Day 18: Belonging to a Missions Sending Team

Missionary Sending Team

In the late ’90s, I stood up at the end of an Urbana Missions Conference to symbolize my willingness to dedicate my life to full-time missions, thinking it would mean working as a nurse in Africa. I would meet a nice pastor-to-be who shared my vision and we would spend our lives on the top of the spiritual totem pole, as foreign missionaries.

We would deny every day comforts and wear second hand clothing sent from well-meaning church ladies and convert souls to Christ with our love and service.

This did not happen. I met a nice business man instead. I have every comfort and struggle not with second-hand cast-offs, but with consumerism.

My life took a very different course than I had planned. And for awhile, I felt guilty.  We are, after all, commanded to, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone. (Mark 16:15, NLT) Whatever I was doing was less than the Christian ideal.

As I grew in my faith, I realized there is no spiritual totem pole. I can not manipulate God into thinking I’m holy with my outward actions, he is not impressed. I also realized we are called to go into all the world and preach the Good News—but that’s wherever we’re called to be. And that looks different for everyone. For some, it’s rural Michigan, for some, urban Chicago, for some, a mountain ski town, for others, their college campus, etc.

But the truth is, there are many people in the world who have not heard the Good News and some will be called to take it to them through their lives and relationships, living in and among the people, meeting them in the context of their culture.

Fast forward a few years. One of my besties and her husband (he’s pretty cool, too) had a very clear call from God, a disruption in the life they were living, to be “goers”—to bring the love of Christ to Indonesia. It has been an absolute privilege to  watch God work from the beginning. The call, the exploration, the application, the acceptance, and then…the invitation to several friends, including my husband and me, to be a part of their Barnabas team. I didn’t realize this was how God would use me in foreign missions, as a missionary to Indonesia, in the sending capacity.

A Barnabas team, or sending team, is a small group of committed people who come together to care for missionaries, striving to help meet their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. The missionaries can be open and vulnerable with this group, sharing their needs, successes and defeats.

Belonging to this team has been so exciting—I’m now a missionary to Indonesia in the sender capacity! As part of the team, I’m invested, and as our friends would say, essential! in the work that will be done there. In Serving As Senders, Neil Pirolo teaches, “It is clearly established that those who serve as senders share an equal responsibility and privilege with those who go (p. 184).”

I’d encourage any of those who are interested in foreign missions to consider being a part of a sending team, you’ll become a part of ministry in ways you never knew you could from your home turf…. You’ll belong to a specific purpose, belong to the ups and downs of your global partners and belong to the lives touched through the work of the missionaries plus the team.

Now join me in meeting the Lloyds and reading my friend Leigh’s interview about the meaning of the sending team in their ministry.

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Zac, Leigh and their 4 sweet kids

How’d you come up with the name Barnabas team? Is that a common team people use?

Leigh Lloyd: We heard the term Barnabas Team from our mentors Gene and Karen Platte. Gene passed away suddenly on Aug 11 of this year and we’re feeling his loss greatly. But his legacy is living on through our team, which he helped us form. Many missionaries have a team of people that function as a Barnabas Team, but it goes by lots of different names.

What do you see as their function?

LL: A Barnabas team is the support behind the people on the ground. Many members together offer prayer, encouragement, wisdom and input, compassion, and financial support. This team will also be around to help us by providing a stateside address when we move out of the country. When we are back in the USA in four years we will need help lining up housing, transportation, various appointments. This team (we hope!) will be able to help line up some of those details. This team CONNECTS the missionaries to the local Body of Christ. For a more concise and accurate description just read Serving as Senders by Neal Pirolo.

Is it common for missionaries to have a sending team?

LL: From people we talk to it seems like a lot of missionaries have some sort of closer team of people behind them that is willing to pray and care for them. We have also heard that many people wait to set up this team until they are part way through support raising and get ‘stuck.’

How has your team helped you so far?

LL: The team has helped in many ways. First, this team prayed for us as we were investigating where God was leading us to serve. They have offered encouragement to us. We feel like this team knows the details of what is going on with us, so we feel a sense of belonging WITH them. This team prays regularly for us…both for financial support to come in, for connections with praying people to be made, and any difficulties we are going through. Also, this team has helped to spread the word about what we are doing. They have mentioned God’s call on our lives to other people, which has offered us more opportunities to share God’s story. This team responds to our email updates, cares about what we are doing, and is excited to see God work. The Barnabas Team is a blessing to us!

How do people become a part of one?

LL: If you hear of someone thinking of heading into missions and ask them if you can be on their care team, support team, whatever, I’m sure that person would feel blessed and excited to have you partner with them!

What are you hoping from the sending team over time?

LL: We hope this team continues to care and be invested in our lives. We pray they will offer encouragement and be a safe place to share when life gets hard both now and on the field in Indonesia. We desire that they would be praying regularly for us and the people we are going to serve. I am hoping this team feels blessed over time at being a part of God’s story in Indonesia (without ever having to set foot there).

What does it mean to you to have a Barnabas team?

LL: It means we are not alone. It means we have less of a chance of going ‘off-course’ as we embark on life in Indonesia. We have a close group of people that will hold us accountable. That is biblical…we need accountability and counsel. It means we can not believe for a moment that what we do doesn’t matter or that what we do is ignored. It means God is in this…it is His Body that is doing His work.

Anything else you can think of?

LL: We are driven to share the truth that God through Jesus Christ is the source of living water and we ALL (missionaries and those following false religion and everyone in between) hew out broken cisterns that can hold no water. God uses people, and in no way do people have be superstars to do His work. Get involved in bringing the gospel to those that don’t have an opportunity to hear!!

The Lloyds are currently at 66% support and are hoping to leave for Indonesia Spring 2016.

We love to share meals, dessert, coffee, do Skype calls. We won’t beg you for money. We know God will provide. We are offering the opportunity to join a team of people who are bringing the gospel ‘to the ends of the earth.’

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  2. […] ask that you please let us know by Thanksgiving, if possible. A friend wrote a gracious and helpful blog article on what it means to be a part of a sending team for missionaries. We hope you are all encouraged to […]