February 12 – The Metrics of Our (un)Success

Mission Success

Our Guatemala Mission Away Team heads south tomorrow. Pray for us. As you use the prayer guide, you will find that our team members have offered a variety of prayer requests. We have asked that you pray for our safety and protection, for health, and, yes, for a smooth trip through Guatemalan customs. But mostly you will notice team members asking that God’s will be done and that we be open to God’s will and ready to obey as he calls and sends. We have asked that you pray for the success of the trip.

But what metrics define success?

One of the reasons God sends us to Guatemala is to carry medicines and medical supplies our doctors will use in the village clinics. Every medication, every pharmacy drug is listed on a manifest that will be used as Guatemalan custom agents open bags and inspect their contents. Are we bringing what we said we would bring? Is everything on the list? Sometimes the process takes an hour or so, sometimes five hours or more. Success leans towards the one-hour process.

And what of the medicines and pharmacy drugs that make it through customs? What of those 900 toothbrushes the Home Team donated, the 350 tubes of toothpaste, the 500 pairs of shoes? We may see 800 patients pass through the clinics. Most will receive some kind of prescription, the kids will have their teeth treated with fluoride, and those who have none will be offered a pair of shoes. Success tilts towards just enough medicine and drugs to treat every condition, and no toothpaste, toothbrushes, or shoes left at the end of the week.

The Children’s Ministry team has crafts supplies, coloring sheets, and games to play for 200 children a day. Success means we bring none of those supplies home.

The construction team will be challenged to build five or six houses, high efficiency stove and water filter included. Success is measured by all the work completed by Thursday afternoon.

Our Guatemalan friend, Israel, will share the word of the gospel with scores, maybe hundreds of people. There is a kind of success measured in his faithful willingness to speak those good words.

All these metrics are important. God is not sending us only to enjoy a week of wonderful weather in the land of eternal spring, though that will be a nice bonus. Success can be measured by time in the customs line, counts of patients seen, supplies used and given, homes built, and craft projects completed. But numbers aren’t the only measure of success.

You will notice in the prayer guide that one of the team members asks for prayer “that the trip might be successful in the eyes of the Lord.” How do you measure that? Another asks “that every word spoken and action taken by myself and our team members, before, during, and after our trip, brings Glory and Honor to God and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” By what metric do we count that prayer answered?

I need to put away my calculator, quit looking at my watch, stop checking boxes on my clipboard list.

In fact, our doctors tell us that clinic medicine is more about treating symptoms than curing diseases, though once in awhile someone comes to the clinic and is healed. Some of the toothbrushes given will never brush a truth and some of the toothpaste is slurped by kids like some gooey candy. We’ll find children’s coloring pages tossed to dust of the village streets not far from the clinics. Water filters will become flowerpots and some people will never use their new stove, preferring the old ways of an open fire and a smoke-filled house. Some of those nodding yes as Israel speaks of a being born to a living hope, will go home to a desperate life of captivity to addiction and abuse, unable to find the hope about which Israel spoke.

Numbers are not the only way, and often a poor way, to measure Kingdom success. By number count, much of the seed the sower sows is lost to the hardened soil of the path, the rocky ground on the edge of the field, or the thorns and weeds that soon choke the tender shoot.

So how does God measure success? In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus reminds us that not all those with mission success stories will enter the Kingdom. Not all those who say, “Lord, Lord!” Not necessarily, even, those who do mighty works in his name. According to Jesus, Kingdom success is measure by submission to God’s will.

So, as you pray for the Away Team this week, please pray for a quick trip through customs, for health and safety, and no toothpaste, tooth brushes, craft projects, prescription medicines left to give. Pray for houses completed and the gospel shared. But mostly pray that we do his will.

We have some confidence that God’s will for this team has something to do with medicine and toothpaste, craft projects, and high efficiency wood stoves in new houses. It has to do with remembering to say, “Jesús te ama,” and “Dios te bendiga.” It also has to do with “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

We are called to sow the seed. God will bring the increase – lives changed one life at a time.

Pray for us.