NEED FOR TRACTION (#4)
In my last On Expedition update I told of participating in the Traction retreat, along with friends Hud McWilliams and Jamie Macpherson, and retreat leader Daniel Hahn. Traction is designed to encourage “at risk missionaries”—those living and ministering in difficult places. This was the fourth Traction retreat, bringing 50+ missionaries and 20 staff of organizers, counselors, worship leaders, and a medical doctor together to help the missionaries present gain renewed traction.
Each morning our staff team met to pray for participants, followed by a general devotional session, late morning small group discussion, and afternoon individual appointments where those attending could discuss issues they face and concerns they have. It was heartening to see heart felt issues brought into the open in a safe place, the spirits of these men lifted, and see a renewed passion for their ministries and marriages. Since anonymity is crucial due to the sensitive and risky places these men minister, I am attaching a back-side photo here of three of the men in my small group.
“RUN WITH THE HORSES”
While traveling to Traction, my friend Jamie and I worked our way through Eugene Peterson’s book, “Run with the Horses: The Quest for Life at Its Best.” Each day we read a chapter of the book and then interacted about it. Run with the Horses is a profound reflection on the life of Jeremiah the prophet, drawing upon biographical parts of his life from his Old Testament prophetic book. The title, “Run with the Horses” comes from God’s challenge to Jeremiah:
“If you have raced with men on foot, and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses? And if in a safe land you fall down, how will you do in the jungle of the Jordan?”
Jeremiah was worn down by opposition and slipping into self-pity. He was ready to abandon his calling by God, but at that critical moment he heard God’s reprimand, “If you have raced with men on foot, and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses.” God’s challenge was for Jeremiah to live courageously and purposefully in the midst of difficulty…to live and minister beyond what Jeremiah thought himself capable.
What a message this is to us today…and to the missionaries we ministered to at Traction. One of the words we heard frequently upon the arrival of these missionaries was the word “numb.” These men have crossed linguistic, racial, geographical, and cultural boundaries in order to proclaim the good news and demonstrate that there is no spot on our planet and no person on our earth that is not included in God’s divine plan of salvation through Jesus. Although these men are dedicated and hard working, the stresses, strains, and demands of missional life rendered them fatigued, depleted, worn out…and numb.
RENEWED VISION AND JOY
During the one-on-one sessions, we interacted about personal, strategic, spiritual, and relational issues, and saw (for the most part) the numbness fade and renewed vision and joy return. It was encouraging to see after a week together 50+ missionaries emerge fresh in their faith and relationship with God, and encouraged to recalibrate their schedules to include time with God, family, rest, spiritual renewal, recreation, and ministry. Most are returning with renewed energy, clarity, and passion to “run with the horses”—even though what lies ahead involves struggle, ambiguity, chaos, uncertainty, untidiness, loneliness, and much more.
It was an honor to play a role in helping men gain “traction” and be a part of extending the Gospel in risky and difficult places around the world.
Just as Jeremiah was called to be a “prophet to the nations” (Jer. 1:5), so we too are called to take the good news to the world. God’s promise to Abraham was that in him “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Gen. 12:3).
The only way for this to happen is to draw upon the strength that alone comes from God.
That’s what we were encouraging at Traction.
That’s what we are doing.
Thanks for doing it with us.
Linus and Sharon