If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time. — Zig Ziglar
The dawn of a new year is a good time to reflect, pray, and evaluate where we have been in our personal and work lives, and plan where we need to go. Taking a step back to look at the big picture — the ministry bullseye, so to speak helps us focus with keener vision and aim more precisely during our daily tasks of life. In keeping with that theme, this update shares how our overarching ministry goals close in upon the bullseye of Jesus’ life example. We labor using Community Health Evangelism (CHE) so that He becomes THE model for living in Cote d’Ivoire. May this news encourage you, inform your prayers, and help you understand what we do!
Singleness of purpose is one of the essentials for success in life, no matter what may be one’s aim. — John D. Rockefeller
The Lord opened our joined hearts to potential missionary service during a conference in college. Some years later, He further clarified what kind of ministry we would have during a CHE training in 1998. That week was a time of great illumination and joy with many “aha” moments for us. We left convinced that CHE was the tool we would use wherever we served to share the Gospel and offer communities the transformation Christ brings.
Not long after arriving in Cote d’Ivoire for our first missionary term in 2000, the Lord impressed upon us a B-HAG (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal). It was a mission so far beyond one couple’s human capacity that we mostly guarded it in our prayers and plans, rather than widely share it. Our mission bullseye was clear: invest our capacities, influence, prayer, time, and resources to help develop a vibrant, reproducing CHE team in every prefecture (political district–18 districts then, 22 now) of Cote d’Ivoire.
We had no idea of the many obstacles that would arise, not the least of which was three periods of civil conflict and our denominational mission’s dwindling missionary force. During those days, we accepted some administrative duties that we neither sought nor desired, but which needed doing. However, the bullseye was never far from our thoughts. We prayed and worked while trusting God to make way for a transformation of the nation through CHE to become our primary purpose that united all others. In time, the Lord affirmed that direction for us in a series of events that led us to join the Christian Health Service Corps (CHSC) in 2013. Since then, the pace of CHE progress has increased consistently around the country!
The greatest danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short, but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark. -Michelangelo
Hitting the bullseye of a CHE team in every district is truly a God-sized goal. It requires careful focus, aim, and follow-through. We regularly set aside other ministry opportunities that look appealing but which do not help achieve the goal. The process can be summed up in four major parts:
- Cast vision: prayerfully seek the people whom the Lord is calling to take CHE into various districts and expose them to holistic, transformational ministry;
- Train: facilitate week-long CHE Training of Trainers (TOT1) events and offer further specialized training;
- Follow Through: mentor, model, encourage, and network with teams as they begin to implement CHE;
- Bullseye: This occurs when new CHE teams have a viable outreach that brings community transformation and that they can reproduce.
As of November, we count over 30 distinct individuals, churches, university teams, NGOs, or denominations that are at different points in the 4-step process across the country. One of the new contacts from the Million Village Challenge conference in November plans to train all the pastors in his denomination in CHE. His group alone has the capacity to reach into every district of Cote d’Ivoire. Praise God with us, most committed people already see many saved and baptized.
Other practical components are necessary to achieve the goal of seeing belief in Jesus touch and transform a nation of differing people groups. Permanent CHE training sites strategically placed around the country are needed to provide for regular or at least annual trainings. We now train at three such sites, and anticipate that two more sites will likely open in 2019. Many groups ask the national CHE network to come train their people, but most are not yet willing to provide a permanent location for the ongoing training of leaders for themselves and other groups. We also need widely separated locations to develop Farming God’s Way exposition gardens, groves of moringa trees, and corn fields. In this way, those living in the varied regions can visit a site that is nearer to them where improved agricultural methods can be observed and copied. Such a project is soon to be born in Bondoukou after experiencing some false labor in 2018.
Space lacks for us to thoroughly describe the CHE university team in Abidjan. We have accomplished 2/3 of their goal to see 300 medical professionals equipped in CHE. Their Master’s level curriculum with CHE at its core is being prepared. A university in Bouake awaits similar training.
Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off the goal. —Hannah More
It is easy to experience target panic when obstacles abound. One constant stressor is the fact that we are one couple, not a missionary team. Secondly, all the talented Ivorian CHE trainers work full-time at other jobs. That means that they must take time off work to assist with CHE trainings and to mentor other teams. We pray for the day when a core team of Ivorians works full-time in CHE. Until then, Verlin creates national circuits to visit new teams, and he takes or meets whichever Ivorian trainer is available at the time to assist.
Another wonderful problem we have is that having now faithfully cast vision, the Ivorian CHE network has new people with whom to follow up and more teams to mentor–more quickly than expected. 2019 will stretch all to the limit. There is also a sense of urgency as political rumblings increase. No one knows how long we can peacefully travel the whole country unimpaired. Of course, the Lord did not promise that we will see the completion of this B-HAG before our mission career is over, but He has directed us to continue faithfully working toward the goal.
A leader is best when people barely know he exists. When his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: We did it ourselves. —Lao Tzu
The Lao Tzu quote above perfectly describes the role of a CHE facilitator/trainer. We cast vision and work behind the scenes to ensure that CHE teams advance. Our happiest ministry day will be when CHE ministries thrive all over Cote d’Ivoire, and nobody knows who we are. The people will say, “Look what the Lord equipped us to do,” with no knowledge of the initiators and no dependence on outside funds or personnel. They will choose to keep the process simple and reproducible so that the Gospel and the community development it brings can spread like wildfire.
There is a real aspect of dying to self while aiming for the Lord’s bullseye of shepherding people from every tribe, kindred, and tongue into His Kingdom. In CHE specifically, we are not the local change-makers. Instead we equip the local people to be the change-makers. Frankly, it is usually a tedious, hidden process which does not lend itself to exciting pictures for newsletters! At times we can share their victories (which are ours, too), but even that can put their progress at risk, as we sadly experienced in one situation years ago.
What about you? What is your status with the ministry target the Lord has given you? We all have work to accomplish in His kingdom within and without our families. Is your stance firm, your aim steady, and your focus undistracted? Our prayer is that 2019 finds all of us releasing full quivers of Spirit-directed arrows that hit the mark our Lord intends.