I was taught to lead out of my strengths. In the past month, Peter Scazzero's "Emotionally Healthy Church" has challenged that lesson. In the book, Scazzero encourages leaders to learn to lead through their weaknesses.
One of my shortcomings is being detail-oriented. As timing would have it during the last month I've been planning a trip that was logistically challenging, and if I didn't lead well through the details the trip probably would have been canceled.
On Saturday, I leave with three college students, two high school students and four adults to go sea kayaking in the Sea of Cortez west of Hermosillo, Mexico.
Mexico has been in the headlines quite a bit. The country has seen increasing violence from drug cartels that are gaining momentum and, in some places, controlling the country. There have been thousands of deaths in Ciudad Juarez in the past year.
Understandably, caution has been raised about the safety of travel in Mexico. I've spent hours on the phone with the ministry that organized our adventure, the risk management officers of Young Life, local parents and committee members about our trip. For a couple of weeks, it seemed like every day an additional precaution and requirement was added for safety's sake. We've rented a satellite phone, joined up with another group, changed the vehicles we were traveling in and adjusted our travel schedule to try be as safe as possible. I've had to be detail-oriented in the preparation, and despite the headaches, I think it has made me a more complete director. I'm thankful for that challenge. But because of the research and knowledge gained preparing for this trip, I've learned about a sad trend growing in the American church.
In 2 Corinthians, Paul writes about his trials during his travels to Asia. He tells the Church of Corinth, "For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life:" (2 Cor. 1:8)
Paul suffered greatly in Asia but he tells his friends in Corinth that God was there for him and that Jesus had already done the work for Him. Paul wrote that it was his belief that those he was ministering to grew because of the suffering he endured.
The American church is pulling out of Mexico because of the increased danger. In a time when Mexico might need American missionaries' help, they are leaving the country or not going there in the first place because of the reports (although the vast majority of violence is drug lord vs. drug lord or kidnapping of wealthy Mexicans). Our culture teaches us to go where it's comfortable.
If Paul would have gone only where he was comfortable, it'd be interesting to see how it would have slowed the growth of the early church. I'm not calling for a mass pilgrimage to save Mexico.
To be honest, I'm a little hypocritical because I only allowed for the trip if we were certain of our safety. Additionally, our trip is 30 percent mission-based and 70 percent for the growth of the individuals on the trip.
But if your church starts to talk about a mission trip to Mexico, give it a chance. There is a country in need just a day's drive away.
Jesus' most common phrase was "fear not." Fear is keeping the American church out of Mexico. And as long as the media continues to put the violence on the front page, it will keep us from leading out of our weakness, and Mexico will plunge deeper into despair.