I've never met Jamie but I've followed him on his blog, read his book and prayed for him often. By his own public admission, Jamie is an urban missionary, pastor, church planter and
writer living in Winnipeg’s inner city West End neighborhood (that would be Canada). He is
founding co-director of Youth With A Mission (YWAM) Urban Ministries Winnipeg with his Australian wife Kim. They are in the midst of adopting their first child from Ethiopia. He has served with YWAM in Canada since 1994, bringing him to 9 nations. Yeah, I just copied and pasted that from his blog but today I read his latest post that moved me to pass it on to you. Yes, you don't know Jamie (most likely)…but his story is filled with spiritual depth, creativity, and longing…for here is a man who is on the front lines of ministry in a post-Christendom, post-Modern culture…he is attempting to follow the Holy Spirit, incarnate the presence of Jesus in the relationships that he is experiencing in his sphere of influence and praying that the Kingdom of God will be realized in the midst of all that He sees the Father doing in and around him in his own backyard. This type of lifestyle takes courage, fortitude, huge amonts of relational support and a level of emotional/spiritual endurance that can only come from God. You and me? We need to read things like this…we need to join in prayer over issues and situations like this…we need to know and support friends and brothers and sisters who are doing and living the life that all of us are called to live. Sometimes it feels like all I read about and see within Christian circles are articles filled with boasting, posturing and pride. Lately, it seems like all I've been reading about focuses on somebody's "advertisement" for their new book, seminar, or spiritual "miracle". It is refreshing to see something that is vibrantly honest and which requires the reader to enter into the life of the writer in some significant manner. You see, I have to do something now…I have to pray, examine my life/heart in ministry, evaluate the sacrifices I make and my own level of "whining" about my circumstances and I have to seek the Lord on how I am supposed to respond to such a clear need. I don't want to start editorializing any more on this article…for I'll let you read it and respond yourself in your own way as God leads you…all I know is that there are people who have the anointing of the Spirit upon their lives who take risks and then there are the rest of us who are too satified with models and methods of ministry that in no way can compare to the intensity and pure spiritual "raw-ness" that Jamie and his companions are experiencing. When many churches I know are arguing about donuts and coffee in the narthex/foyer or who really is in charge of fixing that divot in the parking lot or arguing about worship songs/styles…ministry like this is quietly happening in places where God is being experienced in new and revolutionary ways. Take a peak…pray for Jamie and his family and friends:
It is a strange thing to come into your
vocation. I have been a missionary for over 15 years, but it has been
in the last few years, when I have stepped into the role of pastor of
the church we planted (Little Flowers Community),
that I have felt the most fulfilled. However, it is also some of the
hardest times in my life, bringing me closer the warning flags for burn
out. I believe in what we are doing, convinced that we are humbly
following God’s missional identity for us. The challenge is to try and
make it sustainable.
Sustainability has to do with much more
than just finances (though that is significant, as I will explain
shortly). The levels of energy and time required to form and nurture a
missional community in an inner city context are far greater than we
expected, tapping our reserves very quickly. I am daily amazed by my
wife & our small team of missionaries who willingly live on next to
nothing, working long hours in (often) thankless service to God &
others. It truly is worth it.
However, I never thought that such a
commitment might threaten our ability to have a family. When my wife
& I found out that, despite being seemingly highly fertile that we
could not conceive, we began to look at other options. International
adoption was the most viable & responsible given our
circumstances. While local adoption was less expensive, we were told
to expect a 10-13 year wait to get a referral, even then only after
several other children came in and out of our home. After the loss of
our first child, we were not prepared for that.
And so we began the long and expensive process of adopting a child from Ethiopia.
The only benefit of the long process was that it allowed us to slowly
save the necessary funds (or at least a good portion of them).
However, due to changing policies, etc. the adoption costs increased.
We buckled down, simplifying even more and saved every penny. Things
were looking promising.
This week, however, we learned from the
Canadian “taxman” that I would not be eligible for the Clergy
Deductions. Essentially what it comes down to is that, because my
church cannot afford to pay me and because I am therefore paid through
my role as a local missionary (with YWAM),
I am not technically a paid pastor. As a result, the small return we
were looking at receiving has now transformed into a bill to the
Canadian government for over $3000. Our first appeal was rejected and
our second isn’t looking promising. Thankfully, with the money we have
been saving, we can pay it without going into debt, but it otherwise
cleans us out. The adoption fund is back to running on fumes.
I have every confidence that God will
provide, as He has time and again throughout our ministry. And as one
of my new Haitian friends told me while I was visiting there last
month, “Discouragement is not Christian”. We are hopeful and trusting
that God will provide for us our daily bread and we will be grateful
for His sufficient provision, even if it isn’t what we expected.
That being said, I am finding it difficult
not being discouraged. It is hard to not wonder if we are riding on
fumes ourselves, with the end just around the next corner. I want to
believe otherwise, but I am tired and drained. People have it far
worse than me, so I know I should get some perspective and move on, but
I just feel like I have so little left to give. Burn out isn’t a
present reality, and having been there before, I am very thankful for
that. At the same time, it also means I am unwilling to go there again.
I do not mean for this to sound like
whining. Rather it is just the honest confession of a missional
Christians seek to follow Christ’s radical call as best I can. These
are the realities of such a path. It is an all too common story. In
part we must all learn together to persevere regardless of
circumstances. However, we must also band together to consider new and
innovative ways to do mission & life together for the future.