Friday, October 14, 2011

Mentoring experiences that don't seem like Mentoring

That's me in Liberian bush 1989-90!

Mentoring--what kinds of images does it dredge up? I never consider many of my life experiences mentoring. Many of them are. Either I have been mentored or I am mentoring someone else. I was thinking tonight of the lives that I have touched and where those people are today. A few months ago I got an email from a Liberian missionary in Guinea. He had asked a SIM missionary if they knew me and they did. So he got in contact with me. I could not place him. He told me that his wife had been one of the ladies I had visited every week in West Point in the worse part of Monrovia. It was so bad no one drove into the area. They walked. Each week I walked in and I walked out, never getting off the paved road. I would have been horribly lost, robbed or shot! That is how dangerous it was to get off the paved road. I met with Bessie every week and we studied the Bible together.
I enjoyed our time together. One of my favorite pictures is me with her--such joy in sitting together with a sister in Christ to read God's Word. She and her husband are now Pentecostal missionaries in Guinea. I touched her life, but never knew how much until recently!
Mentoring--what kinds of images does it dredge up? I usually think of meeting with someone to teach me something that I really want to know. But I never thought that being there for someone day in and day out could be a mentoring relationship. I never considered many of my life experiences in the realm of mentoring.

Another young Liberian worked for me and many others on the ELWA campus. I banked his money for him. He attended Carver Academy just across the road from ELWA. I got to know him well, visited his family, and enjoyed at least two meals with his family! It was at his house that I ate monkey meat--either that or fish head! No way would I do that.
This young man has graduated from seminary in KY and is now pastoring a Methodist church in Iowa. We attended his graduation in 2009 and was able to visit him in IA this summer. I had no idea how I touched his life, but I know that we have remained friends all these years. I love him like a son, and I am happy to call him brother and pastor!

Another young man told me after he became a missionary that I had inspired him. We worked together in Junior Church as I was preparing to go to Liberia. I don't even remember what I did that had such a profound affect on him but he said I had been an inspiration to become a missionary. I know I sat around his table with his mom and sister and talked about missions a lot! He is now a missionary doctor!

We never know how we are going to influence someone's life. Why shouldn't we want to help some new person as they get adjusted to Niger? Why wouldn't we want to show them where to find things, how to shop, how to bargain, how to buy a gas bottle, how to light a stove, how to wash vegetables, and how to make something from scratch! I am sure we had someone who did that for us!

I remember Lois Balzer, my next door neighbor in Liberia. My first night there, she told me what to do when the ants got in my sugar. Freeze them and pick them out! I did! I remember her counsel the day I was robbed in the market! Run after the thief yelling, "rogue" "rogue" and people will help you. They did. What would I have done if I had not had someone like Sandy Dick to mentor me in running the Bible Club at the SOS Orphanage, Victoria and Richard Morris who taught me so much about friendship and African food, and Randy and Adena Wildman, and Linda Tiedje who was my prayer partner, or my next door neighbor Mary Lord or Libby Muchmore who gave me cultural experiences I will never forget. Those experiences prepared me for my 3 years in Benin, and my 12 years in Niger. Each one poured something into me--whether it was how to run a kids club with 100 orphans, or how to lead a one-on-one Bible study and how to worship in the Liberian Church. Or how to enter into the culture appropriately and how to enjoy every minute of it. I went out as a short termer but I knew I wanted to be a missionary and God opened the doors for me. 16 months in Liberia carved Africa on my heart. Each of those brothers and sisters in Christ mentored me in informal and formal ways teaching me culture, teaching me language and so much more, being Christ to the people I came to serve.

Let us not forget that in our day to day interactions we are doing the same thing here. Take time to just be with new missionaries, and to be willing to just listen. Help them feel comfortable to ask what they may think are silly questions. They are here to learn!

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