Monday, November 27, 2017

#KingdomConnection: International Leaders

Giving Tuesday 2017 is TODAY, and we hope that you will partner with United Methodist Volunteers in Mission, Southeastern Jurisdiction to promote, encourage and enable people to exemplify "Christian Love in Action" through short-term mission service both at home and around the world! Please give generously by clicking here!                                                                                                Our next #KingdomConnection is Wil Bailey, a missionary who works full time with Costa Rica Mission Projects. Bailey is originally from the North Carolina conference. He has been involved in mission work in Costa Rica since participating in an UMVIM trip at 15 years old. As an international leader, Bailey speaks firsthand to the important work that UMVIM teams partake in when committing to building missional relationships around the world.

What motivations do you think are important for mission teams to have?

Wil: We talk a lot about Acts 1:8 which say’s to be Christ’s “witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the Earth.” Jesus chose that as his last words to his disciples before he left the Earth. Considering this, I assume he probably chose those words pretty carefully. After 3 years with the disciples and everything they’ve been through, that is what he wanted to make sure was heard before he left: that the church has to be present wherever we can be! 

Sometimes that means in your back yard or church, like Jerusalem was, or it could mean “to the ends of the Earth,” whether that be Costa Rica, Africa, or Asia or wherever else. I think what’s important about that message is that we can’t choose to overlook Jerusalem because it’s not as exciting as the ends of the earth, but we can’t neglect the ends of the earth because of the more local needs in Jerusalem.  You have to have balance. I hope coming to Costa Rica is a part of a broad spectrum of missions that resembles the call of Acts 1:8. I hope what motivates the people that come here is the undeniable urge to be obedient to the call to be Christ’s witnesses throughout the world. 

What does a good relationship between an UMVIM team and your project look like?

Wil: One of the most important things for this ministry to be successful is the relationship building aspect of missions. We believe that we are one body, one church, and that we’ve been bound to one another through the sacraments. While teams are here, we hope that communion happens in all kinds of ways as well as hopefully being able to celebrate that sacrament with local churches here. That relationship building key goes much deeper when we have churches that make a long term commitment to the Methodist church of Costa Rica.                                                                                                                                                      That doesn’t mean that you can’t experience what’s beautiful about this if you don’t come year after year. There are some churches whose vision for foreign missions is to go somewhere different every year to experience the church in as many different places as possible, and I can see some value in that. There are some churches who do a rotation between a foreign trip, a domestic trip, and a local outreach trip, so we’ll see them once every three years and kids get to come at least once while in high school, and I can see value in that too. 

But I can say that the churches we have the deepest relationships with are the ones that come every year. They get to know, not just me and my family, but the Costa Ricans that work here. Through these relationships, you realize that in spite of all the differences in our lives, what is most important to me is also what is most important to you. The same God that abides in me, abides in you. We all share that.

What do you think it is that makes relationship building so dynamic on a mission trip?

Wil: There are a lot of things in our daily lives that keep us from seeing and serving the people around us in the way that we were created to. When you come on a trip like this and you can leave most of the distractions at home, you really live into it from the moment that you wake up in the morning to when you go to bed at night. It’s overwhelming when you feel the peace of of realizing that THIS is what I was created for- to serve selflessly and also to let myself be served. That’s a super important of the puzzle- when people realize that they’re not coming to just do stuff for everybody else, but rather to serve and be served. The disciples had to get to the point where they allowed Jesus to wash their feet and humble themselves to admit that they needed that in their lives. 

There are things that Costa Ricans have in their life that we, as Americans, need in our lives! It’s a difficult thing for us to admit coming from a “do it yourself” culture. If we can get over that and realize we don’t have all the answers and that we don’t do everything right. There are things that are missing in our lives that our brothers and sisters in other countries have in spades, and LOVE to share with us. 

Long term relationships are reinforced by the ways teams are able to SHARE on a spiritual level with the people of Costa Rica.

Tell us about how teams from Costa Rica have also come to serve in the United States

Wil: I had noticed one Sunday sitting in church in Costa Rica that, for most of their lives, many of the kids in the church had grown up with mission teams coming to work at THEIR church. I realized that if we aren’t careful, then we’ll be leaving a skewed idea of mission being something done AT them. 

There was a team from First United Methodist Church in Blue Springs, Missouri that was here that week. I said to their leaders, "How cool would it be if we could take a group of youth from THIS church and give them an opportunity to GO and serve in the States?"

Well, six months later, Hurricane Katrina hit the United States. 

A few months after that, FUMC Blue Springs sent me an email saying that they would send us a check for as many plane tickets as we could get to meet them in Biloxi. So we took a group of youth from Costa Rica to serve with FUMC Blue Springs in Biloxi for a week doing hurricane relief work and it was amazing. We realized immediately that we HAVE to be doing this more often simply because the call of Acts 1:8 means the exact same thing to Costa Ricans as it does to us. So we have made an effort ever since then to continue bringing teams to the United States from Costa Rica. 

What have the trips the USA revealed about how the two cultures perceive each other?

Wil: After partaking in a worship service in Costa Rica, visiting teams will discuss how even though it was two and a half hours long, it didn’t really seem that long. They talk about how there was a freedom of the Holy Spirit that was different than what they were accustomed to in the United States. 

When we took the Costa Rican team to the States, they said, “That was amazing! They’re so efficient! They got everything into an orderly 55 minute service and knew exactly what to do and where they were supposed to be!” 

Those two impressions show me this: That we are all just doing fine. 

To try and impose what people love about worship in the States on the churches in Costa Rica would be a disaster. Likewise, for mission teams who come to Costa Rica to try and impose what they love about worship in Costa Rica on their home churches, could also be a disaster. There are things that we can glean from both cultures to enhance our worship, but there are some round pegs in square holes too. I hope that the leaders strive to explain what’s good and right about what’s happening on BOTH sides 

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