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Carol and I moved 10 times in the first 22 years of our marriage, mostly into different cities. We desired community yet we were far from family and friends. So, we intentionally built new relationships - relationships lasting many decades. We still keep in contact with many friends through phone, texts and zoom; These relationships are so valuable to us.
What is community, especially in our current reality? Why is it important?
Community, as we know it, has changed dramatically. Relationships, crucially important to our personal health, have been negatively impacted over the last season. We know with certainty -- healthy relationships and healthy communities are important to us.
How do we build communities and what’s our motivation? The definition of community clarifies.
As we moved into a newly constructed neighborhood in Ottawa, everyone was new! There were NO old friendships in the neighborhood. We all became friends. We had street parties, BBQs, special events around holidays - fond memories for us.
As we helped plant a church (3 different times) we became very close to those we worked alongside. We gave of ourselves completely, serving long hours, skipping vacations, having potlucks, all to help build a new community. We grew in so many ways during those times.
We moved from Ontario to our townhouse complex in B.C. some 23 years ago. We share a common ownership. We work together to beautify, clean, improve, and protect our homes. We help by lending tools, sharing baking ingredients, and enjoying suppers together.
We are experiencing community in the MORE Network. We are like-minded people serving together, caring for cross-cultural workers and MKs (Missionary Kids) and TCKs (Third Culture Kids) of all ages.
Nothing of lasting value is accomplished without two-way heartfelt relationships. They’re formed through numerous points of meaningful contact, interaction, passionate agreement and often disagreement, yet coming together through God’s calling, an opportunity to serve, united.
Agreement on all aspects of life and ministry are not a requirement for community. In fact, strong relationships are built on healthy dialogue, disagreement, and mutual respect. But it can be frustrating! Right?
In our new COVID impacted reality we realize how much we miss face-to-face contact. We long for times together in homes, churches, restaurants, and coffee shops.
The cross-cultural workers and third culture kids we serve certainly understand the value of relationship. Moving to different countries, with foreign cultures and languages, has taught them the irreplaceable value of deep personal friendships. While many would never consider moving away from family and childhood friends, that’s one of the requirements for missionary families! (Mark 10:29-30)
Meeting virtually can either be a stretch, a no-go, or an amazing joy. We chose to do whatever is needed for healthy relationships. Grandparents, for example, sacrificially giving up their children and grandchildren to a cross-cultural assignment, long for time together and are grateful for virtual connections.
Relationships cost us.
Even though we desire to do things our way (Frank Sinatra - “I did it my way”), we forsake personal freedom to serve others by building relationships. As Jesus taught his disciples, the two most important laws are: 1) Love God, and 2) Love people. Everything in God’s law and the prophets hangs from them. (Matthew 22:37-40)
Caring for and demonstrating love for others always requires an intentional process. Acts of love and written expressions of appreciation, while not replacing personal contact/hugs, certainly goes a long way towards letting people know we appreciate and miss them.
Without intentional relationship building, we miss out on the gift of community.
God calls us far beyond comfortable relationships to accomplish His work in our lives and in the lives of those we serve with.
As Carol and I moved, we focused first on finding a church! We’ve benefitted by joining and serving in churches of different denominations (AGC, BGC, C&MA, FB, MB, PAOC). We experienced a wide variety of friendships, and the scope of relationships were not limited by status, wealth, position, race, or ability.
What motivates us to build new and go deeper in existing relationships? The love of Jesus Christ leads us to love people. In so doing, we’re enriched!
God has called us first and foremost to relationships - with him and with each other.
Moving into different work assignments and places to live, has introduced us to people in different walks of life, faith, denomination, and values! Why is it we should never speak evil of people with different faiths, lifestyles, and values? It is because we have friends in each of those areas. They’re different than us and we love them!
Jesus cares less about our comfort than he does about our relationships with others, particularly those who do not yet know the love of Jesus Christ.
The deeper our relationship with Jesus, the greater the relationship with people.
Relationship draws us to serve others. God invites us to champion the needs of those whose voice is not heard and people who are not understood. We do so not for our reputation but for God’s glory. He calls us to it.
Building and keeping relationships is a “muscle” we must constantly exercise. Doing this in the name of Christ, is a trait of godly people. God calls us to serve others without seeking attention or compensation.
Valuing relationships is a gift from God. Relationships are the greatest gift and the most important and valuable aspect of our lives. God made it so!
Paul Dyck is the National Team Leader for the MORE Network (Missionary Opportunities for Resourcing & Equipping) and the CMKN (Canadian Missionary Kid Network), filling a role of Ministry Ambassador and Champion across Canada, working with Church & Mission leaders involved with caring for cross-cultural workers (singles & couples) and MKs (Missionary Kids). Paul is an MK and has experience in Member Care, Pastoring, Banking and Business Leadership. Paul & his wife Carol life in Abbotsford, BC.