Relationships are essential to human life. While some relationships are created naturally (parents, siblings, spouses, colleagues, church members, etc.), other relationships are more difficult to initiate, and they can require a lot of motivation, care and sacrifice.
Best-selling author John Maxell said, “Ask the successful CEOs of major corporations what characteristic is most needed in leadership positions, and they will tell you it’s the ability to work with people . . . The bottom line in this: People can usually trace their successes and failures to the relationships in their lives.”
Relationships are foundational to ministry, so missionaries must invest in them deeply. They know that their success is built more on relationships than on how many hours they spend studying missiological books. A recent experience in our missionary lives illustrates very well the value of relationships.
Our son Elie-Dana had his sixth birthday on June 10. In his school, the parents typically celebrate birthdays by distributing candy or cookies to the class. We look forward to these celebrations as opportunities to form relationships with other parents.
For our son’s birthday, Elmire decided to do something special. In addition to the 42 little packages she prepared for Elie-Dana’s class mates, she also prepared 16 special packages containing pieces of birthday cake for the teachers in the school. In our African culture, this was a great opportunity to build relationships. In keeping with African culture, each of the teachers went to Elie-Dana’s class, thanked him for the gift and asked him to greet his parents and thank them on their behalf.
The first dividend from this effort came just a few days later when Eliora’s Muslim teacher invited us to the dedication ceremony for his firstborn daughter, Amoufiatou. The ceremony took place on a Saturday morning, so we left Sabbath school early and went to the house. There we met some parents we knew, some teachers and a number of women preparing food for the guests. We held cute little Amoufiatou, just one week old, and prayed with the family.
We praised God for the visit and the valuable opportunity to create more relationships. I am very thankful for Elmire’s inspiration to give gifts to the teachers at our children’s school. As missionaries, we know that good relationships with people lead to sharing, and sharing leads to influencing, and influencing leads to trust, and trust leads to hearts opening to the Gospel. In all things, we try to follow the example of our Lord Jesus Christ who valued relationships with seeking people wherever He went. Please pray that our relationships will build good will, produce long-term results and make us people of influence for the Lord among the Dendi people of Benin.