MLT: Three Steps to a More Focused Life

by Lori Dumas and Ryan O'Hara

One week ago, Saint Paul’s Outreach kicked off our national staff Mission Leader Training (MLT). With over 100 missionary staff serving with both SPO and the Brotherhood of Hope, MLT becomes an initial training ground for new and returning Missionaries to gain practical tools and confidence in raising support for their mission on campus, as well as (finally) finding out the campus team placements for 15-16. This has always been a blessed time not only for these Missionaries, but also for those of us who serve during, pray for, and help coordinate MLT.

As we got the ball rolling last week, Ryan O’Hara—our Director of Mission Resources and overall leader of MLT—exhorted Missionaries and staff to focus on why the Lord brought us together and on three practical ideas for entering into the nine days of MLT. While his tips have been (and continue to be) relevant for this unique training time, I also find them helpful for living life well in general. Ryan encouraged us to keep in mind three concepts: Energy, Effort, and Edit.

1. Energy

All of us know well the need for time management, because we either do it well or we absolutely stink at it. We face the constant struggles to balance work, family life, rest, exercise, friendships, etc. Ryan helped orient us toward an energy management approach. Unlike time, energy is renewable. Many of us don’t always put the necessary work into managing our energy well. To keep a good pace with life, it’s important to take stock of our energies: physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental. Keeping tabs on the needs of our bodies, minds, spirits, and souls can help us ensure we don’t get burned out, can support one another well, and stay at our best for family, friends, and coworkers. Get enough sleep at night. Exercise regularly. Encourage one another. Speak the truth. Ask for what you need.

2. Effort

All good things in life take a little work. If we actively engage the things we do, the people we see, and the ideas we have, our efforts pay off in big ways. Sometimes we have to work at the things that should come easily to us. Depending on the season, significant effort is required to love our friends well, do our job well, and live a balanced life. Let’s lean in to the work. Push. Pull. Do the heavy lifting. Use that elbow grease. It’s usually worth it in the end.

3. Edit

As Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Ryan took this one step further; he claims, “The unexamined MLT is not worth living.” He challenged our Missionaries to take practical steps to focus on what the Lord is communicating during MLT—in prayer, conversations, talks, and social times. Take notes. Highlight the things that stick out to you. Review notes before the next day. The goal of examining and editing the day is to catch the one big idea. That one thing the Lord is trying to speak to you. In the midst of life, work, friendships, prayer, what is the one big thing the Lord wants us to hear? If we take time to examine our lives, we’ll get the message. Just like a history paper in college, editing makes all things better.

Whether for our missionary staff, the 9-to-5 professional, or a busy mom, Ryan’s tips for approaching MLT help calibrate our daily focus on three simple concepts. Through our managed energy, effort exerted, and moments of daily editing, we grow closer to hearing God’s voice, answering His call, and living a life in Him.