Quick - what do you expect I will address in this post? Will it be (yet another) deep and theoretical English lesson? A keen spiritual insight, perhaps taken from Augustine again? Are you skimming this post, getting a quick "Czecherboarding news fix" and then back to your daily life, or are you preparing to read deeply and enjoy this post? Either way, your expectations for the post are already setting your attitude towards reading it and even the way you do read it.
Lately, I have been alerted in a new way to the power of expectations. As a teacher, I have been told that my expectations for students will actually affect their performance in the class, that having low expectations for them produces correspondingly low grades. Maybe I don't call them "stupid" (let's hope I don't!), but if I start thinking, "they're not college material", or "they're just not writers, you know?" - well, then, they'll act like that. Already in my classes I've taken steps to ward against low expectations. On Monday, I met my classes for the first time and told them that I had high expectations for them - and, more importantly, that I knew they could fulfill these expectations. On Tuesday, I noticed that only about one-third of my students had submitted their Introduction Quiz (ungraded) and caught myself subconsciously lowering my expectations. Oops. Better keep those expectations high, I tell myself.
English aside, however, I have been thinking about another set of expectations: the expectations for believers raising support for overseas ministry. Eight months ago, I hoped to leave for the Czech Republic in August. I expected to raise my full support - as most of you know, more than $2000 / month - in time to go this fall. Rather idealistic, of course, but I personally knew people who had raised support in a similar amount of time and so hoped that my own experience would be no different. My experience was obviously quite different - in part due, perhaps, to other expectations.
At the same time as I began raising support, I began paying more attention to others who were doing the same thing - and I noticed the startlingly-long amounts of time required. One family has spent 3 years raising support, another 4 - and neither is quite finished. More discouraging still, a third family devoted two years to raising support, gained fifty percent - and then decided that (given the lack of finances and their budding family) they could no longer remain in full-time missions. And I wondered, Will this be me in three years? Will I be raising support forever . . . or even have to quit? A scary thought, indeed.
I think perhaps that in recession-bound America today there is an expectation for missions support: that most missionaries will require two years (and even more) to raise sufficient funds before they can depart. It's normal, we tell ourselves, and it can even be a period of great spiritual encouragement and growth. Certainly it can, but it can also be physically and emotionally grueling and delay important ministries overseas or here in the US. For missions schools, the expectation of a two- or three-year deptuation is even more difficult. A school is, of course, responsible for normal ministry demands: bringing glory to Christ and introducing others to Him. A school, however, is also responsible for educational demands: providing its students a consistent education that will serve them will as they go on to a job or to college. In order to uphold this responsibility, the schools require missionary teachers - such as myself - and when the teachers cannot come for the school year, there is a gap in the school's ministry.
The situation for schools, then, stands like this: although most of us expect missionaries to take 2-3 years or more to raise support, a school has great difficulty in waiting that long for its teachers to arrive. Imagine a woman applying to be your child's new high-school English teacher. Perhaps they're a great teacher, perhaps they graduated with all As from college and excelled in their student teaching and have a body of stellar references. However good this woman is, she could not tell the school, I really want to work for you, but I can't be there for another two years. The school would say, Forget it! and hire somebody else. In my situation, there are classes that I was scheduled to teach that now require a long-term substitute (usually a student's parent, from what I understand) because I was not able to raise enough support to go. As you think and pray for me, then, please do not picture me arriving in Prague in 2012 or 2013. Picture me instead leaving this January, which is when I would like to leave if I raise the requisite support. My support is currently still at 41%. I need another $1300 / month before I can leave.
If I am expecting to leave in January, will I go? Perhaps. I intend to work that way (I have several contacts to follow up on this week, and more to work towards in the coming weeks - please pray!) For now, that's all I can say. I'll keep you posted.