Prayer and Visioning Encounters
A few years ago we developed a volunteer team experience we called prayer encounters. Often teams wondered before coming what a prayer encounter was all about. I told the teams, “I have one goal, to break your hearts.” They spent a week of listening to others tell their stories, of seeing some of the trials and tragedies of refugees, of witnessing the difficulty of cross cultural outreach, and of learning to appreciate the freedom and grace they experience as Christians. One of those team members remarked, “You were successful. My heart was broken. But then I didn’t know what to do with my broken heart.” Prayer encounters helped others know how to support, sustain, and encourage us as CBF field personnel. And we are truly grateful. However, in this missions world of shifting paradigms, prayer has taken on deeper significance. As Daniel Vestal puts it in the “It’s Time” curriculum, “Prayer is missions”. The goal of a prayer and visioning encounter is to help take those prayer journeys a step further - a step beyond prayer as support. Prayer and Visioning Encounters help a participant decide what God is asking him or her to do with their broken heart.
Teams participating in these Prayer and Visioning Encounters will have a greater responsibility than members of past teams. They will be asked to join in a significant amount of preparation. They will be asked to have others join them in their prayers for the journey and the experience. They will be asked to position themselves as learners rather than doers. They will engage with people and situations that with the work of the Holy Spirit will impact them and change them. They will be asked to PRAY. But it won’t end there. When they return to their churches, their work will only have just begun. They will share with their own church community what God has shown them during their time away. They will spend time with leadership after the trip to discern how God is asking them to respond as a result of their experience. They will be catalysts the church community continues to respond to God’s call for the church to be on mission in this new globalized world.
I have often said and still hold that missions is more about what God would do in you than through you. Prayer is where God begins the work. When we go, we observe, we learn, and we pray, God changes us. When that happens, the world around us changes.
Here are just a few comments from those just returning from an experience in North Africa:
In one of my college courses we are expected to complete a community service. One of the options was to tutor a migrant worker. Before this trip that would never have even occurred to me as an option. Now it is at the top of my list.
As a result of this trip I realize all that I have. I quite simply thank God a lot more often. I appreciate being able to pray and being before God. I have learned how to pray.
Everyone has a story. I need to take the time to listen. There is power in the story. As a result of hearing so many stories, I am going to find some way to act and make a difference.
I have learned to give it all back over to God and let him handle things. Prayer is at the forefront of my life. I have learned and am now teaching the young people at our church that when we see “________________, field personnel in North Africa” that blank is a real person.
My happy nerve was struck when I realized that an International student was sitting across from me in one of my classes. Before I never would have noticed. Now I not only noticed but I am building a friendship with her.
I have brought my prayer life back to my school. Now I don’t think, “What do you mean I have another kid in my class!” Now I want each kid to feel wanted. I put myself in their place and I feel their fear as they look at he the board and can’t read the language. People come to us for a reason. Instead of avoiding change, I search it out.
The tea here is not as good as it was there! I notice the sunrise and sunset because I am on African time now. I have more patience.
Are you interested in...
helping your church become more intentional in their missions journey?
Are you interested in catalyzing spiritual growth and renewal that leads to action in your church community?
If you would like to explore the possibilities of a prayer and visioning encounter for your church please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Praying with you as we journey together. Nell Green, CBF field personnel