I was surprised to discover that we haven't written about this. But then I started the post, and realized how hard this is to encapsulate. However, this has been quite impacting for our whole team, so here goes:
Depending on what missions agency you work with, there are different prerequisite requirements, quite similar to entering medical school, actually. They vary. Sometimes they include cross-cultural training, and oftentimes bible school or seminary classes. WHM has a somewhat unusual set-up in that the centerpiece of their training is a discipleship program called Sonship. In my mind, this shows great wisdom on their part, for it speaks an opinion that, for surviving and thriving in the work we are settling into, we are not predominately needing more knowledge (about the Bible, about theology, about culture, etc). Rather we (quite desperately) need a deeper and better daily application of that which we already know.
Every week or two, for the better part of a year, we would meet via Skype with a WHM Sonship "discipler" and almost daily we would work through introspective questions. If you think back through our nomadic lives, you can picture us rendez-vous-ing in the strangest of circumstances.
One of the core quotes of Sonship goes something like this: "I have good news for you! You are much worse than you think you are!" Pause... "and the grace of God is so much greater than you ever dreamed it was."
There have been many transformative things taken from our Sonship program, but if I had to make one central, it is the unrelenting uncovering of the sin of our heart. The basic argument goes like this: Deep in my heart, I really want to be able to contribute something to my salvation or goodness (or I just don't believe that God could love me), and so I need to hide most of my sins and more or less publicize my virtues (which does take a bit of the virtue out of them). In other words, if the grace of God is anything other than free, then we have no vested interest in honesty - in the church or in the world. We rather have very good reasons to hide the truth about ourselves from everyone, including ourselves.
Thus we may be quick to judge others, but we can't even admit to ourselves that we are hiding our own sins, much less admit what they are.
Sonship is relentless is leading the way through this into repentance, and thus into a discovery of the greatness of the grace and love of our God. Before Sonship, I would never have said it (or even thought it), but for me, it has been honestly a shift from "God's love is so great that he loves me, an imperfect person to be sure, but overall with a lot of positive qualities and a pretty decent asset to God's team" TO "God's love is so great that it extends to me, full of pride and self-conceit, unwilling to even acknowledge my own faults and persistently rejecting the grace of God in favor of some worthless alternative that leaves my pride looking sort of intact."
The point is this: the awareness of my sin magnifies the love of God in my heart. But it's a bit "chicken or egg", because I don't think I would ever admit my sin to myself if the great love of God was not there to call me out of it.
We can be honest. We can share our weakness, and it becomes consistent that God would use our weaknesses to glorify himself. We need the gospel every day every bit as much as any person in Burundi that we would seek to serve, so the harmful "I-versus-them" dichotomy withers. Our work, now in France, also in Burundi, is never the basis for our worth. Whether we succeed or fail, our worth is that God has loved us with an everlasting love...
Praise God! Hugs from the Batchellers to everyone! We are still dying to do Sonship but I think we are getting the next best thing and doing GCL with our missional community this spring...
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