Confession: when I started the Timothy Internship Program, I had an agenda. My idea was to pack up my laptop, move to the Philippines, start a web design business, and mentor Filipinos to be local programmers instead of Overseas Filipino Workers. I was really excited about doing this, because I thought it would be fun, different, revolutionary, and the ultimate expression of the talents God has given me.
The impact would be huge and rapid. It would take off like wildfire, pump jet fuel into Iloilo City’s economy, keep hundreds of families together, and cause a massive cultural shift in this generation’s mindset. People would reject despair and corruption, while embracing God’s provision in their lives.
When I arrived in Iloilo, I tried to explain everything. The missionaries patiently listened to my ramble of ideas, then politely asked logistical questions. Although they were supportive of helping me explore the concept, I began to see holes. Then culture shock set in. I experienced the extra effort adjustment takes, let alone adjusting and running a business. I also began to question what a successful implementation of my ideas would look like. My passion for this vision of “mentorship through web design” waned.
And there was a more fundamental problem: this was my vision, not God’s.
So I sat back and let the internship take its course. We helped with children’s ministries, medical outreaches, a conference, and taught in a Bible school. Throughout all of these experiences, there was a common theme: relationships. We did not simply show up and start doing ministry. We stood on relationships built by missionaries already on the field.
Missionaries establish these relationships not just for friendship, but as a crucial piece of implementing God’s design for discipleship. Missionaries do not exist to broadcast the Gospel at the top of their lungs and leave. They exist to pour their lives into people who are ready to own the Gospel. Once ownership of the Gospel is taken, missionaries step back and watch the church grow. This isn’t something you can do in two weeks, or even six months.
Long-term visions cannot be realized through short-term plans. You cannot run in with a box of tools, leave it on someone’s doorstep, and hope a church is built. Likewise, you cannot run in unannounced, establish a ministry through your own efforts, then expect someone else to take over. It takes relationships, patience, and a vision that’s worth the long haul.
It takes time.