The answers for today’s Five Questions come from Cleopatra Cloppenclapper. Miss Cleo has spent her entire life as an MK/missionary with the FMB/IMB/imb connecting, which is to say about half a century. I could have said she’s been around for 50 years, but “half a century” sounds far, far older.
She’s the most colorful M I know. She’s tatted, pierced, and dyes her hair more often than I check my oil. When she was younger she worried about freaking out the older missionaries. Now that Miss Cleo is so old she’s stopped buying green bananas, she worries about scaring off the younger missionaries.
Strap yourself in because our guest has a lot to say.
1. In all the years you have been with the IMB/FMB as an MK and missionary, what has been the greatest cultural change within the organization?
I believe the biggest cultural change would be the move away from the “missionary + national” approach to field strategy and towards a “from the top directives” view of strategy. As well, the mission family, it appears to me, has moved from having our leadership behind us, encouraging us – basic servant leadership – to being CEO’s trying to run a tight ship. The family feel between the Big Guys up there and us little guys down here has diminished significantly. The gap between them and us has grown significantly! I always thought we were all supposed to be equal in Christ.
Sigh….I think I need to practice my curtsying.
2. As best you can tell, how has the IMB’s relationship with other mission agencies improved over the years?
The IMB’s relationship to other sending agencies has indeed improved.
In the past, it appeared to me that all other missionaries and denominations were suspect; they were the competition. Today our leaders are much more open to working with other groups. However, some of this doesn’t filter all the way down to the field. When field leaders today speak of working with others, they always insists that the Baptist be the head of the team. It’s almost like “Let’s work together as long as a Baptist is the boss.” Sometimes it comes down to the fact that field leaders really want other groups to do the work our way and to our benefit, but not as our equals. That’s just our experience, though.
3. Your experiences as a kid include going away to an MK boarding school, yet you’ve chosen to educate your own children closer to home. Drawing on these experiences, what would you be able to say to parents in the US who struggle with public education vs private Christian education vs homeschooling?
If you are committed to bringing up your kids in the Lord at home, by parenting them as God directs you, I think you can go with all three choices. It is really something to be decided on your knees (YOUR knees). Are we scared to ask God and then read Him wrong? Are we so weak in our faith we must be convinced by the “understanding of others” to make such a decision? Will the God of heaven and earth who reveals mysteries to us not answer us on this one?
Public schools vary from county to county (or district to district), and God most often places wonderful Christian teachers to mentor our kids within these very schools.
Christian schools come in all forms as well, some with a wonderful Christian family feel; others are filled with cliques and often “different” kids are not easily accepted. These schools seldom have help for kids with disabilities.
Homeschooling gives you the option of having control over what your kids are exposed to, but also can restrict them from knowing how to handle things of this world.
If you are parenting your children every day – not letting their schooling, their activities, their sports, their coaches, their day care and their after-school care do it for you – your kids have a good chance of not only surviving in any of these schooling options but thriving in their faith where ever they go. It’s all about getting on your knees, not just once, but every semester, every year, seeking His lead.
Now, while I have control of the soap-box…
Even though I had a positive experience at boarding school I do not agree with the practice especially amongst missionaries.
As parents our job, given to us by God, is to raise our children. Boarding schools put children under the authority of someone else’s rules and strips away parental authority and the intimate relationships needed for maintaining that authority. If God has a specific call on your life to do missions in areas where schooling is not available, then He will enable you to bring up your kids and school them where you are with the people. I think it’s much easier to send your kids off and let someone else carry the burden, especially for those for whom homeschooling seems to be an impossible task. That doesn’t make it right. God will either help you daily with the task, or you maybe should go back to your knees and ask Him for better discernment of your call.
We have begun to put so much power into the hands of educators that we have often done so at the loss of Godly parenting. Our kids have so few years with us. If they are left to be raised on simply the rules of others, once those rules are removed they may not have much sense of accountability; they especially will lack a sense of accountability to parents and family.
Boarding school puts our kids in a situation where they have neither the counsel nor the example of their parents in their everyday life. Most of a boarding school kid’s hours are spent with colleagues of the same age. The adults are mostly the rule enforcers, however nice they are. This was not God’s plan.
I think mission agencies must encourage and equip parents to raise their kids on the field bi-culturally. Sending the kids away should not be one of the options. Many kids have an excellent boarding experience, at least those who I’ve spoken to in recent years, but that doesn’t make it the best thing. I want to see those of us called to work in the field realize God will equip us to be Godly parents and equip us to educate our children.
Missionaries are notorious for giving 110 percent in their jobs; God hasn’t asked for that. He wants you to give your personal relationship to Him first. Family comes next; after this comes ministry. How then can we justify sending our kids off and in so doing put ministry before family? How can mission agencies require both parents to be full-time workers, when God has called them both to raise their children, too? Remember, on the field this may require both them taking the hours daily to teach their kids.
How are we living for Christ in front of the people if we don’t keep our kids home? Everything we do, whether its using an overhead projector or sending our kids away, teaches our national brothers what we think is the best way to do things. Use an overhead and believe me those you are teaching will not think they can teach that material without an overhead. Likewise, when we send our kids away, the example we are setting is that parenting is not a priority.
I did not have a terrible experience in boarding school. I simply want mission agencies and missionaries to seek to live out God’s plan for your life through the structure He has set up from the beginning.
Now, God doesn’t give up on our kids just because we have sent them off, thank heavens. He is merciful. He knows we can be persuaded by “tradition” to think something is right; mission agencies convince many parents to send the kids away because it was mission tradition. But we also must remember that every parent is accountable to our Father, and accountable to bring before Him and seek His word on any decisions concerning our kids, and our lives.
Wow, I sure can talk!!!
Thanks for pointing that out, because I totally missed that.
4. Compared to your generation of MKs, does today’s generation have a greater chance of ending up in missions or a lesser chance?
I’m not sure. I see more MK missionaries my age than in the newer generations, but we serve in (region deleted) and its not the “cool” place to serve. Therefore, I don’t know from looking at the numbers.
But I think that God’s calling has not changed. Our MKs may not necessarily serve with the IMB, but I believe probably as many will answer the call. Two of my four kids feel called to share the gospel around the world. It might be with a mission sending agency or through an NGO as a Christian witness. Politics and rules may get in the way of some, but we really only want MKs to go on mission because God called them. If they love Him, despite the politics and rules, they will be obedient.
5. Drawing on your knowledge of missions and the North American church, where will the IMB be in 25 years?
Honestly, I feel God will continue to work through the IMB because of the obedience of many. I personally think that internal politics, as well as some biblically questionable moves, make the IMB at least appear (to me) less about obedience to God and more about getting results. Those two concepts are not always the same.
The organization will continue to struggle with finances until they stop their money managing long enough to get on their knees, admitting that God has all the resources we need. As an organization, we need to confess that we’ve depended on our financial savvy and strategic spending to make it work.
I’m not talking about a one hour prayer meeting, I’m talking about at least 40 days of true confession and praise for His sovereignty. We’ll know this is happening when all changes come down to us from the top as, “We’ve prayed about this on our knees and God wants this. We know God will be faithful to provide.” Missionaries who have also been on their knees about their work will be able to understand and support the plans of leadership. We share the same Holy Spirit and as such we should all sense God at work.
It will also include some surprises, times and situations where leaders will have to depend completely on God’s faithfulness. They will have to trust Him to enable us to do what we’ve been asked to do. We need more people like Daniel at the top. If we, as the IMB, become “Daniels”, then in 25 years the lions’ den of a failing economy will not deter us. We will not only come out alive, but come out alive as a great witness to His power and His providence. However, if we depend absolutely upon our own financial strategies we might just be eaten up.
But praise be to the Lord, whether the IMB is or isn’t functioning, His Word will still be going out into the world. He’s so much bigger than us.
Take a deep breath and a bow, ma’am.