Thursday, September 27, 2012


A little known missionary fact – Office Bouncing is as much a part of the missionary game as dribbling is part of basketball and soccer.

                Many missionary supporters don’t know about Office Bouncing.

                Many missionaries despise Office Bouncing.

                Some of my better Banyarwanda (Rwandan) friends have whispered that many contemporary missionaries are neither relevant nor influential.   However, if you watch the missionaries whom nationals admire you will notice they are masters at office bouncing.

                A quick Google search of “Definition of Office Bouncing” did not get a single relevant hit.   Let me tell the secret.   In my early days in Uganda I followed two Office Bouncing masters.

                The first was Peter Ngobi.    Peter was the real estate agent who helped us find our first home.   He also kept us safe by letting us know rumors of possible civil strife.     Peter “bounced.”   His family was well connected, but did not land well in the dispersion of inheritances.    He seemed to know everyone.   Without earthly inheritance Peter masterfully used human capital.    His savvy with knowing property owners and potential renters was invaluable.   He moved around making friends and putting friends together.    Peter did with shoe leather what twitter and face book attempt with wifi.

Master Office Bouncer, Gaston Tarbet with wife, Janet
                The second was Gaston Tarbet, Jana’s dad.    During a missionary’s first days in a new nation the first tasks are government documentation.    Many missionaries dodge the office bounce.   Gaston embraced it.    You dress well.   You print business cards.   You write a letter of explanation.   You go and visit government bureaucrats for the first time.    You wait patiently for your turn.   While waiting you read and pray.    When you meet them you treat them with respect.   You never forget to pastor first.   You try to learn a few details about their lives.   After your meeting you pray and bless them.

                Office Bouncing is the act of moving from office to office like a ball bounces with the purpose of making an enduring friendship for an eternal purpose.   Some think it is about ticking off items on a TO DO List.   The TO DO list will be finished at the appropriate time, but Office Bouncing is kingdom work at God’s pace.

                Many missionaries complain about Office Bouncing.   They see it as a waste of time when they “have to preach the gospel.”    Many supporters don’t get the first months and years of adjustment either.   If both are patient they’ll see profound relevance and influence.   Good Office Bouncers register churches and organizations, get visas, keep documents relevant, pay taxes, listen well, and nurture a community’s hopes.   They are the point guards of missionary organizations.

                A few have inquired about what our first months in Chicago (Cyikago for us Bantu speakers) is like.  It is Office Bouncing.

Caleb with Sophia and Ethan at Third Culture Kids (TCK) Camp
                Allow me to tell the story of enrolling our oldest son, Caleb in school.

Caleb with friends at KICS 2012 Prom
  1.  This was to be Caleb’s senior year in high school.   However, he had the misfortune of landing in a new location in the USA during his senior year.   After some inquiries it seemed the best option was for Caleb to take courses at a local community college (College of DuPage / COD) in lieu of his senior year to prepare to enter a top Christian liberal arts college in the following year. 
  2.     Caleb visited a friend over the summer.    In the process of travel he lost his passport.   We assumed he would not need his passport until his next opportunity to travel outside of the United States.
  3.    Our family acclimated to life in Wheaton, Illinois by joining the Wheaton Library and Park Association.   In the process Caleb received a Park’s Card.
  4. All of our family had physicals and updated immunizations as we returned to the USA.   The kids all needed these to be accepted into educational institutions.
  5.   Caleb applied to the College of DuPage / COD and was accepted though he did not have a high school diploma.   We understood he could be accepted as a dual credit student and take credit to both finish high school and receive university credit.
  6.      Caleb and I applied for financial aid (FASFA).   As we finished the application we received information that led us to believe that Caleb would receive a Pell Grant and Student Loan to pay for expenses at the COD.  
  7.  Caleb and I went to the Financial Aid office at COD.
  8. The financial aid office informed us that in order to get financial aid Caleb must have either a High School diploma or a General Equivalency Diploma (GED.)
  9.  Caleb and I went to the COD GED office.  (Note in Office Bouncing that eventually it develops its own localized vernacular consisting of acronyms.   The best Office Bouncers are acronym linguistic masters.)
  10.    The August GED registration was full.   We inquired about the on-line GED versions we’d seen frequently and were told they were not acceptable to COD.
  11. We attempted to register Caleb for the next COD GED in September, but in order to register needed a government issued photo ID.
  12.   The COD GED office would not take Caleb’s Wheaton Park’s ID as photo ID. 
  13.   Caleb got a COD student photo ID.   The COD GED office would not accept Caleb’s COD student ID as a government issued photo ID.
  14.   Jana then joined the journey as we went to Wheaton’s Post Office (PO) to apply for a replacement passport.   We thought this was just a nudge from God to get a passport and be ready for travel.
  15.  When we got to Wheaton’s PO they would not take a USA passport application without a photo id of Caleb.   The Wheaton PO would not accept Caleb’s Wheaton Park, nor COD ID as a valid photo government issued ID.   They sent us to the Wheaton Illinois Office of the Secretary of State (IOOTSOS) to get an Illinois State ID (ISID).
  16. At the Wheaton Illinois OOTOS we were told that in order to get Caleb an Illinois State ID Jana or I must sign an affidavit affirming that we were Caleb’s parents.   The affidavit required for us to have Illinois State Driver’s Licenses.
  17.    We decided since we were at the right office we may be well served to apply for an Illinois State Driver’s License.   As we attempted to fill out the application we were told we needed our USA Social Security Card.    Jana and I knew our Social Security (SS) numbers and filed taxes, etc… but we could not remember having our SS cards in years.
  18.  We went back home and looked through our documents for our SS cards, but had no luck.   They must have been lost (most likely for me in the fall of 1985 as I was washing clothes as a freshman at Harding University - HU.)
  19.    Jana and I found the on line application for SS Cards and filled out the application.   The application asked for our parent’s (Gaston and Jan Tarbet – AKA GJT; and Lloyd and Lois Jenkins – AKA LLJ) SS numbers.  We called GJT and LLJ to get their numbers.   After getting the numbers we burned the piece of paper it was written upon.   (Just kidding, but DJ’s “little brother”, Tim (TJ) is a US Marine (USMC), we’ve lived in Africa for some time, and we will really make life miserable if we catch an identity thief.)
  20.    DJ and JJ went to the SS office and applied for new SS cards.
  21.    While at the Illinois Office of the Secretary of State (IOOTSOS) they mentioned if Caleb had 2 pieces of “official mail” plus his SS card he could apply for an Illinois State ID (ISID).  “Personal mail” would not count.  
  22. Caleb had “Official mail” from COD, but not another piece of mail.   Caleb also still had his original SS card.  We called John Osborne (JO), Rwanda Outreach Community (ROC) Partners Chairman and Oklahoma Christian University (OC) Director of International Studies to request for OC to send Caleb “Official Mail.”   (We also contacted other universities and the ACT office to see who could get Caleb “Official Mail” to our home the fastest.)
  23. A few days later we had “Official Mail” and went back to the IOOTSOS to get Caleb an ISID.
  24.  With an ISID we went to the COD GED office and registered Caleb to take the GED.
  25.   Last week, Caleb took the GED.

Currently, our unfinished Office Bouncing TO DO List includes:

  1. Receive Caleb’s GED scores.   (We’re confident he smoked it.   Remember this is the kid who read encyclopedias and then asked his parents questions to test our intelligence.)
  2.  Correct Caleb’s FASFA with a GED.
  3. Discuss with COD’s Financial Aid Office how to get the Pell Grant and Student Loan.
  4.  Apply for Illinois State Driver’s License.

Yet, Office Bouncing with Masters has taught us that our TO DO List is still filled with many unknowns.   Thus we should expect to bounce just a little more than we anticipate.

The Jenkins' boys with Gabriel Mugisha Jacobs
What have we learned?

  1. Office Bouncing is part of life.   Everyone does it.   Every nation and culture requires it.   Anthropologists call these, “Rites of Passage.”   We must go through trials to become mature in a community.
  2.   Office Bouncing is Biblical.   Luke by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in writing Acts seemed to take special care to let Theophilus know that those following Jesus as the Living Lord did all they could to honor Roman government process.   Paul likely had Office Bouncing on his mind when the Holy Spirit led him to write Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Timothy 2:1-8.
  3. Office Bouncing is most pronounced when one is in transition.    If one lives in the same location these tasks have a rhythm and order.   As one starts afresh they feel like drinking water from an open fire hydrant.
  4.   Office Bouncing creates opportunities for Gospel proclamation.   One of the fruits of 19 years is the number of people we met Office Bouncing who shared our journey of following Jesus.
  5.    If Office Bouncing never produces satisfying ticks on a TO DO List it does shape our character.   For this we are thankful.
  6.       May God bless all of our supporters in North America who Office Bounce.
  7. May God bless all of our missionary sojourners, both Bazungu (White) and Bafrica (Black) who Office Bounce.

Enjoy your Office Bouncing Journey,


No comments:

Post a Comment