Summer slowdown around the office gives us all time to process the previous year and I find myself mulling over mission.
Way back before the summer began, on May 31, a group of BMPC members interested in mission and outreach gathered to brainstorm and mutually inform and inspire at the event we called "Doing Real Good." We pooled information and had some wonderful conversations with some key mission partners. The Rev. Andy Greenhow of Broad Street Ministry spoke to us about what it means for us to engage in real partnership with Broad Street and other organizations. Mission, he reminded us, “cannot be outsourced.” That is, we have our own sense of the path we are called to walk; we do not donate to Broad Street or Habitat or anyone so that they can do the work of our faith for us. Andy also asked that we be careful to give our mission partners what they ask for and avoid giving them what they do not ask for. “Our Lord will come again,” he said, by way of example, “before Broad Street needs any more women’s clothing.”
This sounds like a basic, practical point, but it has important repercussions. Sorting out Christian Education supply closets at West Kensington Ministry earlier this spring, I came across box after bin after box of crayons. One box came directly from the Crayola factory and was neatly organized into colors, hundreds of crayons in each color. That single box would have kept an average Sunday school in crayons for years, but it was only one box among many. “People like to give us crayons,” Adan explained. There are things we like to give, and things we do not. Maybe it’s easier to give the crayons than it is to give the time to find out that crayons are not needed.
If we can give what people ask us for, it means we’re listening, we’re letting our partners influence and even direct us. It’s one step toward letting our mission partners be our partners and not the passive recipients of our charity. And it is a way in which our call to mission changes us, as it should, teaching us what others’ needs and gifts are and connecting us more fully to our neighbors. People probably need fewer crayons, and more listening attention, than we tend to think.