Home > The Missionaries > John and Selina Allen > Flexibility--Key for the Missionary

Flexibility--Key for the Missionary

Published Sep 5, 2010

Andrew Learns Flexibility
If you reject a food, you reject the culture. If you reject the culture, you reject the people.

This past week, I was able to go with brother Matt to Aiyura for his 100-hour maintenance inspection on the airplane. I had a great time working around the airplanes that week and just running errands here and there with brother Matt, but over the entire week one thought or maybe I should say one lesson really stuck out to me—changing plans may perplex us, but changing plans never perplex God. There were numerous occasions last week where this was evident and I wish I had time enough to write about them all—I will just mention a few. It all started with the plan to begin the inspection on Monday and to finish it by Friday. SIL mechanics started in on the inspection on Monday but immediately found a big problem—a bracket for the left landing gear of the plane had a crack and needed replaced. It would be a one-man job and would take 80 man-hours: that meant the expected 1-week maintenance inspection was now going to be 2-weeks. Well, this news came on Monday and threw somewhat of  a monkey-wrench in our plans.

Filling the Truck with gas
Where do you put the gas cylinders when you are afraid someone might steal them?

Tuesday, Matt planned on driving to Goroka (2 hours away) to pick up a fuel drum, go to the bank, and get some grocery shopping done. It seemed simple enough. We started by going to pick up a drum of fuel, but when we arrived, the supplier did not accept credit or debit cards so we would have to drive clear across town to the bank, get a money order  and then drive all the way back to get the drum. For those of us from the U.S., there is one thing that you have to realize about PNG and the mindset of the people here—for the most part, they are never in a hurry for anything. So costumer service around here—you might say, not quite like what we are used to in the U.S. We ended up going to the bank, but just the one bank visit took a couple of hours. By the time lunch was finished and one other little errand it was early afternoon. We had wanted to leave Goroka by 2:30 in order to drive the 2 hours back to Aiyura to put all the supplies at the airport where it would be safe for the night. That was about the time, though, that we left to pick up the drum of fuel—by the time we picked up the drum and were on the road it was 3:30: again, our plan changed. The grocery shopping we planned to do—let’s just say—it did not get done that day!

Hanging in there
The airplane up on jacks—minus one landing gear.

The accounts that I just related to you may seem unimportant and very trivial, but to me they helped solidify something in my mind—being flexible to a change in plans is key. Why?—because often I respond to negative change by resisting it and fail to realize God is still in control and has the best plan.

Being flexible to change in plans is key!

I am reminded of the story of Jairus’ daughter in Mark 5—Jairus’ plan of getting Jesus to heal his daughter was interrupted by a mob of people surrounding Jesus. In fact, during the interruption by the crowd of people, his daughter died: the plan he had, to see his daughter healed, completely changed, but Jesus was not the least bothered—his command to Jairus was “Be not afraid, only believe.” As I observe Matt and others on the team deal with changing plans, I am learning that it is not the time to sit around wondering what went wrong, but it is an opportunity to seek God’s direction and find new ways to accomplish the task with the resources God has already supplied.

“Flexibility is the key, do it immediately and joy you will receive”: these are not quite the same words to the children’s song I learned as a youngster, but they fit the life of a missionary. The ability to be flexible is a great asset, not just for the missionary but for every one of God’s children. When our plans unexpectedly change, our flexibility often determines whether we have a good or a bad day.

Andrew is spending one year with TTMK in Papua New Guinea learning what missions life is all about.