Partnerships are far more valuable than we may realize. Not only are we able to accomplish more when we work with others, but we are also able to learn more about ourselves as our relationships stretch and challenge us.
One of my favorite passages to share at a wedding is Ecclesiastes 4:9-12. It states, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” (ESV)
Partnerships are far more valuable than we realize. Not only are we able to accomplish more when we work with others, we learn more about ourselves as our friends stretch and challenge us. Relationships should force us to think of others. If their are areas of weakness we must pick up the slack. In our areas of weakness we’re given the opportunity to ask for help. Both experiences are humbling as we’re reminded that we have been created for community and we know greater lasting joy through relationships.
The Great Commission Requires Partners
At Immanuel Baptist Church in Glasgow we’ve learned this through national and international mission projects over the last few years. In late 2009 the church began asking God to increase our desire to serve in the United States and around the world. Still, we needed more than an increased desire, we needed partners. A longtime partnership was already established in Reynosa, Mexico, but we sensed God was calling us to more.
We first connected with a church in midtown Manhattan that began just after September 11, 2001. The number of evangelical churches in New York City is very small considering the massive population of the city. In addition, there are more than 800 languages spoken across New York City as the world has come to NYC. The Gallery Church has a heart to reach as many people as possible no matter their background. The Gallery Church’s congregation is around 125 people and they know they will need help to reach the millions that call NYC home. In June 2012, around a dozen members of Immanuel joined with a group of 100 other Christians from around the United States to help the Gallery Church reach the Chelsea Park area. Through block parties, sports camps and handing out water bottles more than 65,000 personal invitations were extended to New Yorkers.
Jimmy is an International Mission Board missionary affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. He grew up in the Austin Tracy area of Barren County. Jimmy has lived in an amazing number of countries all over the globe, but he is currently living in a small country in North West Africa. His focus is on the Fulani people group. An overwhelming majority of the Fulani have never heard the Good News of Jesus Christ. In fact, many of them have never heard the name Jesus Christ. While this is shocking to our Bible belt ears, it is reality. Jimmy’s primary mission is relationship building and storytelling. The Fulani are an oral culture as the illiteracy rate is high and the living is primitive among their villages. Yet, the warmth and kindness of community and hospitality is refreshing among them. There are more than 33 million Fulanis living in sub-Saharan Africa. Obviously, Jimmy can’t reach them all, but he is working to build a relationship among the Fulani-Fulbe that live near him. To accomplish this he must have partners.
We Can’t Do It Alone
Our story takes a turn at this point as the folks of Immanuel realize the task to help Jimmy is greater than us. If we are going to be effective in the mission our commitment must reach beyond one trip to Africa per year for many years to come. In 2012 we were able to establish partnerships with Cave City Baptist Church and Coral Hill Baptist Church to join in sending two or three teams per year to visit Jimmy and to build relationships with our new friends among the Fulani. So far the experience has been fascinating as we have begun to make new friends across the Atlantic and relationships have been deepened among churches in Barren County as we travel the world together.
Since the early 2000s Immanuel has partnered with missionaries in Reynosa, Mexico. Aided by a close relationship with Barren County natives, Shawn and Carla Estes, we have sent families and individuals to serve in anything from Backyard Bible Clubs to construction projects to toy giveaways at Christmas. Recently these relationships have intensified as we partner with Project Fortify to strengthen Disciples of Christ Baptist Church, Pillar of Hope orphanage, Way of Life Refugee Ministry on the banks of the Rio Grande and a care ministry to children with cancer. It is relationships that have sustained the opportunities to serve this poverty stricken region and as they deepen we find ourselves being even more committed to care.
Partnerships Offer Great Encouragement
That reminds me of our passage in Ecclesiastes 4. Partnerships and relationships provide encouragement and help beyond the abilities of a single person. Relationships provide strength beyond that of one organization. Society continually flirts with the notion of individualism and being self-sustaining. Yet when we focus only on our ourselves and our own abilities we miss the joy of being a part of something greater than one person or organization can accomplish. Maybe you can’t build relationships with folks on the other side of the planet, but you can build relationships with people across the street or down the hall of your apartment building. We’ve been created for community with God and with others. Look for those opportunities in your church family, in your personal family, in the business community, or wherever you’re joined with the opportunity. It will take you places you never dreamed you could go.