harnessing the power of photography for good

Mexico

MISSION-focused has partnered with Adventures in Life to help them help local missionaries and churches expand their reach to bring the Gospel of Christ to those that dont know Him yet.

Specifically, we are working in Oaxaca, Mexico to document the work that Adventures in Life is doing.  We are going into different towns that the local church is ministering in and taking portraits.  Many of those we will be taking portraits of dont have the opportunity to have portraits of themselves and their families.  They simply cant afford it, so its not a necessity.  Using photography, we hope to provide “divine appointments” where the local church can bring the portraits we take to them.  Providing an open invitation to come visit these folks, as the local church delivers the photos, they can use that opportunity to share more about the local church, perhaps pray with them and share Jesus.  Using the photos is a simple way the local church can bless their neighbors.  And if they dont want to hear about Jesus, they will at least know they care enough to provide the free family portraits.

This is the group that is in Oaxaca this February,2011.  The men are continuing the construction work at La Unica Esperanza Church, helping bring running water to the whole facility, remodeling the kitchen, and making steps to complete the second story of what will be a pastoral training center for local Zapotecan pastors.

To learn more about Adventures in Life and their work in Oaxaca and other parts of Mexico, please visit their website

www.ailministry.org

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Ministry and Sustainability by Dave Miller

One of the big catch words in ministry these days is sustainability.

As a missionary, I must think everyday about sustainability. If I start a project, can I sustain enough momentum to get to the finish line. Once a project is complete, will locals be able, or even desire, to take leadership.

After serving with Adventures in Life Ministry earlier this year, Brother Joe Ramirez asked me to wax, somewhat poetically on sustainability. He saw what we are trying to do in the southern part of Mexico and noticed that all of our efforts are aimed at sustainable ministry models.

In other words, if we aren’t around, can they continue? This question focuses us not only on financial resources, but people resources as well.

Sustainability is such a critical issue that it is ignored at the risk of developing ministries that have no chance at long term survival. Yet that is a ministry model many in the United States seem intent on perpetuating both here and abroad.

Let me give you an example.

A few years back, a missionary friend of mine was sharing her disappointment about a ministry she and her husband had developed in Mexico. They were preparing to leave the country at the end of their assignment and she was saying that no one had stepped forward to continue the ministry.

She was upset that at the end of 3 years work, there would be no lasting evidence of their time as missionaries. Upon their leaving, the coffee house closed. In the end, the ministry was not sustainable.

Everyone liked the ministry, everyone valued the ministry, and the work they did there was good. But it was not sustainable.

Why? Because the ministry was conceived, born, and nurtured without much input from those whom they were serving.

This is a pretty critical flaw in a lot of ministries. We have a lot of great ideas, but along the way, we somehow forget to allow others to shape and take ownership of those ministries. This is not only selfish and short sighted; it guarantees ministry failure when you have turnover at the top.

A few years back I started talking with people about a sustainable agricultural co-op in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. It took years before anyone came along side of me and said they’d love to be part of that ministry.

It took a few more years to actually get moving on the project because we had to get local participation on the concept.

In January of 2010, we planted our first crop. After almost 5 years of dreaming we were finally moving albeit at a glacial pace. In May we had our first harvest and in June we planted again. All done with local help.

Throughout the summer, locals tended our crops, weeded the field, and are now waiting for another harvest in mid-October. In February 2011, we will plant again.

Building consensus and the networks necessary for the long term health and sustainability of ministries takes a lot of time. For Adventures in Life Ministry, it has taken years for our project in Oaxaca to get to this point. It has taken years of all the unglamorous stuff like planning, researching, praying, asking for help, and connecting with and listening to people.

So let me leave you with a few practical steps that will help ensure the sustainability of your mission and ministry.

  1. Have a plan. Many ministries are started with little more than a dream, partially developed. This method can actually work, but by no means is it preferred. Ministries that have a plan and have thought through the issues have a much better track record of success and sustainability.
  2. Involve those whom you plan to serve. It is always better to work alongside people. The only way to get buy in and sustainability is to involve others. Listen to them, people support that which they help create. My missionary friends developed ministry for people, not ministry with people.
  3. Know that you don’t have all the answers. This is incredibly hard for us “can do” Americans. Listening to others, particularly those different from us does not come naturally for us. But successful long-term ministry demands it.
  4. Develop long-term relationships to facilitate your ministry before you start. This is known as laying the groundwork. You cannot do it alone, so why try? It takes time, often more than we want to commit, but it is worth it.

Four steps to help you ensure long-term sustainability in your ministry. Is this list all inclusive? By no means. But if we are really going to consider the true cost of our ministries, we must at least start here.

Dave Miller is the  Executive Director of Adventures in Life Ministry

ADVENTURES IN LIFE Ministry’s Vision is to make known the transforming power of the Gospel through short term missions in Mexico.  Their Mision is to develop ministry partnerships to reach the heart of Mexico.

MISSION-focused has committed to helping Dave and Adventures in Life by using the gift of photography to help local pastors and missionaries extend their reach to those they are seeking to reach with the Gospel

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