Long-time Upstream team member Debbie Stephens celebrates the ten year anniversary of The Upstream Collective by describing her own Upstream journey. Debbie facilitates Upstream’s Jet Set Trips, and also serves as the founder and president of Equipped To Go.
Happy 10-Year Anniversary to The Upstream Collective!
When I joined Upstream eight years ago I felt like I was in a foreign land listening to Larry McCrary and Caleb Crider talk about the church on mission. Words like contextualization, gentrification, exegeting culture…what?! Of course, I didn’t tell them I didn’t know what they were talking about, but I did go back and research the terms to learn what they were. This is how we grow, right? God stretches us past what we know now and leads us into new understandings and a deeper knowledge of him and his purposes.
It has been incredible to see how the Lord has grown me and the footprint of Upstream through training churches to be sending churches, making disciples who make disciples through Tradecraft: For the Church on Mission, conducting missionary pre-field training, and organizing Jet Set Trips that take church leaders out of their local context and into a foreign culture to prompt missionary thought and practice.
One of my favorite times was back in 2015, when we partnered with the International Mission Board to do a Jet Set trip for women. Eight women leaders from all over the United States met in Madrid, Spain, where we joined Larry and Susan McCrary for a week of “missionary skills” training and ministry. Our days consisted of three parts: missional conversations, ministry venues, and culture.
These truly were extraordinary women. They came as learners. They soaked up the teaching of Tradecraft during our missional conversations and put these skills into practice as we ministered to different ethnic groups throughout the city. They practiced mapping skills in an area where many North African refugees had settled.
The culture was not lost on them—when they were not serving they were out in the streets meeting and loving people. We even had some funny worship faux pas as we attended different styles of worship services. Did you know people don’t worship the same as we do in other parts of the world? This is all part of the learning process!
Our days were long, but we always began and ended with thanksgiving to the One who sent us and continues to push us to live on mission wherever we are.
These women left with a new sense of purpose for their lives and personal ministries. Their hearts were set on teaching these skills to others in their sphere of influence so that they too would have God’s heart for their neighbors and the nations. They also left the best of friends.
I am thankful for how God has led and used Upstream over the last ten years to impact people as displayed in that Jet Set trip. They truly lead and resource the local church to be disciplers and senders. I am so grateful to be a recipient and participant in this important ministry.
May God grant us many more years of serving the local church!