gave me hope for the future, listening to the speaker’s perspective on burnout also gave me hope for the future. I was formerly under the impression that once a person reaches burnout, he or she cannot recover from burnout and subsequently return to the country in which the burnout occurred. This speaker, though, burned out, left his host country for six months of dedicated recovery time, and then returned to the same host country for further ministry.
I’ve even sometimes worried that once you burn out, you might need to leave ministry in general. This speaker burned out twice, but recovered both times, and has since been in ministry for more than 15 years without burning out again. He taught us that although there is suffering in life, we should be able to draw enough boundaries and set aside enough time for rest, that we will not burn out in ministry. For me, he removed the stigma from burnout and gave hope that life and ministry can continue after burn out. I do not feel burned out in ministry at this time; however, I know that burnout is always possible. I was very relieved to learn it can be recovered from.
Thank you, God, for hope and healing.
*The terms church multiplication movement, church planting movement, and disciple making movement are all used to denote the same explosive idea: disciples who make disciples, who make disciples, who make disciples, and so on and so forth, in a multiplying, expanding manner that harkens back to the first century church.