Platform: It’s about People
Verlyn Raak, far left, on a mission trip to Croc, Mexico. His church has a long-term relationship with people in Croc that has been impactful for both groups.
By Verlyn Raak
First Reformed Church in Sioux Center, Iowa, has been experiencing the transition from being a missionary-sending church to being a going-and-doing church. The key to a successful transition has been leading with relationships.
On one level it’s about relationships among family members and close friends who are serving in mission and who have invited our congregation to come alongside them and get involved with the people they are serving. This is a great way to engage people in short-term mission trips and develop long-term relationships at the same time.
Relationships built on a long-term commitment are the key to lasting significance in the communities that we have been called to help. I have witnessed communities that have had various groups of passionate people come and do wonderful things for them. Over time, these communities come to wait for and depend on the next group to come and again provide something wonderful for them. They are always appreciative of the gifts, and the servers go back home feeling like they did great kingdom work—but in reality very little lasting impact was made.
Real change is possible for both parties only when you get to learn each others’ names, language, and joys and sorrows, and connect in the future to see how people are doing.
I have always been pleased with my experience spending time and working with RCA missionaries who have taken the time to build relationships with the people they are serving. The missionaries then seek out trusted people who can communicate needs and opportunities effectively.
Just as important as trusted leaders in the field are faithful leaders in congregations who can be the contact persons for missionaries and build relationships with them. When missionaries have a need or a prayer request they really appreciate knowing who to contact without having to explain who they are or to have to look for someone new each year to explain things to.
When we keep the focus on building relationships—with our missionaries, with the people we serve locally and globally, and with each other—we grow as disciples as well as volunteers.
Verlyn Raak is chair of the mission committee at First Reformed Church in Sioux Center, Iowa. Platform gives RCA members a chance to share their opinions.