What do a honeybee and a flower, a rhino and a tickbird, and a church and International Worker Partnership have in common? They are all relationships that can be mutually beneficial.
Partnerships are strategic, mutually beneficial relationships between U.S. Alliance churches and Alliance workers overseas. Alliance International Workers benefit as others join in their vision and support them personally, spiritually and financially. Alliance churches benefit, as members and leaders discover ways to engage hearts, hands and passion in God’s work in the least-reached places around the world.
One benefit to the churches can be a new or renewed vision for reaching the lost in their own communities. Over the course of a partnership (years), partners may witness the results of faithful, incarnational ministry among resistant people. They pray with the IWs for the development of relationships. They rejoice with the IWs as one by one, those relationships result in kingdom fruit and a small church is planted. Sometimes our American culture of instant gratification and big results causes us to be too easily discouraged when it comes to reaching the lost in our communities. Seeing God’s work in a partner country can give us a new appreciation for perseverance and “the day of small things”. It can encourage us to continue to develop missional methods of outreach versus the attractional methods that are often less demanding.
Another benefit is that, depending on the field, a partnership can give people opportunities to minister in ways that they normally do not. Often a church will use a local industry to take care of a problem rather than the talents of the people within their own church. For instance, a plumber who works in a union shop may have limitations set by his union in what he can do even in his local church, however overseas there would be no such limitation. Another example could be if a church has several accountants, with one contributing his skills on the church’s behalf for years, the others may feel that their skills are not needed or welcome. This could provide an opportunity for the other accountants.
The personal relationships that are developed with the IWs can be rewarding and enriching, as well as beneficial to the church. The partnership goes both ways. We visit the IWs on the field and work alongside them, but they also visit our churches. A fresh pair of eyes and a different point of view can provide insight into ways to improve the way we minister. The IWs coming in as guests may see things about our church that we have become numb to, both positive and negative.
While some of the benefits, like increased prayer for God’s work in the partner country and giving to approved specials or the GCF, may seem like benefits only for the IW’s, they are also beneficial to the church. The firsthand understanding of how our missions dollars work can help develop the grace of giving in our churches. The relationships developed with the IWs may open our eyes to the desperation the IWs feel without our prayer support. The joy of answered prayer on their behalf can spill over into a renewed passion for prayer for the local church and community. Partnership calls us to growth in spiritual maturity and transforms us more into the image of Christ. It helps us die to ourselves as we part with what we hold dear in our journey of achieving God’s purpose in our lives.
One of the most exciting benefits of partnership is when people from the congregation are called into ministry, whether overseas or domestic. Sending our own treasured church family members for the sake of the Gospel takes our passion to an even deeper level because “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
Bob and Dian Harner, Directors of Missions Mobilization
Please contact us if you want to talk about partnership. We’d love to hear your stories on how partnership has benefited your church. Note: The next pastoral couples partnership vision trip is to the Ukraine in the fall of 2018.