The Long-Term Approach
At McDonald’s the lady puts a Big Mac in my hand almost as I click my i-Pad doing instant research on Wikipedia. At my doctor’s the nurse is taking my pulse while the on-site lab is telling me what’s in my blood.
Yet in a world of fast serve and quick fix, MSI approaches service as long-term.
“Though MSI began by mobilizing numerous short-term professional trips that proved popular, we found that long-termers with a commitment to a specific site or program were much more effective in building long-term relationships and in achieving projected outcomes.” ‑ Dr. John F. Gregory, in The MSI Ethos.[i]
The MSI long-term approach involves how we work together, how we define long and short term, how short and long complement each another, and two key elements on which they rest.
MSI professionals serve in Southwest China for varying periods:
- 3 days – to meet a quick need
- 3 years – an associate’s normal term
- 30 years – a lifetime commitment
Whatever our time frame, we seek to serve together in long-term relationships with humility, integrity and simplicity.[ii] For us, “long-term” carries the synergy and dynamism of working for different lengths of time, over the long haul joined in the unity found only in the body.
Together we reach for long-term goals, professionals from different backgrounds, all committed to demonstrating the good news through long-term relationships with the people we serve and with one another. As servants, we pool our professional services, intent on showing the our father’s glory – together.
As our __#__[iii] long-term workers complete projects, they build relationships. They commit to completing a project, yet they value personal relationships over project objectives. Their interactions – with officials, with local people, and with local staff – hold priority.
We also see long termers serving short-term teams with irreplaceable contacts and logistics. In addition, long-term teams scout out suitable locales for MSI projects, while they keep an eye out for local believers to train as leaders.
Overarching it all, our long termers take the long look by striving to ensure the work is both sustainable and reproducible.
Each year about 300 MSI short termers work in projects in Southwest China, accomplishing certain objectives of a long-term project. They may run a summer program or deliver a specific training. They may be seeking a vision of the project, or they may be giving pastoral care.
The short-term teams serve in tandem with, and under the guidance and support of, long term workers.[iv] Short termers are not the stars of their own show, but the supporting cast of a long-term demonstration of love.[v]
Besides appreciating the MSI ethos, short-term teams seek to understand the particular site, the situation of the long-term project, and the needs of the long-term team. Like long termers, they promote the effectiveness and sustainability of MSI work sites over the long haul. As a result of this long-term attitude, many XYZ short termers have responded to the Lord’s call to serve long term.
Short-Term Work, Eternal Perspective[vi]
For short termers, too, relationships are important. We urge each team member to build trust through repeat visits to the same site.[vii] Many feel the call to work in the same location trip after trip, while back home they keep on praying for those they meet on each visit.
Even though they cannot stay in China for a long period, they serve faithfully for the long-term.[viii] Their trips feel short, yet their service is long. We have indeed seen these servants bring forth much fruit.
Two Keys for the Long-Term Approach
The first key is not about duration but about relationships. In the MSI ethos, Long-Term Approach means continuous loving interactions with the governmental and institutional leaders who are our hosts, with the people we directly serve, with local leaders, and with MSI colleagues.
Our relationships can bear fruit only if we root them in how we act with one another in him. Make no mistake – even in the body we encounter challenges and struggles. From 17 years of MSI experience come stories you have read in our bulletins which follow this sequence:
- A friendship or task may seem
- By prayer, it may upgrade to
- From here we begin to see our father getting much done!
The second key also involves not duration, not how much we do, nor even what we do. It rests instead on our attitudes and motivations. In this area we can only rely on the Word to instruct us. Let this double-edged sword search our hearts, pierce the divisions of our soul and spirit, of our joints and marrow, and discern the thoughts and intentions of our hearts. Regardless of what we do or how long it takes, we must immerse and consecrate our attitudes and motivations in the word. Our commitment reaches beyond whether we prefer a fast fix or a long haul.
After a few years of service, like Pogo, we may begin to realize, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” Yet our fear of the father can give birth to right attitudes and motivations for the healing of our shame or selfishness, our anxiety or guilt. Then the spirit enables us to serve with a long-term approach for any duration.
McDonald’s serves burgers fast, while MSI serves people long-term. We serve together in MSI projects of both long and short term. We focus on our relationships, attitudes, and motivations. Please take time to read the articles in our bulletins, and when He calls, join us in serving with a long-term approach.
November 22, 2011
[i] [This phrase gives a holier-than-thou tone you do not intend] Some groups are too eagerly getting into short term mission with dangers of being anxious for quick fix methods or satisfying the misled sense of guilt to return to him by performing a role or duty.
[ii] “posture” in America can connote hypocrisy. Plus the shorter phrase carries more punch.
[iii] This blank needs a number to be consistent with the next section.
[iv] I moved this sentence here from its original paragraph.
[v] My invention entirely. Hope I have not twisted your meaning.
[vi] other title options:
- Short-Term Work, Long-Term Perspective
- Short-Term Work with a Long-Term Perspective
[vii] I moved these two sentences here. Hope I have not twisted your meaning.
[viii] Years ago, we have coined the term “long–term-non-residential” to describe this group of professionals in their long term approach. [So sorry if I deleted a sacred MSI term, but it took this westerner three tries to understand it, and I think you want to give your readers better service than that.]
You really made this piece so much better!
Dr. Matthew Koh, M.D.