Partnership in Action
How many people does it take to raise a barn? Answer: all of them. Everyone working on the project in this photo was involved in partnership…including the ones you can’t see. Entire families—indeed, entire communities—come together for one express purpose: to build a barn.Veteran carpenters working alongside teens with more sinew than savvy, training the ones who will one day replace them. Even older ones on the ground offering guidance and advice from their multiple decades of experience. Children playing under the watchful eyes of older cousins, grandparents, mothers and aunts. Women baking and boiling, peeling and paring, stirring and sifting and combining all manner of ingredients into all manner of delectable eats. People setting up tables, fetching tools, minding the horses that will be used to raise a wall, running after another keg of nails or another box of Band-Aids.
Everyone has a job, and every job is significant.
The women fixing the meals do not tell the men swinging hammers how to frame a roof. (And the men on the roof, if they are wise, do not tell their women how to bake a pie!) Those too frail to climb can still offer invaluable advice to those who can. Even the children running around can add to the joy and energy of the occasion, encouraging their elders by their very presence. And of course those elders are aware of the fact that they are setting an example for the next generation.
Everyone has a role, but the project only proceeds when each one functions within that role.
The overall well-being of the community depends on each family unit doing well, so the whole team contributes what they can to help individual units to thrive. Everyone gave up something (time, energy, finances, materials, other activities) so that someone could have something. At the end of the day one family ended up with a barn, but it really belonged to the entire community.
And at the end of the day, each one deserved a “well done.”
That’s what I’m talking about when I talk about partnership in missions.
Although we in North America talk much about partnership, in reality we’re talking about sponsorship.*
In missions, one people group may be the “target” recipient of a team’s efforts. But the whole body of Christ is enriched by their membership as the glory of God is refracted through yet another cultural lens. One portion of the team may be on location, but every partner who is not is equally important to the task.
The visible members of the team are the ones on location; but there are many more behind the scenes: partners who are equally valuable, equally engaged. Everyone gives something, and everyone gains in the end.
That’s what partnership is all about. Shared goals, shared vision, shared responsibility, and shared rewards. That’s what missions should look like.
*Ron Blue, quoted in The Sending Church Defined, by Zach Bradley, p. 112