Signing up as missionaries: why CMS?
This coming week, we have our final interviews with CMS Australia. Technically, this is the chance for either them or us to pull the plug; in reality, it’s more like a great opportunity to affirm our partnership and plan for the future.
But hearing that we were having yet ANOTHER interview, someone commented to me that the CMS process seems way too hard, that it’s better to go with another organisation. So I thought I’d answer the question of why we chose to go with CMS.
Disclaimer 1: There are stacks of great mission organisations; each has their strengths and their weaknesses. There are times when I look wistfully at the things some other mission organisations do better than CMS.
Disclaimer 2: While all missionaries deal with CMS Australia (i.e. national-level), they might have very different experiences of CMS generally because its day-to-day running in their state is a little different. So we deal with CMS Australia plus CMS-SA/NT (our state branch) but the others we’re at St Andrew’s Hall with deal with CMS Australia plus CMS-NSW/ACT.
There is no question that the CMS selection process is gruelling. I think we’ve done about 10 formal interviews over the whole process. There are a number of reasons for that. One is because CMS wants to make sure we’re the right people. Another one is to give us the chance to get a handle on who CMS is and whether we think they’re the right organisation for us! In the end, there were four distinctives that confirmed that they were.
Do you know the average length of a mission trip? 8 days. In such a climate, anything more than about a year is considered ‘long-term’. But not by CMS. You don’t even get into the ‘long-term’ category until you start talking 3+ years and most CMS missionaries commit for 10+. CMS believes in people, in relationships and in sustainable ministries. They know that without language, all those things are significantly hindered. Language takes a long time to learn (let alone understanding culture and building trust with people!) but CMS is committed to making that investment. They know you become heaps more useful in a culture only after the 6 or 7 year mark! We love that about CMS and their expertise in and devotion to long-term missionary service made them a natural choice for us.
You know how we’re doing this 5 month training course before we go? That’s unique to CMS. It’s also outstanding. Missions history is littered with stories of people who either came home early or did terrible things on the field because their expectations weren’t right. CMS wants to see its missionaries not just survive but thrive and be fruitful in the long term. They have an excellent record in this regard. Much of that is due to the way they train their missionaries.
3. Pastoral Care
Missionary life can be pretty isolating and spiritually damaging. CMS has a reputation for caring for its missionaries in a number of ways. One is to empower us to do self-care: we all have to write a ‘pastoral care plan’; another is that a representative of CMS visits us on the field each year; as well as that, they structure finances so that they can respond quickly to issues or bring us home if necessary. The CMS ‘home base’ are fantastic by the way – they take care of a whole stack of admin and other stuff that we don’t have expertise in or would take us away from our work. We feel very well looked after in CMS’ hands.
Like any other human institution, CMS don’t always get things right. They know that and so they work hard to fix things. One of our big interviews was badly mishandled. But that was followed by identification of the problem, repentance, forgiveness, and implementation of a different system. There’s been real change there. CMS isn’t just an organisation that believes in gospel transformation elsewhere; CMS is an organisation that is itself being transformed by the gospel.