What is it like to be a Partnership Facilitator?
Brent and Sally Kronenbach, Facilitators for the North Caucasus, answer the question with Rick Wood
MF: Brent, For many years you were making an important contribution here at the U.S. Center. What was it that made you decide to become a Strategic Partnership Facilitator?
Brent: Working at the Center was a great experience. I did so many different things. From 1982-1995 I was involved in a Central Asian Prayer Group until I moved from the Center to live with my wife in Japan. My interest peaked for the CA peoples, and I wanted to become more involved, but I didn't know how. All I was doing was receiving prayer letters and talking to people who were visiting the Center.
In 1992 a part of the world called the North Caucasus came to my attention on the larger map of Muslim Central Asia. I recognized that while the geography was small, the number of people groups without a viable Christian witness was immenseup to 70 different language groups.
In 1995, Sally and I had been asking the Lord, "What do you want to do with our lives?" We posted three possibilities on our refrigerator. We literally wrote right on the freezer door "Advocacy for the North Caucasus??" The first two possibilities flopped and the "longshot" came into clearer view. The door blew wide open when the agencies that wanted to start a partnership invited us to fill the facilitation role. It was a wonderful convergence of their needs and our desires and prayers.
It was a very natural thing for me, having been at the U.S. Center, to become a Partnership Facilitator. The ideas you talk about and the lifestyle proposed are all foundational to being an effective Partnership Facilitator. Being a Facilitator is a great opportunity to be involved in a strategic role for mission to unreached peoples.
MF: Why do you believe the role of a field-based Partnership Facilitator is so important?
Sally: A Strategic Partnership Facilita-tor is the ultimate mobilization role. It is a cutting-edge hybrid of a field worker, mobilizer and Resource Advocate. It's grassroots mobiliza-tion from the ground up rather than from the top down. It's mobilization from the field back to the home front as the field links needs with resources within and across denominational, agency and church "boundaries." The Facilitators build these multi-lateral bridges and create pipelines for the most effective mobilization. An operating Partner-ship provides the opportunity to connect all of those involved in frontier missions at the field. We hear from agency leaders over and over who say by attending a field partnership meeting they accelerate their research and preparation for a people or region by years!
Three years ago you printed in MF a diagram of the relationship between the home-based Resource Advocate and the field based Facilitators (See Sept-Oct. 96, p. 25). This model is now being used by a number of different agencies that are developing a resource base on the home front with a field-based connection. While they think of it in terms of their own ministries, we think of it as networking the networks of agencies and churches.
Say eight churches and three agencies from S. Korea, USA, UK, Brazil and Sweden all decide to adopt the same people group. It's good if they can get together, and coordinate their efforts, and coop-erate where they might otherwise duplicate one another. They coordi-nate in advance, rather than just bumping into each other at the field.
But you can't do any of this if there is not someone operating as a Facilitator on or near the field. (In 1999 you can be "near the field" without living in close geographical proximity.)
I would emphasize here that it is the facilitation function that we are looking for, not necessarily a person. It could be more than one person or a team that fills the function. If there is no facilitation function, few of the key connections will be made. Information does not connect people. People connect people. We've got to have people involved in order to build the bridges between and across the resource and field constituencies. Keep in mind that resources include people and prayernot just money.
MF: Many mission agency leaders may be wondering why they should assign their best people to the role of a Facilitator. What would you say to them?
Brent: From a strictly pragmatic viewpoint, you could just say that it provides more "bang for your buck." However, what's happening is way beyond leveraging finances. We're fostering unity, cooperation, and reconciliation while reducing duplication. and moving people towards a concerted dynamism. To quote one participant who used to be with a certain mission alliance network: "Our people talk about this stuff, but you guys are really doing it. It's really happening. This is incredible."
"I am convinced that today, as never before, is the hour that
God is bringing into Strategic Partnering, men and women that have a heart for the Lord and His plan throughout the ages. The development of evangelism and church planting partnerships among unreached peoples is producing amazing results."
Bill Taylor, Director,
World Evangelical Fellowship
My understanding of John 17 is that the world has the right to accept Jesus or not depending on how believers love one another (work together, cooperate). Francis Shaeffer offers a stinging critique of the Church on just this issue in his book, The Mark of a Christian.
Sally: Would you want a symphony without a conductor? Would you build a new house without a general contractor to interface with the subcontractors? Could an international military coalition win a war without someone to interface between national, political, military leaders and field troops?
If you look in terms of dollars, if a missionary is worth $1, would you be willing to "give away" one dollar so you can have $72? Interdev, an agency that specializes in Partnership development, has compiled data which demonstrates that every dollar invested into Partnership currently brings a catalytic result of $72 that is further invested into the overall mission activity towards the people or region where a Partnership operates. That dollar includes the investment in every aspect of Partnership development.
It's important to note that Interdev is a catalytic ministry working to get Partnerships and regional consultations going, but it does not "own" any Strategic Evangelism Partnership. Once they are launched, these multilateral Partnerships take on a life of their own and they are not directed, managed or funded by Interdev. They are, however, observed, researched and prayed for by Interdev.
It is intended that the Facilitators be allocated by the agencies or churches with which they now work. They do not have to join Interdev or be seconded. Ideally a Facilitator would be invited to serve a larger group, rather than "appointed." You can't just show up and say, "Hi, I'm going to be your Facilitator." The mission world knows where we need Facilitators. The task remaining then is trotting the globe to find the people God is raising up for these roles. We're talking maybe 100 people. With 600 churches for every unreached people group, there's got to be someone who can serve as a Partnership Facilitator. There are nearly 40 potential Partnerships that could be launched within a year if we could get people to take on the facilitation role.
MF: You are saying that mission leaders do not have to be afraid of losing their best people to another organization.
Sally: That's right. We would say to a mission leader, "Of your, let's say, 32 frontier mission field candidates, perhaps one of those people could go to the field as a Partnership Facilitator rather than the usual church planter."
The facilitation role doesn't fit any traditional view of what a field missionary would be so it takes a paradigm shift in people's minds. But it is a key function in mission to unreached peoples.
MF: Can you tell us a little about how the North Caucasus Partnership developed?
Brent: In 1991 there was a forum begun called the Central Asian Consultation which is a regional forum to match ministry needs with resource opportunities. It's a match-making forum where the Partnerships now come together and interconnect. That forum has been a greenhouse that has now spawned 12 individual Partnerships for the Kazakhs, Kirghiz, Uzbeks and others.
In 1991, one individual began waving the flag for starting a Partnership for reaching the peoples of the North Caucasus. This is an area no larger than the state of Missouri, but there are over 40 different languages spoken in that region.
After a research journey through the area in 1993, he reported that there was no cooperative activity going on. In 1996 an Interdev colleague started beating the bushes to find a Facilitator. Everyone was saying, "Not me!" Even if there is a desire for partnership, it is never going to develop without a Facilitator.
Sally: Brent replied to a Brigada E-mail conference question which spurred subsequent divine appointments over the next 6 months. Brent and I were recruited, introduced to the ministries wanting a Partnership and invited to serve as their Facilitators. In 1997 a multilateral Partnership to reach the peoples of the North Caucasus was born. We were then invited to be seconded to Interdev, to assist the Central Asia Team, which we do in addition to our role as Partnership Facilitators. We're the only staff at Interdev that holds this dual role.
MF: What difference has your Partnership made in reaching the peoples of the North Caucasus?
Brent: The one word more than any other that reflects the results is HOPE! Muslim-background followers of Christ who live in the North Caucasus find it very difficult to live out their faith in this region. It is wonderful for them to be able to attend the different events sponsored by the Partnership working groups, or the yearly consultation, and realize that God has not left them alone. The church from around the world is taking up their cause. Time and time again they tell us, "We have hope because we can see that God is at work." They have a tremendous sense of being partners with the people from around the world who are involved with this.
The yearly consultation we offer allows the people from many backgrounds who live and work in the North Caucasus to come together, talk and see how they can work cooperatively and coordinate their activities. We have been able to coordinate and assist in the arenas of church planting, training, business, research, Scripture, literature, prayer and mobilization.
Sally: You're asking for a direct correlation between the facilitation function and the specific kingdom outcomes. It is not hard to see the results, but it is hard to prove why they have occurred or that they would not have happened without us. While giving God due credit for His part, we know we significantly accelerate the pace of ministry matchesconnecting needs with resources. At this point, we could probably list 30-40 examples.
But conceptually, the Partnership is a catalytic ministry which allows marriages of ministries to take place. We're matchmakers. Sometimes we match two agencies together for a cooperative project and sometimes we match 10-15. We are helping these ministries move from a blind random "adhocracy" to a coordinated and concerted kingdom-building dynamism. With a blind adhocracy ministries will bump into each other but they won't know what the others are doing. A Partnership brings coordination to the process. I imagine the recipient culture hears a Gospel symphony, rather than a warm-up session of bleating instruments.
A specific example is youth ministry. Three different ministries came together at a Partnership consultation, only to realize that they all existed. They decided to join forces the next year and do a cooperative camp for young people and gather the pastors together to teach them how to work with youth. Last year was the first time in the history of one city that the pastors had ever gotten together to pray. The result was a fantastic change of heart among the local pastors. Now they are beginning to incorporate youth ministry into the things that they do.
Bible translation is an incredible example. There have been people in this region who have worked for over 30 years on translation projects. Because of the existence of the Partnership and the networking that has resulted, we've been able to fund the publication of three Scripture projects in the last 18 months.
Those projects have been waiting for someone to fund them for years. We've also been able to catapult and prioritize the completion of three other translation projects. So many of these projects have been behind the curtain and ready to come on stage, but they just needed a push to get them out there and the Partnership has been able to do that. The Partnership at large chooses the Scriptures to publish. We are not just picking groups at random but selecting the people groups that are most ready to receive them with distribution channels in place.
Because of the Partnership, missionaries that have been kicked out because of visa problems are still involved in ministry. They are not casualties. One missionary lost his visa and was seconded to another ministry. He is now able to leverage what he knows and offer that expertise to this other mission agency that has now brought in 15 new field missionaries.
Recently, an American, Herbert Gregg was released from captivity in Chechnya. Previous to that two Swedes, Daniel and Paulina Brolin, were released. Because the Partnership exists, 40 ministries have been able to learn from what happened and what needs to be done in terms of contingency planning, crisis management and member care. There is no way that this kind of information sharing could have taken place before. Not only that, these "hostages" have a way to remain involved. They're not missionary fallout, even though they've experienced horrible trauma in their lives.
MF: What kinds of things does a Partnership Facilitator do? How would you describe their duties and activities?
Brent: A Partnership Facilitator is person who recognizes that progress takes time. So we spend lots of time on the phone just talking to people and building relationships. One colleague of ours has spent nine years just "drinking tea" [coffee] and talking with a person that he knows who has a good ministry in one of the Central Asia countries, but is not part of the Partnership. After nine years the guy said, "Maybe you have something here. Maybe I should come and check it out." A Facilitator recognizes the value of being appropriately inclusive. He doesn't make the decision of who should or should not be involved. That is the Partnership's job. The Facilitator is just out there trying to help people become involved.
"Partnership Facilitation is a new missionary role for a new day, calling for persons who have a passion like Jesus for the people to whom they are called and a heart like Jesus for the unity of his body. We envision in the years ahead, Eastern Mennonite Missions will not only participate in Strategic Partnerships, but will also be calling forth Facilitators from among our field workers. New missionaries for a new era."
Eastern Mennonite Missions
They also need to be a person who can build a team and direct and coordinate its work. More and more, instead of there being just a single person there is a team involved. So much more can be done better with many different skills being brought to the table.
Sally: A Facilitator is a catalyst, matchmaker, forum builder, consultation organizer, bridge builder. They do not have to be the best consultation organizer but they would bring in those that can.
They are people who help other people love each other, as seen in John 17. He didn't say that we had to like each other, or do the same things. He said, "Love one another!"
Brent: That gets into reconciliation. When you have a Partnership, people bring their difficulties that haven't been resolved elsewhere, asking for help.
MF: What kind of person is best suited to be a Partnership Facilitator?
Sally: The person best suited is a servant leader. You have to be willing to lead, but you are not telling other people what to do. You are often following up on things that they have already agreed to do.
MF: In other words the Facilitator is not the visionary leader of the Partnership.
Sally: The Facilitator is a consensus builder. The Partnership is a forum and an organism, but it is not an organization. The Facilitators are not CEOs; they are not in charge, nor do they direct the Partnership. They are there to catalyze what others want to do. They grease the wheels and keep things connected. They are often like a satellite, bringing in resources and information from the outside. We live in London, but we often inform people in the Caucasus about what is going on there.
MF: What are the biggest struggles you have had in getting people from many agencies to work together.
Brent: Fortunately, we've found only a few organizations that are not willing or likely to be involved. To this point around 95% of the people and organizations with which we have been in contact have been interested and almost all of them have gotten involved somehow. The few that haven't are not willing to go out of their way to be part of the Partner-ship. They carry the attitude that if others want to join in what we are doing, that's fine.
Sally: As you bring these people around the table to work together there are issues of trust or previous injury and violation that have to be dealt with. In Russia, the Slavic majority, for example, does not seem to reach out to the ethnic minorities. They just leave the Muslims alone. An analogy would be culturally white American churches ignoring the ethnic mix of people in their neighborhoods.
The biggest struggle is time. People do not live near each other so you have to connect through E-mails, phone calls and face to face. You can't build trust without relationship and relationships take time. You have to take the time to get to know people, pray and cry with them and get your hands dirty together.
The agencies want to work together where it's appropriate, but they don't feel they have the time, energy, people or resources. They need some help to get started. This is where the Facilitator and the Partnership forums comes in.
MF: In getting the Partnership up and running, what efforts have you made that have succeeded most in building the Partnership and reaching unreached peoples?
Sally: What God seems to be using most in our lives is just our personalities and the people He has made us in Christ. God has gifted Brent with a genuineness, a natural humility and an integrity that is so noticeable up-front. His person speaks so clearly into these cultures and they trust him.
Our availability and our willing-ness to bumble through things has also been a strength. We plod in love. Without hesitation we love the people we work with and we've been able to meet lots of people one on one. We spend time with people just to know them: there is no agenda. We have a calling on our lives to love these people and allow God to take care of the rest. The success has been in building the relationships so that the trust is there, and probably no single element is more important than just that.