Field Personnel Columns / General CBF

Independence or interdependence

By Keith Holmes 

As CBF field personnel, I have also considered it my job to work myself out of a job.

Rather than depending on me, my partners should eventually become self-sufficient. This is the same goal I have in parenting. My children should, at some point, become fully-functioning, independent adults. Recently, though, I’ve had to re-examine this model.

I love to travel. I have visited over 60 countries and every continent except Antarctica. I am also the travel agent for our family. So, when my wife Mary planned to make one of her ministry trips to the Republic of Moldova, I helped with the travel arrangements.

Mary is a competent adult and also a seasoned traveler. But she was not traveling alone. Three Romany from Germany would be going with her. These folks have also done plenty of traveling, but they come from an oral culture rather than a written one. We send them emails, even emails translated into German, and they rarely respond. We send them messages through WhatsApp with only slightly better results.

While they can talk and (possibly) text all day long, they rely on cell phones and probably do not have a computer or keyboard between the three of them. Also, like many Germans, they do have a bank debit card but no credit card of any sort. So, I very reluctantly agreed to make the ticket arrangements for them.

This involves not only choosing the flights, etc., but also getting all pertinent information like passport number, passport expiration date, date of birth, actual legal name . . . .  Last year two of these folks went with Mary to Moldova. It took numerous emails, texts and phone calls to get all of these pieces of information. We now have that info for those two, but not for the new addition to the team. So, I asked for a photo of the personal information page of his passport.

The photo he sent was out of focus. It took two or three more exchanges to get the required information. Then, when Mary had a Skype conference with the leader of the group about a week later, he claimed he had never received the ticket information. We had emailed it. We had told him (via phone call and text) that we had emailed it. Mary told him again. And while they were talking, someone in his household unearthed it.

These partners are dependent on me for their travel. This situation is not likely to change. What has changed is how I view that situation. I have wanted to avoid any form of paternalism. But thinking that I am eventually going to “teach them” to become independent from me is another, subtle form of paternalism. A truly incarnational ministry replaces “me” and “them” with “us.”

This Romany leader has many gifts. Arranging airplane travel is not one of them.

No matter how much I might wish it, neither he, nor anyone in his household, are likely to develop this gift. On the other hand, planting churches among German Romany, preaching in a Romani language, or visiting Romany in Moldova as a Romany Christian are not gifts I am likely to develop, either.

We need each other. In Christ’s Kingdom, we will continue to need each other. Jesus’ model is not self-sufficient independence, but of a living, growing, interdependent community.

Keith Holmes is a CBF field personnel serving alongside his wife, Mary van Rheenen, among the Romany people in Eastern Europe. You can learn more about and support their ministry at

Keith and Mary’s long-term presence in Eastern Europe is made possible by the CBF Offering for Global Missions. Join God’s mission in the world. Give to the Offering for Global Missions. 100 percent of your church’s gifts will be used to send CBF field personnel to share the Good News of Jesus Christ around the world. Go to and order your free OGM resources today.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s