I often think about the words of Dr. Cox, who was very influential in my formation at Harding. He tells of a lesson he learned as a young missionary in Africa prone to focusing on sermon preparation and delivery. He came to realize that his priorities were slightly misaligned and posted a written reminder for himself: 20% of what you do is sermon preparation and delivery, 80% of what you do is about being in the lives of people. I’m sure he’ll forgive me if my quote isn’t exact; the essence is right at least.
Sometimes things just work out. Probably not all that often in first—time cross-cultural world, but sometimes. A couple of years ago, we surveyed the city in order to create a list of possible target areas. We had a pretty good tour guide, so we felt good about our first impressions.
We have a strategy. I like it. We worked hard on it and tried to be realistic. It is no surprise that young missionaries can have unrealistic expectations, and I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing. It is equally fair to call low expectations unrealistic given the Reality that we serve. To be honest, I am torn between these two modes of thought. On one hand, it is the great expectation of God that sent me into the mission field in the first place. On the other hand, it is the cowardly fear that high expectations will set us up for failure that causes me to hit the brakes. On one hand, it is the foolish zeal of inexperience that strains at the bridle. On the other hand, it is the wisdom of those gone before us that we should dedicate ourselves to learning for a time and approach our ministry to people in the careful manner of a master builder.