How do you run a TIMO team in a creative access location? We asked one of our former creative access workers and TIMO team leaders to share their thoughts.
Simply put, TIMO has to take a different form in creative access locations. Individual cross-cultural workers have to be creative about their presence in such places. The challenge is multiplied when applying for visas for a group of people and each location has different requirements.
We served in our country as business people and were fortunate that our team members were able to get visas as language students. That can look suspicious when some of the team are way beyond the normal student age range, but God opens doors as he wills.
If team members are considering longer term work in a creative access context, they need to find some sort of occupation that is locally acceptable. With that in mind, there is an extra element to the TIMO curriculum which helps the team think through potential work options, depending on each individual’s gifts and skill set. The TIMO curriculum also provides training in what is involved in developing a business plan and setting up a business in another country.
Leading a TIMO team is typically a full time role. You need to find and furnish homes for each team member, walk them through culture shock, government bureaucracy, health issues, as well as how to learn a language and interact with the curriculum of the programme. Often new team members don’t know a word of the local language, and need someone with them to buy the simplest thing. But what a privilege to be a coach and mentor to a group that has a heart to serve him and to grow in their ability to do so in a cross-cultural context!
The challenge for us was that we already had full time jobs running a business. We struggled with the tension of feeling we were never doing either role well and we looked at ways of trying to pare down what we did without losing the quality. God is gracious and we saw him at work through our business, and through our team members. It was an exciting time to be in that location and see evidence of the wind of his Spirit at work and bringing new life.
In this city
The Lord appeared to Paul in a vision while in Corinth saying ‘Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.’ Acts 18:9-10
On our TIMO team, we had a team member who had never successfully learned another language before. He was, however, committed to the programme and forced himself to get out regularly and practise what he was learning with local people. He would go and sit in the tiny local shops and chat with the staff. Not only did he surprise himself with how well his language developed, but he had amazing opportunities to share spiritual truth. He discovered his gifting as an evangelist, and his warm friendly personality opened many doors for him in the local community. He had the privilege of seeing some shop staff become followers of Jesus.
A significant advantage of leading a team is that you have the potential for multiplying your impact in the community. We had people accessing our business services who started to show interest in spiritual things. We were often able to connect them with team members to spend time with them, and maybe help them with their language learning. In some cases, the team had the privilege of seeing them become followers of Jesus. One such client not only became a follower of Jesus herself but has been instrumental in pointing others in the same direction as well. Although our TIMO team has ended, we know that many of the contacts made through our business, and relationships with local people that team members developed themselves, are still in their prayers, and the prayers of their networks of prayer partners. And with social media, relationships can continue from afar.