Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Missionaries

Late summer family pict
This past weekend while on the sidelines of a soccer field watching Jonah and Graysen referee side by side games, I was approached by three missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. We had a friendly conversation, and one where I tried to avoid the normal defensive and/or aggressive posturing we Christians often feel is our ‘duty’ to display in such situations. I led the conversation by asking them all kinds of questions about their home and backgrounds instead of allowing them to ‘drive the boat’ – something I think we often don’t realize we’re doing as we freeze up and focus on trying to remember some key scriptural references we’re going to need to do battle!

The average weekend attire these days.
Actually, our conversation never really took much of a turn towards the spiritual side of things, though they did ask me if I was a ‘religious person’. Having spoken to Mormon missionaries many times, I know that this is not the time to be ‘winning over’ these young people – after all, they’re at a place in their life where they have felt such a strong conviction about their faith that they’ve given up two of their most prime years in life to move away from home and serve their church. Of course I had a lot to talk to them about and would have loved to do so, but during their mission is rarely the right timing.

So, I was as friendly as possible, and tried not to give them any of the weird or even offensive vibes they often receive from us well-intentioned Christians. Instead, we just shot the breeze about life and football and the craziness of having hundreds of people out on the soccer field that day. When they asked, I did tell them I worked for a mission organization and a short bit about the work of EMI (which was enough for them to get the picture that I wasn’t exactly their best bet for a recruit either), but otherwise it was just a normal conversation that only lasted a few minutes before they moved on to better prospects.

Post-game team talk and selection of Man-of-the-Match
But it got me thinking – regardless of the significant differences in beliefs we have (I do not consider the LDS church to be a Christian church, unfortunately), I have always been impressed by the number of young people in the LDS church who give up two years of their lives. I’ve also always been impressed by the high number of LDS church goers (I’ve seen one statistic put it at 90%) who give a full 10% of their income to the church (even though I’ve heard there is a fair amount of pressure from the church for them to do so – I have no idea if that’s true or not). By comparison, the last statistic I saw for Christian churches was that less than 10% of church-going Christians in America tithe 10% of their income. That’s disappointing to think about, especially in a side-by-side comparison with the LDS community.

As I thought more about it though, it made me even more thankful for the faithfulness and generosity of our supporters who allow us the privilege of doing the work we feel God has called us to do here at EMI. With so few Christians (according to the statistics) giving to the work of the church, we feel especially blessed by the team of people who have been so faithful in supporting us through the years. Given my past feelings about the LDS church and how well-funded they are by their people, our experience has restored some of my faith in the Christian church and our willingness to fund the church and church activities we say we value.
Brodie sending the ball down the line.

Even still though, I wonder how much more effective the church would be if our percentage was up at 90% of our people tithing? Knowing the struggles we have at EMI to raise funds for our organization, it would completely change what we are able to do and the impact we have around the world. As we are pushing to fulfill a goal of having 50% of our staff be Local Design Professionals (i.e. designers who are from the places where we work), our funding strategies are now more than even being challenged to the core.

On a personal note, we don’t talk about it much because we have always felt that God would bring along our support as needed. But for the past several years, Alisha and I have operated at about 80% of our funding target (EMI sets salary bands for all staff based on experience, location and job responsibilities). God has been faithful to meet our needs in a variety of creative ways, but still, it’s a struggle.

One of Jonah's many hobbies.
But lest this appear to be some kind of moaning session – I sure hope it doesn’t sound that way – I’ll get back to my main point, which is that seeing these three young LDS missionaries was honestly a bit of a challenge for me. No, I’m not interested in the Mormon faith (that’s a whole other conversation I’m happy to have). But rather, the commitment and financial support that LDS church-goers give to their church is undeniable, and if you compare it with that of the Christian church as a whole, it’s a little disappointing. But that said – it just goes to show even more how special a group of people we have supporting us, and why we feel as blessed and encouraged as we do by you all. So, we just wanted to again say thank you - both for being in "the 10%", and for your investment and interest in the ministry work we do with EMI!

Updates:

*Our family is in the full swing of soccer this Fall – I’m coaching two teams and all boys are playing and refereeing. Complicating matters a bit this season is the fact that Brodie made his high school frosh soccer team, so those games now have to shoehorn into the schedule as well.

Helping Graysen practice his upcoming Drama class skit project
- an interview with Donald Trump that he wrote and will star in.
I need to find a place to post a video of the skit online!
*The school year is going well so far for Graysen and Jonah at middle school and Brodie at high school. All 3 love going to school, which is a huge blessing. I volunteered to join the School Accountability Committee at Brodie’s high school on a 2-year term, so once a month I have a meeting with 5 other parents, a district rep. and the principal to discuss school matters. It’s weird to be a part of a high school again!

*At EMI, our Cambodia office launch team is here in the Colorado Springs office this Fall, preparing for their permanent departure to Cambodia in January. The Nicaragua and Senegal teams are already on the ground, and the South Africa office director is working to build his team there in Cape Town.

*Alisha and I will be traveling some this Fall – first, we’re once again each leading sessions at this year’s annual EMI Network Conference, this time being held in San Diego at the end of October. Then, we will be traveling together in mid-November to visit our new office launch team in Senegal, West Africa. After a few days with the team there, we then head to the UK as our EMIUK Board will be naming the next permanent Office Director and a new Board Chairman at the year-end meeting (I’m on the UK board). Alisha’s parents will be here with the boys while we’re gone, so a big thanks to them!
Ticket to Ride Europe - our favorite family game at the moment.

*On the horizon, it looks like I may be leading a project team to Zambia in early-mid 2017, and possibly stopping over in South Africa afterwards to meet up with our office launch team there and possibly assist with some speaking engagements.

*Alisha continues to manage the crazy family schedule, do lots of Beachbody work and substitute teach 1-2 times per week.

*The rabbits continue to eat hay and pellets. Murphy is a star and is the easiest-going pet we’ve ever had. Mildred on the other hand has lodged a formal complaint on account of the withdrawal of animal cracker treats from her diet, but we were tired of cleaning up after the stomach aches they were giving her. Occasional fresh vegetables have been added instead, but she has yet to declare whether this is acceptable or not.

Mildred (L) and Murphy (R) - our ridiculous rabbits
 
Graysen stealing Alisha's 'Shakeology'
An average Colorado Springs Summer morning,
out at family friends Laurel & Fred's farm
An average Colorado Springs Summer afternoon
An average Colorado Springs Summer evening
Hiking 'The Incline' (Google it!) on our 21st anniversary last month.

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