first things first

A blog about whatever crosses my mind, ordered by importance.

Exploring and Networking

Sunrise over Malaga

This past week I went to the STINT Mid-Year conference in M├ílaga, Spain. It was a lot of fun to hang out with a bunch of Americans! I didn’t know anyone when I got there, but by the end I had made several friends. The beachfront was beautiful, especially the late sunrise over the Mediterranean. I was excited to play a bunch of Ultimate Frisbee, since I hadn’t played for several months.

The purpose of the conference though was to give all the stint teams a sort of check-up, and to give the stinters an idea of what else is going on in the region. We had several conference sessions with a variety of speakers, and we had some one-on-one counseling sessions too. My favorite part was hearing from Ed and Corolee Murray about the history of CRU’s Eastern Europe ministry. They were based out of Vienna when the Berlin Wall came down, and that same week they were commissioning 14 East German missionaries to build the national movement inside communist Germany. It’s a fascinating history.

I received a lot of good teaching about how to be successful in building movements. One of the speakers talked about the 10 most common mistakes in building movements. I realized I am guilty of some of the mistakes on this list. The most important two were related to trusting the power of the Holy Spirit in ministry, and not relying on systems and processes. God has to show up for this ministry to work.

Another interesting point was the need for a simple and transmissible discipleship process. He told a story of some STINT members who were doing great at making disciples. They could give scriptural answers to almost any question, and really teach God’s word to their disciples. But their disciples didn’t feel confident to do that for anyone else, so they weren’t building a movement. They had to simplify the discipleship and create a program that could be taught.

On a more personal note, I learned that often STINTers feel the need to escape back to their home culture. This often takes the form of binge-watching American TV shows or talking with family/friends on skype all the time. It can become unhealthy if it’s consuming, and if it’s preventing you from becoming engaged in the culture. For me, I’ve noticed that I’ve become a lot more interested in politics since I came over here. Many days I’ll spend an hour or so at a coffee shop reading political blogs. The good thing is that I feel more informed in the upcoming election cycle, and I have been motivated to register for an absentee ballot. The bad thing is I often read these blogs and find myself feeling upset or angry about situations back home, or waste too much time on them.

“Voter Registration” I’m doing my part to stop Donald Trump! Are you?

I also recognized that most STINTers are on a team of fellow Americans. This has been very helpful for them (though of course they have their own challenges because of it). Since I didn’t go through the traditional channels, I don’t have that same-culture support. It’s been important for me to lean on the support of my community group back home. Thank you Ron, Chris, Matt, Billy, Daniel and Patrick. I’ve appreciated skyping with y’all and keeping up over GroupMe. Maybe in the future one of y’all would like to come on STINT with me? ;)

Maybe I can tempt y’all with some of the cool things I get to do! We had a free day in the middle of the week, and many of us took an excursion to Gibraltar. It was really neat to see it! You can walk across the whole town in about 30 minutes, it’s not very big. There’s a cable car up to the top, where you can look out across the Strait of Gibraltar and see Morocco.

“Morocco from Gibraltar”

I felt moved to pray for the ministry in North Africa. We had many STINTers at the conference from that region, even some from Ethiopia. I pray that God will turn the entire continent into a sending continent, and bless them to share the Gospel with the rest of the world.

By the end of the conference I was excited, and ready to head back to Albania! There’s a lot of ministry left to do here, and I’m glad to be a part of it. I’m hoping to learn a lot more about movement building over the next few months, and to put more of it into practice.