Why Partner Visits Are Important in the In Mission Together Program
- Relationships, whether personal or between congregations, must start with people getting to know each other face-to-face. This is where the basis for trust and Christian love is formed. Only after this has happened can meaningful activities and work together start.
- Personal visits result in sharing of; ideas, cultures, values, personal difficulties and faith. A synergistic effect takes place that results in spiritual growth and development for individuals and congregations. People's lives literally change when they are involved personally in mission with Christians from another culture. 1 Thessalonians 2:8 says "We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God by our lives as well, because you had become do dear to us". Additionally, we have found that visits to persons in countries that have suffered great oppression brings much hope and encouragement to them -- "someone really knows and cares about me".
- True partnerships require equality, not a sense of the more financially well off partner just "sending money". Only sending money can seem "distant" and sends "messages" such as: we aren't really interested in you personally and/or that we can "fix your problems" with money. There are things each partner can learn from the other which only personal contact can promote. Additionally, evangelism, sharing of the Good News, working together in mission outreach to others plus the sharing of each other's personal faith cannot take place without personal visits.
- In Mission Together means just that. Congregations that want to do mission work together, for example; evangelism, education, social outreach, humanitarian projects, or Volunteer In Mission work projects, require that they meet together to discuss, plan and then implement them.
- We have found that in order for US Partners to help "spread the word" among their own members and hopefully to other churches, they need to be advocates as well as contributors. In order to be good advocates, they must know the stories and faithfulness of their partners with whom they are relating. In order for the relationship to be ongoing, face-to-face visits and relationships are necessary.
- It is true that they need money, but they also have a sense of pride. It is truer that they need and want Christian friendships. They need to participate in a relationship in which their dignity is kept intact by their being able to "give back" something to the relationship. They of course cannot give money, but they can give of themselves; they can share their prayer needs, their struggles, their stories about their difficult faith journeys, and the way they lead their Christians lives and they can give their Christian love. In return, they want us to share those same things with them.
- Finally, Saint Paul's letters to the many churches he had relationships with were, he said, in a number of ways, a poor substitute for his personal visits. Also in John 1:43, Jesus one day decided to leave and travel to Galilee, and said to Philip "Follow me", and Philip in turn invited Nathanael to "Come and see". Partner churches should follow Jesus by "going to see."