This weekend our family drove down to Tartu to hang out with Märt and Grete Saar. In spite of a sleepless night while Maddie cut teeth, we had a very refreshing time together with the Saars. Märt is the leader of the Estonian mission organization KOMA which is closely related to Josiah Venture. Märt has developed a very effective model of missional youth discipleship in Estonia that focuses on equipping, encouraging and training youth in a handful of regional churches throughout the year and then giving them opportunities to exercise their faith in evangelistic summer youth camps.
On Sunday morning, Märt and I traveled down to the small Selise congregation in Setumaa to share in worship and get a sense of the missional task in their region. This summer, Märt and some of his youth will be serving alongside the folks in Selise in a rural mission outreach to the people of Setumaa. This region is entirely distinct within Estonia with its own dialect, dress, traditions (polyphonic singing!), and animistic religion. The Selise congregation is most certainly God’s answer to this missional task and they have taken to it with great vigor and vim.
As Märt and I shared on Sunday, I thought of how curious it was that God had put us together on this assignment. Both of us have been gripped by a vision for missionally engaged churches, though our emphasis and our giftings are quite different. Taken together, I felt like our respective messages together presented both personal and corporate responsibility for local mission and that we were able to make some modest contributions to Selise’s missional self-development.
This morning I came across this quote from a post by Brad Brisco on the Missional Church Network that reminded me our motivation for the weekend’s visits:
It is important to make clear that the church is a vital part of the missional conversation. However, the church must not be seen simply as an entity that sends missionaries; as admirable as sending and supporting missionary activity might be. Instead, we must recognize that the purpose of the church is derived from the very nature of a sending, missionary God, which in turn compels it to be sent as a missionary people, both individually and collectively.
I’m looking forward to more partnership with Märt. This is a guy who gets that vision and is making significant contributions to seeing it take flesh in Estonia’s churches.
One of the most personally exciting ministry developments in 2010 was the Union’s decision to form of a Mission Council in the place of the previous Mission Secretary role. This shift to a Council approach reflects the facts that the Union’s sense of mission 1) is appropriately diverse, 2) requires a corporate response, and 3) is a denominational priority and 4) is developing enough to require multiple heads and hands. The council is composed of 12 members and is chaired by the Union president and vice president. Each member of the council answers for a particular area of mission ranging from church planting to ecumenical relations. But the real strength of the council comes in the collaboration that can now happen by having all of these people in the same room. When I learned of the Mission Council I asked if rural church mission had yet been represented and if not, could I represent those needs on the council. To my delight, in November, I was assigned to the Missions Council, representing Rural Church Mission.
Here’s an approach to discipling young people in Estonia that has grown out of our summer mininstry for the last 5 years. Any feedback is welcome!
This method seeks to provide an integrative, cohort driven, mentored, service oriented discipleship resource for Estonian young people. The idea is to disciple 6-8 young people over the course of a year using their own summer projects as a context for practicing what we learn together and committing to communicate and meet throughout the year to solidify the summer’s lessons.
Discipleship is a shared, lifelong journey – Therefore, we focus energy on a core group of handpicked young people and work with them over the course of a summer/year. Shared experiences during this time will forge mutually supportive relationships that will continue to grow as youth grow older and learn to exercise their call to service both in the church and in their community.
Projects often displace discipleship – Therefore, rather than adding another project to the table, this method seeks to be the thread that weaves existing projects together suffusing them with a deeper level of meaning and effectiveness. With mentored supervision and intentional participation of the cohort, otherwise unrelated projects become the context in which discipleship and leadership training can occur.
Commitment to mission starts at home – We want to build up a commitment to the local church AND mission through service in local communities. Team members are encouraged to suggest mission opportunities in needy areas of their own region and to represent the concerns of region to the rest of the group.
The project would start with a week long intensive Spring Training which would introduce the goals and topics for the year and bond cohort members as they overcome obstacles along the journey.
Participants would then commit to serve alongside one another in local ministry projects at least once a month for three months through the summer. During each project, mentors (2 per group of youth) would focus on supporting, teaching and ministering alongside the youth paying particular attention to each person’s gifts, personality, strengths and weaknesses and giving personal feedback.
The summer would end with a commissioning ceremony sending each of the young people into ministry in their home context (whatever that might be) for the remainder of the year. Personal mentor-ship and mutual support from team-members would continue throughout the year. Young people who complete such a program would then be eligible to apply for future Alongside Internship opportunities with our churches in the US.
Identify potential mentors (2 per cohort group means 3:1 ratio of disciples:mentors)
Identify first cohort group members (with help of regional leaders)
Develop or find an existing curriculum to work through with cohort
Identify existing projects in cohort member’s home regions OR begin to develop a project that fits the region’s needs.
Our intention for some time now has been to send you quarterly prayer letters and this no doubt would have made it much easier for us to communicate our experiences in depth. But we have been so incessantly busy this year that writing and publishing a prayer letter has been relegated to the bottom of the pile. So, we figured that if we’re going to try to pack in the details on a longer letter, we ought to at least include some good pictures.
Last Thursday, Lea’s mother called to tell us that Lea’s father Kunnar has passed away. Kunnar has been suffering the incapacitating effects of multiple strokes for more than four years gradually losing one ability after another. We are sad to see him go but are also relieved that he is finally at peace with our Lord and has traded his emaciated frame for a new and glorified body.