Monday, December 10, 2012

Incarnational vs. Proclamational

This post is intended to answer some questions I’ve received about the faith-based organization I am a part of (Mercy Ships) and what that faith looks like in the practical, every day work here in Guinea and elsewhere, in my own life and the lives of my fellow crew here on board.  Reminder: no one is forcing you to read or agree with me or Mercy Ships.  However, I’m super happy to dialogue with ANYONE about ANY of the issues I put out on this blog.  But you do have to be nice. And respectful. And I offer you the same. J

If you read the title of this post you may be saying, huh?  Those are two really big words that describe a pretty simple concept – how we share what we believe.  Incarnational is a form of the word incarnate which means living.  Proclamational is a form of the word proclaim which means to speak or share. 
Let me put these into context.  We all believe something about God (or whatever you might choose to call a higher power, or creator, or deity) whether you are atheist or Muslim or Buddhist or Jewish or Christian.  We all also choose how we live or share what we believe.  

Mercy Ships is a Christian organization, with the mission statement of “Following in the footsteps of Jesus, bringing hope and healing to the world’s forgotten poor.”  It was created by people who wanted to do just that – follow the example of Jesus and how he helped the lame to walk and the blind to see.  (Which we actually GET to do here - it’s incredible). 
Mercy Ships is an incarnational ministry.  We chose to live the way that Jesus lived – bringing hope and healing, loving the unloved and the forgotten, and serving others with respect and dignity.  We are not a proclamational ministry – one that goes out and speaks the words and seeks to bring people to knowledge of God through words.  Many Christian organizations out there are proclamational in mission – they seek to get people saved, for lack of better terminology. I’m not here to debate the merits of that, or to say its right or wrong. I’m simply here to say that’s not how I’m wired or my desire in serving the God I believe in. 

I love the incarnational model of Mercy Ships.  I believe that God has created me with special gifts and given me specific experiences so that I can be here now to serve the crew and patients on board the ship in a way that brings glory to His name.  I have no interest in going out and preaching on a street corner or converting lost tribes to Christianity.  Again, not arguing for or against either of those things.  I’m just not called to that type of ministry.  And Mercy Ships is not that type of ministry, either.   Which is a part of why I can get 100% behind this ministry model and be willing to commit my future to it’s work.
You do not have to be Christian to be a patient with Mercy Ships – we help anyone and everyone who we can, regardless of religion or ethnicity or financial provision.   We won’t force anything on our patients, we respect their beliefs, seek to accommodate their needs in any way we can. We do have a hospital chaplaincy which will answer questions that patients have and make sure they are cared for emotionally as well as physically.  We love it if the way we serve people bring them to a place where they can receive the knowledge that God loves them, too. We’re just loving them because He does!
You do not have to be Christian to work for Mercy Ships as a day worker – you have to be of good character and follow the rules of the organization, but anyone is welcome to apply.
You do not have to be Christian to serve on Mercy Ships as a crew member!  Our crew is made up of people from over forty nations and every background imaginable – every denomination of the Christian faith is represented, from Catholic, to Mennonite, to Baptist, to Pentecostal, and everything in between. We also have a fair number of crew members who are atheist or from other religions who just want to come be a part of bringing healing to the forgotten poor in Africa.  This is awesome and they are very welcomed – You do have to realize much of the crew is Christian and you have to live under our code of conduct (rules) which align with biblical principles.  If you can’t get along with Christians or the thought of having to go to community meetings where we pray together disgusts you, you probably aren’t a great fit for Mercy Ships.  But, if you can respect our beliefs, we can respect yours!  Long term crew members must go through Gateway (the training program in Texas that I went through in September/October!) which is very Christ-centered.  

I love this organization.  I love the mission and vision, to help the forgotten poor.  I love the people, from all walks of life and faith.  I love that because we are such an open community, debates and disagreements are commonplace and appreciated, not dreaded. I love that somehow this mishmash of people from all over the world can worship together, the things that divide us in the outside world somehow just don’t matter that much here on the ship.  We’re all just here on the same mission, to serve.   From the outside so many people wonder, “How on earth does that all work? So many cultures, beliefs, languages, customs, preferences…” Yep. Testament to the existence of God that this organization has not only survived, but thrived and grown and keeps drawing more and more incredibly gifted and talented people into it’s ranks.  For that, I’m grateful.

One more thing!  Mercy Ships has redesigned it's website - it looks amazing! Please check it out - www.mercyships.org
 
Until next time - Krissy

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