Canadians Stuart and Barclee Huggins and their son Lincoln set off on a round-the-world mission-building trip in January of 2020. Although the pandemic cut their time short, their time of service still made an impact. Here is their story:
“Stuart and I had heard of YWAM, and we stumbled upon MBI ten years ago while researching the organization. We both come from families that have done mission work, and we’ve both spent time in third-world countries. MBI would allow us to explore the world and serve simultaneously using our gifts and talents.
“Our first reaction was excitement! We decided to sell our house and do back-to-back volunteering in a ‘go big or go home’ way.
“The first thing we looked for were locations that accepted families. Secondly, we looked at places that could benefit specifically from Stuart’s trade skills. Stuart is a very skilled mechanical engineer, and we wanted him to be able to use his gifts for God’s glory. I would spend time with Lincoln and help with whatever practical tasks I could. Thirdly, we set a goal of going to as many locations around the world as possible.
“Our original plan was to travel for eight months to eight different countries, staying about three weeks at each location. We quickly learned that we needed to remain flexible. Our wonderful MBI representative, Jeanette, had to make some adjustments to allow us to apply for eight locations at once, but she made it work. Having someone available to answer all your questions and concerns is what makes MBI so unique!
“We served at YWAM St. Lucia in the Caribbean, YWAM Heredia in Costa Rica, and YWAM Village South Africa. We were excited every time we got to a new country. In each location, we were picked up at the airport by a YWAM staff member. It was helpful and welcoming to be met by those with whom we would be staying. It gave us a chance to get to know them and ask questions about what the next few weeks would be like, and it allowed them to get to know us as well.
“At the first two locations, we lived with the YWAM staff and volunteers, working and serving together. We shared every aspect of life. There was no real difference between staff, students, or MBI volunteers because everyone was there for the same purpose: to serve God and others.
“Our son Lincoln benefited in exactly the way we wanted him to. The experience opened his young eyes to see first-hand the different cultures, religions, and poverty levels that he doesn’t see in Canada. At each location, Lincoln had jobs he could help with, ministries he could be involved with, or classes he could attend. He was excited to meet and ‘help’ people. In St. Lucia, Lincoln helped with the homeless program, amongst other things. He loved feeding the homeless; it was by far his favorite ministry. When we spent a few days at Hunt South Africa, Lincoln did everything Stuart did around the ranch.
“Our goal was to serve the missionaries in practical tasks so they could continue their work. We wanted to encourage and help them towards their goals and plans, to let them know they’re supported and loved. The YWAM staff and volunteers always made it clear how just seeing us there encouraged them!
“After this experience, we will likely never be able to travel ‘normally’ again. And we don’t want to! We want our future travel to involve serving others. Volunteering with MBI is the perfect partnership for that. It is a great organization with plenty of opportunities to serve God and others.”
Change, crisis, injustice, loss, feeling stuck. Everyone experiences these at some point in life, including missionaries. Because MBI’s goal is to help YWAM missionaries thrive, we offer spiritual debriefing to assist them in making sense of the things that happen in life and in mission service. Jeanette Brewster has worked with over 100 missionaries and heads MBI’s debriefing ministry.
“Jesus came alongside two disciples on the Emmaus Road on the morning of his resurrection,” Jeanette says. “He asked them what they were talking about. Distraught, they shared the story of Jesus’ crucifixion and how their hope seemed lost. Jesus listened, and as they invited him in, he gave them the revelation and perspective necessary for them to understand that he was alive and had done just what he said he would do. Debriefing is having someone come alongside us the way Jesus did to facilitate, listen, ask questions, and help us gain biblical perspective, a change of heart, and a renewed passion.
“As Christians we know the answer is the cross and the gospel,” Jeanette says. “Debriefing is simply a facilitative process that helps people see through the fog of hurt, disappointment, unforgiveness, and discouragement. It’s an opportunity to be refilled, a time to retreat and make space in our lives to hear what God has to speak to us and our situation. Here are some testimonies:
‘The beautiful, gentle five-day process helped me walk through each situation. I ultimately realized how much I’d been trying to carry myself. I feel like I have a new pathway for working through difficult situations.’
‘I really felt stuck and unsure of how to move forward in several areas of my life and ministry. By the end of the week, I felt a total shift and freedom.’
“Debriefees come in weighed down,” Jeanette concludes. “By the end of the week, they walk away much lighter because they’ve recognized that the cross not only carries and covers their sin, but also their burdens, shame, guilt, and pain. The Holy Spirit is enabled to do years of counseling within this one week. It’s simply a matter of aside setting time to listen.”
“Buildings preach,” says architect Ross Lackey. He believes that intentional architectural design can effectively promote everything from community values to religion.
After he and his family stepped into training and missions at YWAM Lakeside Montana in the fall of 2012, Ross spent seven years as architectural director of the nonprofit architectural firm 100 Fold Studio. He trained young architects to provide design services to charitable organizations around the world.
What Ross couldn’t get out of his mind, however, is the need frontline YWAM missionaries have for efficient spaces where they can do the work of training and discipleship effectually. He says, “YWAM ministries deserve places that support their efforts as part of God’s redemptive work in the world.”
So in May of this year, Ross aligned his brand new ministry, Partner Architects, with MBI, because they share a common goal: so others may thrive. MBI provides a conduit for an expanded expression of Ross’s vision.
“Partner Architects’ motto—Design for Missionaries, by Missionaries—clarifies that we serve missionaries from the shared place of being missionaries ourselves. We don’t come into a project with a different goal or set of values in play. When you can trust that your architect is making decisions based on a shared goal of seeing lives transformed by the gospel, your architect becomes a partner.”
Ross actively invites Christian professionals to see and use their gifts and talents not merely as a vocation, but also as a platform that can be used for eternal purposes. “Once they hear that they can be part of something bigger and farther-reaching,” he says, “they go from ‘my money matters’ to ‘my life matters.’ It’s a big step.
“In the end,” Ross concludes, “our success is not a pretty building, but rather how Christ is having a real impact on people’s lives.”
His given name was Bruce but from the first day we met, the only name I can ever remember calling him was Booey. When said correctly, it came out sounding like the thing you tie your boat to when you don’t want it to float away. Regardless of its origin or who actually christened him with that odd nickname, this skinny, disheveled boy became my best friend for the better part of ten years.
By early grade school Booey and I were inseparable. Together we did all the things that little boys did living in the early ’60s, long before the reign of iPhones and Netflix. In those days, your home phone was a black rotary one that was centrally located in the house. It was an adult-only device used primarily to make or receive the occasional call coming from friends or family. The television, if you had one, was strategically located in the living room, where it stayed indefinitely as it took one reasonably strong dad and three uncles to get it there in the first place. The TV, too, was almost exclusively controlled by adults. This made sense because programs like Groucho Marx, To Tell the Truth and Lawrence Welk had zero allure for kids our age. The only exception was Saturday morning cartoons and Sunday evening Disney. Beyond those few sacred hours of entertainment, the things we did for fun were totally of our own making. Should you get caught whining about having nothing to do, you would either find yourself banished to your room to read or, even worse, slapped with extra chores without any promise of increased allowance for your trouble.
Contrary to what you might think, however, boredom was almost unheard of in those days. Together Booey and I climbed trees, rode bikes, fought wars, had hydroplane races (we lived in Seattle, the home of the Gold Cup Races and Miss Bardahl) and, on the days when other kids joined in, we played wiffle ball in the street or a neighborhood favorite, kick-the-can. No matter the game, we often seemed to wrap things up with a good old-fashioned wrestling match. Somehow it was important to regularly check in to see who was the strongest. Fortunately for our friendship, we turned out to be pretty evenly matched. The important point is that each challenge ended with the begrudging loser being forced to acknowledge defeat by crying “uncle!”.
Spending time wondering how “uncle” became the accepted way to admit defeat ends much like asking how Bruce became Booey. The answer is lost in time. Some say it derived from an old Irish word “anacol,” which means “an act of deliverance or safety,” while others suggest a Latin root. For us, “uncle” was simply the gentleman’s way of allowing your opponent to plead for mercy without actually having to say the word. It’s remarkable that even at our young age, mercy was a word that seemed to stick in your throat. Saying “uncle” was a way you could admit defeat—but only for this round. Asking for mercy, on the other hand, had a certain finality to it. Saying “uncle” was only temporary; asking for mercy meant you had truly come to the end of your rope.
Today, with the stakes much higher, I fear we adults often try to maintain the same subtle distinction. When we find ourselves pinned to the ground by a very bad choice, a runaway addiction, a shattered relationship or an untreatable pandemic, we would much rather say “uncle” than admit we are facing a situation we cannot possibly untangle on our own. Nothing seems to be harder on the human ego than acknowledging that we are helpless. Whether it’s a boyhood wrestling match or a life situation spiraled out of control, the reality is that when you are completely down your options become few. You can keep saying “uncle” in hopes that by some herculean effort you can throw off your opponent, or you can admit your utter defeat and plead for mercy, inviting another to do for you what you could not do for yourself. The first alternative, though momentarily satisfying because it retains the illusion of self-sufficiency, generally comes crashing down in short order. The second alternative, though embarrassing and painful, is often the wisest choice because in reality it represents the only path forward if your desire is to actually get back on your feet again and stay there.
In 2 Corinthians 4:1, Paul is clear about what we need if our desire is to truly stand and help others do the same: “Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart” (2 Cor. 4:1). Paul’s use of the term “ministry” here is not limited to the formal kind of ministry we might think of when we hear that word. He is not talking specifically about pastors or those who might serve us on any given Sunday. He is addressing anyone who has responded in awe to God’s invitation to be reconciled to him. In that moment, when our brokenness comes into contact with his absolute perfection, saying “uncle” would never be enough. Mercy is the only remedy potent enough to rout the disease that permeates our lives down to the bone. In that desperate moment when we cry out “mercy!”, not only are we changed, we also become dispensers of the life we have received and this becomes our ministry. Rather than being crushed under the weight of our own pride and arrogance until we “lose heart,” we are now free to become ministers (a noun) and minister (a verb) the life changing mercy, love and grace we have received.
In my lifetime, I have seen Americans square off against what felt like insurmountable odds and the challenges of previous generations that make mine pale in comparison. Though I am deeply grateful for the amazing heroism and resilience that marks our past, I am equally concerned that as we wade yet again into uncharted waters we might be tempted to only say “uncle.” We readily admit that current circumstances may be beyond our control, but in response we lean into a self-sufficiency that, when pushed too far, can become our Achilles heel. “God resists you when you are proud but continually pours out grace (mercy) when you are humble” (James 4:6 PTP). When it comes to God, whether American, Italian, Iranian or Chinese, may it never be said that in our pride we cried “uncle” when what we really needed to do was cry “mercy.” In Lamentations 3, the writer declares that God’s “mercies begin afresh each morning.” That’s because he knew exactly how often we would need them.
– Gordy McDonald
“I sure miss you!”
Canceling travel plans to come alongside and encourage co-workers in YWAM locations around the world; postponing weddings here at home; delaying celebrations of close friends recently passed into Heaven; avoiding those currently too sick to be seen by anyone; not gathering for weekly worship—all our plans are off for the foreseeable future.
Perhaps what hits the heart most is when your children or grandchildren tear up and say, “When can I see you again?”
We are no longer in control of our coming and going, our calendar, our income, our gathering of friends for fellowship and worship—even our outreach and touching others in the name of Jesus—all for fear of spreading an invisible enemy that has the power to threaten the very lives of those we love and long to be with. We all contend with disappointment and delay.
We choose to be grateful for the down time here in Montana—even though we are on our phones or computers more than ever. Our “suffering” is hollow compared to the real suffering of the persecuted Church around the world—and those without Jesus suffer even more. It is for the love of Jesus we continue serving—so others may thrive—and so that the whole world may know Him. That’s why your prayers are so valuable to us!
While our recent newsletter highlights what MBI does when things are reasonably normal, the present crisis is a missionary moment of marshaling faith over fear. Rather than focus on what we cannot do and cannot have, however, we choose to continue to reach out, to be generous, to connect with friends, co-workers, and family in new and old ways using the tools we have in our hands: computers, keyboards, telephones, teleconferencing apps, pen, and paper. We are not giving up.
But the essential tool in our arsenal is prayer, in the name of Jesus. Our MBI team is actively praying for you, for your family, for your connections throughout this season.
Eventually, this crisis will pass. Meanwhile, we pray you can enjoy a new, more profound richness of fellowship with the One who promised never to leave or forsake you. His persecution, crucifixion, and resurrection remind us that the best is yet to come!
Have a blessed Easter in Jesus,
The MBI team: Ron, Jeanette, John, Donna, Brad, Dawn, Gordy, Craig, Lane, Jason, Reba, Andrew, Becky, Greg, Jan, and our team of MBI field staff and board of directors.