The theme this week at Velvet Ashes is custodian, or as it is also known, stewardship. Often, in Christian circles we associate stewardship with money. Yet in God’s economy, money is only one type of currency. This week, we have talked about the many ways, as cross-cultural workers, we have been asked by God to be the custodian—of children, time, language, finances, relationships, knowledge, power. We have been entrusted with much.
We feel the holy responsibility.
We also share that holy responsibility. With you.
Chances are you have been invested in the Great Commission for years; your journey with The Great Commission continued when you sent me, or us, out. You may have laid hands on me or held a commissioning service. You may have sent me out years ago, or just a few weeks ago. Perhaps you are preparing to send me and the days are either dragging or flying by.
Regardless, we are linked. I am yours and you are mine.
As the sent one, in ways maybe neither of us understood when this call was shiny and new, that you are part custodian of me and the call. Financially and with prayer, yes. But in other ways too.
God, in his infinite wisdom, and never-ending love, left clues as to how you can care for me, for us. Several years ago Velvet Ashes shared a Manifesto for Member Care. If you are not familiar with “Member Care,” you can read it here. As I thought about the parts of this work that you are the custodian over, God brought the same passage used in that manifesto to mind.
By chapter 11 in Zechariah, the prophet had about had it with God’s people and their persistent disobedience and laid out what was going to happen to them. In part, they would be left to foolish shepherds instead of good ones.
“Take again the equipment of a foolish shepherd. For I am going to raise up a shepherd over the land who will not care for the lost, or seek the young, or heal the injured, or feed the healthy.” Zechariah 11: 15 and 16
Many who send understand the importance of care in times of transition and crisis on the field. In this passage, though, do you see how God is calling you to care for the ones you send? You may be doing a wonderful job and I am uncomfortable to ask you to do more. But I’m not asking, God is. Look at God’s comprehensive heart for the one you sent. Not just at times of transition and crisis, but for all seasons.
Care. Seek. Heal. Feed.
Or as I like to call them, the verbs to check how you are stewarding what God has given you.
When we are able to, God wants us to care for each other, to seek one another out, to heal each other, and to feed each other.
The lost, the young, the injured, the healthy
Could you find a more comprehensive description for any community? I don’t think so. We all belong in at least one of these categories, if not more. With simple terms, God invites us to see people through different lenses that change over time. It behooves us to flex with him and not place a person permanently in one of these pigeonholes.
Using Zechariah’s terms, shepherding—being a custodian—is an on-going relationship between sender and sent.
Care for the Lost
Here God isn’t referring to “the eternally Lost,” but to those who have lost their way amongst us. Lostness can come in many forms on the field:
- Mental illness, be it depression or other manifestations
- News that rocks your sent-one’s world, such as a crisis back home be it personal, natural disaster or political
- Feeling stuck in an assignment that used to be life giving
- People showing signs of burnout
Care can take on many forms, but it can be as simple as acknowledging the person is lost and you’ve noticed. As the one who sent, keep your ears tuned in to hear the story beyond our words.
Seek the Young
When it comes to the young on the field or in other ministry settings, too often our default is actual age or how long someone has been on the field. When you seek the young and make sure they are seen, attended to and not overlooked, do not miss the young in your midst. Seek those who are:
- New to a location
- New to a stage of life — newly married, preparing for a first child, adjusting to parenting
- New to an assignment be it language study, change in job, or new form of technology
Heal the Injured
This can be a bit tricky because, let’s face it, those on the field have been programmed and naturally wired to heal others and not to let their injuries be seen. And yet, we know from medicine, wounds that are attended to heal quicker, are less likely to be infected, and can avoid permanent impairment. Injury may come in the form of:
- Actual attack, be it physical or emotional or health related
- Misunderstanding of the culture
- Those who are far away from a crisis in their home country
Feed the Healthy
This is where I want to stand up and applaud God and say “Thank you.” God doesn’t just want us to care, seek, and heal to the point that we create a culture of burnt out people. No, God wants us to feed the healthy too. Feed! What a life-giving verb. More applause. Feeding can take many forms:
- Feeding the soul through times of refreshment be they retreats, podcasts, courses, walks, or naps
- Feeding relationships by connecting with people via social media, skyping or sending personal notes
- Feeding the mind by reading books, learning new skills, engaging in hobbies, and making time for stimulating conversations
- Feeding the heart by finding joy and laughing together
Care. Seek. Heal. Feed.
The organization and churches that send may have different roles when it comes to stewarding the people you have sent. But too often lack of clarity over who is doing what—is that the role of the organization or the church?—leads to a dropped ball.
Start using this language of being lost, young, injured, and healthy with the ones you send. Ask them where they are lost, or injured, or young. Find out what might help at that stage and then see how you can help meet that need. Also, tend to the healthy workers you know. How can you help them to professionally develop? Tend to relationships (parenting, marriage, helping with family back home). How can you support them in Sabbath keeping? Or getting enough sleep?
If you’re not sure where to start, how about an email asking how things are going? Start small and be safe. The better you handle small pieces of our lives, it will lead to more open and honest conversations over time.
Thank you for joining in The Great Commission. God did not send us alone and we are grateful for you.
On behalf of the sent sheep,
This is The Grove and we want to hear from you! You can link up your blog post, or share your practices, ponderings, wisdom, questions, ideas, and creative expressions with us in the comments below.
Here’s our Instagram collection from this week using #VelvetAshesCustodian. You can add yours!