Today I had my “end-of-term review.” This may sound ominous but it is in fact just another formality in our missionary life. Missionaries generally come and go to the field in “terms” – kind of like deployments. A term is typically two to four years, after which you are supposed to return to your home country for a “furlough”, now more commonly known as a “Home Assignment.” For us, we are currently wrapping up our fifth term with AIM, and about to head home again for four months.
So I sat down with our services ministry director, Colin, to fill out the requisite paperwork, and spent an hour looking back over the last couple of years. One of the nice things about working for a mission organization is that our “bottom line” has a prominent spiritual component to it. So the questions on my performance review not only addressed the goals and accomplishments relative to my role (this term, that was mostly as an AIM AIR manager), but also our personal spiritual life, as well as our contribution to the corporate vision of AIM – which is focused intently on the African church.
For pilots and accountants and many other behind-the-scenes people, it can often be a challenge to connect the dots. How your days in the office or the cockpit played a part in strengthening the Zande church in Eastern Congo, or establishing a small congregation in some unmentionable place in North Africa, is sometimes difficult to imagine. It’s a bit easier to conceive how ministries may flounder or fail without proper logistics behind them, than to see how logistics itself is a ministry. This is one of the reasons AIM requires these reviews for missionaries before they head home. It’s a chance to take a step back and see the big picture, just in case you lost sight of it.
What were your goals and did you accomplish them? How has your ministry contributed to “Christ-centered churches?” Has your assignment fit your gifts and calling? What have you learned about yourself? What books have you read, what relationships have you fostered? What was your best day?
That one caught me off guard. My best day? I paused and Colin added, “Please don’t tell me it was the day you stepped down from AIM AIR.” I smiled, remembering well the day I handed him a resignation letter.
Initially, I could more easily think of days I would describe as my worst. August first will probably live on for years in the category of “worst day”.
But then I gave more thought to the concept of a “best day” – this idea that a particular event might characterize or encompass all the reasons why we were here in Africa these last two years. A particular story that reminds us of the big picture and connects all the dots. A day that gives us strength for all the others when we could not see so clearly.
As I thought about that, I realized there were probably many. I talked to Colin about the landmark trip I both flew and filmed in Central Africa for AIM’s leadership – a series of days really. Colin recalled the day we saved Susan. Actually, a quick scan of my blog revealed a long list of days – in the form of story and reflection – that fit the bill. I’m glad I took the time to write about them, and I wish I had done it more.
What was your best day? It’s a great question because the answers we give reveal our motivations and desires. It cuts to the heart of things, which is something I can appreciate. As we wrap up this term and head home, we are preparing to share that again with many of you – the heart of things. Our heart. The heart of AIM. And what we see as God’s heart for Africa.
We’ve had some rough days these past two years, but the big picture is pretty awesome.
(Our furlough plans bring us Stateside from May thru August)