Blog EntriesIndigenous Missions

Re-balancing the Seesaw

From the series Missions from China—A Maturing Movement


Out by a mountain near where my daughter is buried is a restaurant my family loves to visit. We have many happy family memories in and about that mountain.

At the restaurant is a seesaw. The last time we went to the restaurant it was for a wedding reception. The kids weren’t interested in staying around for all the “grown-up” talk, and quickly found their way to the children’s area with the seesaw. They experimented with different numbers and combinations of kids on each end of the seesaw. The heavier kids giggled with victory. The lighter kids giggled with frustration and tried to lean back so as to increase the effective force of their weight in an attempt to “win” in the struggle.

The forces acting on a Chinese missionary for and against missionary service are a little bit like that seesaw. Pushing the scale down toward not serving are practical realities. Visas in countries of service are difficult to obtain, finances are difficult to find.  Field related difficulties include loneliness, culture-shock, language learning troubles, unusual foods. Some problems are, or at least seem to be, unpreventable. Yet there are factors that set on the opposite end of the seesaw. There are spiritual benefits such as growing closer to God (if missionary service really is directed by him), and calling.

Missionary-sending organization can’t change these forces. It can’t increase a person’s calling from God or change the flavor of a new or unusual food. But missionary-sending organizations, if functioning well, can change the relative heaviness of these various factors for or against missionary service. By training missionaries how to learn a language, for example, the negative downward force of language adjustment is mitigated. By a telephone call, loneliness is lessened. Careful candidate selection with attention to an applicant’s sense of call and relationship with God decreases heartbreak for all.

The interventions of a missionary-sending organization can be likened to what a skilled maintenance man at the park with a satchel of tools around his belt and a twinkle in his eye might accomplish. If the maintenance man were to change where the seeasaw is attached, moving the connection point away from the center of the board, he would effectively change the relative strength of the forces acting on either side of the board.

Helpful mission-sending organization interventions shift the pivot point. As an example, in the picture below, the more the attachment point of the seesaw is shifted toward the left, the less effect, the less force, negative family factors will have in discouraging, in “tipping the scale against,” an individual's missionary participation.

Figure: Fulcrum Model

I recently interviewed several Chinese missionaries. In my article, “9 Best Practices for a Chinese Missionary Sending Organization: Strategies to Assist with Chinese Missionary Sustainability,” writing from the perspectives of these missionaries, I cover some of the ideas these missionaries have for how to shift the seesaw connection point in the right direction for increased sustainability.

Image credit: Seesaw by takasuii via Flickr.

Si Shi (四石)

Si Shi (pseudonym) has lived in China for more than five years and has many friends who work in the medical profession. View Full Bio


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