Debriefing: A Simple Matter of Listening

Debriefing: A Simple Matter of Listening

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.”


Partner Architects

Partner Architects

“Buildings preach,” says architect Ross Lackey. He believes that intentional architectural design can effectively promote everything from community values to religion.

Ross and Laney Lackey and familyAfter 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.

Ross Lackey, Partner Architects“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.”

Say Uncle!

Say Uncle!

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


A Reason to Hope

A Reason to Hope

“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.







Leadership 13: When Expertise Meets Energy

Leadership 13: When Expertise Meets Energy

MBI’s newest ministry, Leadership 13 (L13) came into existence in 2010 when colleagues Ron Brewster and Dawn Masucci and I felt compelled to combine our years of leadership experience and expertise into a concerted effort to respond to a cry for help from a number of the promising young leaders serving within Youth With a Mission. Those leaders were being called upon to shape this rapidly growing, international, interdenominational movement of Christians called to bring the whole gospel to the whole world.

Though each of us desired to see YWAM succeed at the macro level, with all of its myriad of expressions, we shared an even more pressing passion to see this current generation of leaders adequately equipped to face the challenges of successfully stewarding their respective ministry locations. Having invested 30-plus years of service at the senior leadership level in one location, it was and is our firm conviction that any lasting leadership legacy can only be accomplished when those “to whom much has been given” graciously acknowledge and respond to the second half of this biblical mandate that “much is required.”

L13 was forged in the fire of finding ways to pass on our life lessons and expertise in any way God might want to use them for the benefit of YWAM leaders. The end goal was to see the advancement of the kingdom of God globally.

Since embracing that call 9 years ago, it has been our privilege to have assisted in training and coaching leaders in approximately 16 YWAM operating locations from the U.S. and Canada to far flung regions such as Cambodia, Taiwan, Costa Rica, and Barbados. Though some of the leaders we have had the privilege of serving are mature and experienced, the much larger percentage have been young, inexperienced , and, in some locations, first generation Christians.

These God-called, amazing servants find themselves responsible for some of the most innovative ministry expressions we have ever seen, ranging from the foundational YWAM Discipleship Training School (DTS) to numerous other secondary expressions such as the School of Biblical Studies (SBS) and School of Community Development, just to name a couple. Because 2 of the 18 foundational values of YWAM are about being “visionary” and doing “new things in new ways,” there is no end to the creative ventures we have observed as these ministries explore how they can more effectively take the age-old gospel message and contextualize it to reach the cultures to which God has called them.

The gospel is going forward to some of the least-reached areas of the world through creative approaches that include everything from very sophisticated English/computer education programs to AIDS orphan homes to micro business enterprise (designed not only to provide income streams for the local ministry but do so in a way that serves to generate financial support for full-time, indigenous workers). The challenge is that, in many cases, their remarkable effectiveness has become a double-edged sword. The accelerated growth these ministries are experiencing has outstripped the leaders’ knowledge and expertise as to how to keep the ministry healthy, thriving, and appropriately funded. These are wonderful challenges, but these leaders are often ill-equipped to navigate them.

This is exactly the point at which L13 discovered that our year-long approach of coming along side these ministries has borne good fruit. Our expertise joined with their energy and desire to lead well has produced a winning combination. The tools we’re able to give them through our on-site visits as well as Skype coaching and mentoring has proven to be very effective in equipping them with understanding in areas such as organizational dynamics, healthy systems, and strong staff development. Coupled with our core value and commitment toward “developing servant leaders for lasting growth,” L13 not only encourages the leaders we serve but arms them with the confidence necessary to lead those whom God has placed in their charge so that the entire ministry can learn to walk in the footsteps of our great servant leader and master, Jesus Christ.

Since its inception, L13 has been blessed beyond measure to add four more players to the team, Jason Howard, Lane Lackey, Veronica VanSchuylenburg and occasionally John Briggs. Each brings with them a skill set that has broadened L13’s ability to help in even more areas.

Just over a year ago, L13 was delighted and blessed to be invited to make Mission Builders International its permanent home. When the opportunity first presented itself, it almost seemed like a no-brainer. The call of MBI, “So Others May Thrive,” seemed like a hand-in-glove fit with all that L13 desired to accomplish.

Even though it seemed obvious, however, the final decision to join forces was only made after a great deal of prayer by all of those involved as well as a serious discussion with the wise and godly board of directors that serves MBI. At the end of the process, all were in hearty agreement that to add L13 to the MBI family was a match made in heaven. MBI’s call to the larger Mission as opposed to any one location is a call that we share together.

As the times we live in become increasingly uncertain, we invite you to join your prayers with ours that MBI and L13 will find ever-widening circles of influence where our passion, “So Others May Thrive,” can be expressed in and through our Mission and ultimately to the ends of the earth.

~Gordy McDonald