During this break as I prepare to leave for Thailand, I have had time to reflect back on my experience in training with Adventist Frontier Missions (AFM). There are many aspects that stand out but a few that impacted me most are learning about grit/perseverance, investment, and intentionality.
Grit/perseverance was a lesson taught early on by our training director, Laurence Burn. It stood out that researchers found that success is based more on grit/perseverance than natural talent. This principle wasn’t just an abstract theory that was taught; rather I experienced it during training, as we all pressed through the crucible, a physically demanding weekend team-building exercise. This concept was clear as our teachers shared stories from their years in the mission field. In their stories, great things with Christ were only accomplished through much perseverance. Success came through trial and sacrifice. Finally, I appreciated how it was pointed out in class that Jesus was the archetypal grit. He truly exemplified what it was to push through when His feelings told Him to give up. At the garden of Gethsemane, He sweat drops of blood and cried out that God might take away His cup of suffering, if it was His will (Matthew 26:36-46). He pressed on towards His prize, the redemption of the whole human race, despite the great cost. These lessons impressed me to weigh the reward against present feelings and pray for strength to press forward, on days I do not feel like it.
During training I was also struck with the investment of the AFM staff in the discipleship of the student and short term missionaries (SMs/STMs). Much time was spent by Laurence teaching us about discipleship, but I appreciated that this was done through the actions of the staff and not just through words. Discipleship was defined as a process that helps people find meaningful life. The simple fact that the training was a month long revealed to me that AFM felt that we were worth an investment. The training did not just focus on giving us information but on transforming our lives in many areas. The staff gave attention to going deeper in the Bible and prayer, maintaining physical fitness, and working through interpersonal conflict. We were encouraged to put into practice these principles throughout the training. I also saw the investment in our personal discipleship by the training director, who took time to read and comment on our journals each week and meet with us during the month to discuss our individual strengths and potential growth areas. During the training, I saw a small snapshot of the investment that God calls each of us to make in the neighborhood, school, or workplace in which we find ourselves. True discipleship takes time, investment, and action.
Finally, I appreciated the intentionality I saw among my team of SMs/STMs during training to be present and a blessing. Time and again I was impressed by how others “looked out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4). They sought to bless each other on birthdays, in gratitude, and when sick. I was impressed to be around so many individuals of different backgrounds intentionally committing their time and lives to missions. I heard during training that this was one of the largest groups of student and short term missionaries in training. This gave me hope to know that all over there are those determining in their minds to be steadfast and stand with the Lord and live daily with purpose.
Overall, there was much valuable information gained during training, but what stood out to me most were the living object lessons lived out through the staff and my team of SMs/STMs. I believe it’s these practical lessons of grit/perseverance, investment, and intentionality that will ultimately return to me in the mission field. It is there I will ask myself whether I am persevering despite obstacles as Christ did for me? Who has God placed in my sphere of influence to invest in? And am I living each day with intention and purpose for my loving Father in heaven?