So there I was. A few days ago I was at church and someone asked me what I do with my time when ITEC isn’t traveling. I’m not known for being short on words, but I had to think about how to respond to this question. I came up with what I thought at the time was a satisfactory answer. I told him about one of my secondary roles of overseeing the maintenance of the ITEC homes. I explained to him that the “downtime” of COVID-19 allowed me to complete some of the larger house projects that had been on hold. We all have the normal, mundane activities of life we must tend to. However, are these home maintenance accomplishments all I want to have to show for the 2020 “downtime?”
A Purpose in 2020
This year has forced us to re-evaluate much of what we are doing and to ask the “why” questions. A.B. Simpson (founder of the Christian & Missionary Alliance denomination) has some thoughts about motive in his devotional called 31 Kings: “It is not only what we say and do, but why. God sees the very thought and purpose, and He judges the act by its intent. The Pharisees were virtuous, but their virtue was a selfish cloak, intended for display, and therefore worthless. It was simply an advertisement, and its motive destroyed its value.”
While the “why” is most important, the “what” is cannot be discredited. Several of us at ITEC have been reading What’s Best Next by Matt Perman. On the back cover, he states, “Productivity isn’t just about getting more things done. It’s about getting the right things done—things that count, make a difference, and move the world forward.”
As you may know, COVID-19 caused international travel to come to a halt. Once March hit, our team was grounded from traveling. Much of what ITEC does centers around training which also requires traveling. But what do we do when we can’t travel? There is normally the buildup for a trip, the trip itself, and then the reset period that follows. The busyness of the normal training routine has stopped.
God Has Brought New Opportunities
This year, we had the opportunity to partner with a church from Georgia to share knowledge about mechanical and medical training, and we have another church coming soon to explore a similar partnership. Our medical team had an open door to equip medical trainers through Zoom in South America, and hold a virtual COVID training with students in East Africa. The Lord also provided an opportunity to do virtual film training with a ministry in Central Africa.
So what is ITEC doing with 2020? You might have noticed last fall we changed our logo to include “Develop, Train, Equip.” At ITEC, Equip is examining how we can equip others to engage in the mission of equipping indigenous Christ followers for meaningful participation in the Great Commission. Often times, short-term mission trips are focused on going and doing. This has the potential to sideline the indigenous church, overlooking local strengths and resources, which limits national participation. The slowdown in 2020 has challenged us to consider how we can support more churches in re-evaluating their mission strategy. The halt to international travel has certainly made us more aware of the benefits of training indigenous Christ followers. We have been encouraged by the stories of our partners continuing to use their skills for ministry while we and other short-term teams are unable to be there with them.
Stewardship of a Challenging Year
Opportunities are always around us. Lord-willing, we have been faithful with this season that God has sovereignly brought upon us. Similar to the “Parable of the Talents” in Matthew 25, we don’t want to have “buried” 2020 in the ground. Our Master expects that we are faithful stewards of what He has entrusted to us.
We anticipate that we will start traveling and training again starting in early 2021. But we have seen that our small team’s ability to travel and train has its limitations. What if we could multiply ourselves? What if rather than ITEC becoming bigger and bigger and doing more and more training trips, we equipped other churches and ministries to their own training trips?
Regardless of whether we are developing, training, or equipping, we need to be about the bigger overall goal of inspire Great Commission participation. All of us have a part to play in the Great Commission. May we all look back upon this time and see the hand of God leading and guiding us into new directions that we may not have seen had this pandemic not come upon us.