Sustaining a Partnership for 17 Years
by Daryl Nuss
This weekend, my wonderful wife Donna and I leave for Russia to lead our seventeenth mission trip there. Those who know me understand that these two weeks in Russia are a part of my “second life.” I love the opportunity to get back to Russia and focus on reaching out to non-believing youth in a foreign culture as well as ministering to a great group of youth from the USA. We will be joined by another group from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida who will help us host a five day English camp for selected students from Moscow.
It was twenty years ago this week that our family moved to Moscow to start Campus Crusade’s youth ministry in Russia. During the three years that we lived in Russia, we were stretched as never before in starting a youth ministry in a society that had been atheistic for 70 years. It was during this time that we developed our English camp format which not only teaches students English but exposes them to Christian values and the gospel.
After we moved back from Russia, we developed a partnership with the ministry there to host English camps each Spring for the Russian ministries. We agreed to continue the partnership as long as the doors stayed open and it served the Russian ministry. Our annual partnership has lasted for seventeen years.
Since learning to work together and develop partnerships is important anywhere we might minister, let me take a moment to share several basic principles that have served us well.
- Have common values and goals. This is critical. In our initial discussions about partnering with the Campus Crusade ministry in Russia, it was fairly simple because we were in the same organization. But our other partner, First Baptist Church of Ft. Lauderdale, has been a partner with us for sixteen years. It only makes sense that each partner must share the same goals for the partnership and agree with the way we go about it. Of course, we evaluate our results, but there has never been disagreement about our values and goals because we agreed on those from the very beginning.
- Build a relationship of honesty and trust. Over the years, we have all become good friends. I have traveled to Ft. Lauderdale several times to spend time with Mike Jefferies who is the missions pastor at First Baptist. Besides building trusting relationships, we must all be willing to ask honest questions about the ministry we are sharing. Without honesty and trust, commitments will erode.
- Cultivate a servant’s heart. It is imperative that we come together with a heart to serve each other. As we say, each of us must leave our egos and logos at the door. It is a great example for us to see Mike and his team put aside their comforts and share their resources for the sake of the mission. Personally, I find that having hurt feelings is minimized when I take the posture of a servant.
- Seek win/win outcomes. From the very beginning, I have stressed with John Porwoll, our Russian partner, that in order for us to recruit students and maintain the needed funding that it must be a win/win situation. Although our primary focus and ministry is to the Russian students and teachers, there must be some discernable benefit to the Americans who come to Russia as well. Are we also providing an environment for God to work in their lives? Providentially, God has been faithful to do deep work in the lives of our participants. In fact, this year nine of our thirteen team members from SoCal are returning for the second, third, or even fourth times.
- Realize that this is God’s ministry. Finally, in any partnership, we must realize that this is God’s ministry. He is the One who opens the doors and confirms our calling to return. He is the One who, as I say, “hires and fires.” He is the One who provides the resources to continue each year. There have been several trips that we have wondered if this might be the last time that we do this. But each year, we have been invited to return and the Lord has confirmed our calling to continue.
If you think of it, pray for us and our ministry to students in this fascinating country. And, may we all seek ways to work together to accomplish what we could never accomplish on our own.