Meeting Andrew and Debbie Jones –
Extraordinary Missional Team
You may already be acquainted with Andrew and Debbie, but know them as Tall Skinny Kiwi and Mum Jones. We met in 1995 – which was even before Andrew was a blogger(!), as I mentioned in a 2008 post about Andrew’s birthday. Andrew and Debbie contacted the organization I worked for at the time as a resource and publication specialist. They were considering a move to the San Francisco Bay Area and I happened to have a lot of info about specific cultural and ministry issues of interest to them. So I guess you’d have to say we’ve had a cultured friendship from the start. (Okay, so that was a totally bad pun, but then, welcome to my world! Have to get through the bad and so-so ones to get to the good ones.) (And might I just add that some friends have been waiting for a very long time to get to the good ones …)
Anyway, through his blog and speaking engagements and consulting, Andrew has probably helped more people at the entry level of questions of [fill-in-the-current-ministry-label] than anyone I know of. He has done this when the fill-in ministry labels were GenX and youth (sub)cultures in the mid-1990s, to postmodern and post-postmodern in the late ’90s and early ’00s, to emerging and missional in the mid-2000s.
But don’t think Debbie is just some side character in Andrew’s storyline. She is equally engaged in discipleship, and fully his counterpart/ner. Mum Jones carries on a ministry of her own. She contributes at summits, shares at events, encourages newcomers and oldgoers, sparks connections for women and for families, co-catalyzes social enterprises.
When we find too many unfortunate examples in the history of church and missions where one marriage partner forced the other into crosscultural ministry, the Joneses offer us a living example of both spouses having a heart for missions and working together to discern the details of where, why, and how. Not only do the Joneses model supportive spousehood in every way that I’ve been able to observe, but they are one of those couples who cause me to ponder how two together in marriage can enter a ministry together that never would have been possible to either as a single. I don’t totally know what that means yet, but I keep thinking about it. I see it in a number of couples where their spiritual gifts and ministries as single people take a different direction and/or amplification when they marry.
The Late 1990s to Mid-2000s
The Joneses have opened their lives to me, and kept connected over a long period of time. I appreciate their authenticity and vulnerability. They are an amazing couple, and from them and their children, I’ve learned a lot about living missionally. After they moved to San Francisco, I had the opportunity to interview both Andrew and Debbie multiple times during their stay in the Haight-Ashbury District from early 1997 to early 1998. Those interviews became part of a case study on “Godspace 4 The New Edge” and “The Celtic House” – which is what kids on the street in the Haight called the dozen people who lived in the huge flat on Ashbury Street.
We went to a lot of GenX/postmodern events back in the day when those were the labels used. In fact, Andrew and I and several others from the Bay Area attended Leadership Network’s “Emerging Urban Leaders” Conference in Washington, D.C., in 1997. I’ll never forget that Andrew willingly slept on the floor on some pillows when we ran out of beds and couches in the room our group rented. That’s just one of many memorable examples in a series of personal snapshots showing how the Joneses do some of the harder things themselves now so others can experience a bit more comfort later. But isn’t that generally the way of pioneers?
The Joneses moved from California to Texas in mid-1998 to start a ministry to people from alternative cultures. (That in itself is a wonderful story of where God took them, and how it led to them helping resource the rest of us on the cultural edges for the past decade, including many events related to the Tessera Learning Trail.) I remember their now famous and very way cool van that was home back then, and they lived on the road a lot in those days.
We’ve stayed in touch since they left California. We’ve been at a few conferences together. I’ve tracked their journeys to Texas, Prague, the UK, Orkney. (They even invited me to Orkney to be their monk in residence and stay in their upper room/attic!) Until September 2008 – after the Missional-Tech-Geek Gathering – I don’t think I’ve seen Andrew and Debbie together since the Houston Doxology art exhibit in 2005, when the entire Jones clan was here in the states. In 2006, Debbie and I were at a Houston summit on bridging established and emerging culture ministries. And perhaps I saw Andrew in person at the 2007 Allelon Missional Order Summit at Seabeck after that. It gets hard to remember sometimes in this age of virtuality, because we’re emailing and reading each others blogs and commenting, and there is so much info going back and forth at times that I simply can’t recall if the connection was IRL or URL.
So, anyway, it was a delight to get together with TSK and Mum Jones at the “Squat & Gobble” deli in the Haight-Ashbury a few days after the Missional-Tech-Geek Gathering for some chai, citrus coolers, and what not. It is such a delight when you’ve known people long enough to get perspective on the big picture of their lives, and think in terms of “videos” or “flip books” instead of just individual snapshots, and no longer be more concerned about the scratches or underdeveloped parts than about the overall flow of things in the right direction. And I see the Joneses doing now much as they have done since we first met: planning strategically, living intentionally, mentoring regularly, and – a favorite aspect of mine – outrageousing (yes, I verbed an adjective!) periodically, which actually makes for sanity-keeping creatively. In their presence, I always ALWAYS feel welcomed, honored as a peer, included in whatever’s happening. If JonesKidz are with them, then you’re part of the whole family.
Third Culture Kids and the Futures of JonesKidz
And speaking of their children, what an amazing heritage they are passing along, helping forge lives that are both international and intercultural … a sort of “Third Culture Kid” redemptive purpose … and the world hardly knows yet what this unusual cultural group could accomplish, as it is just beginning to emerge from subcultural status to a position of enough size and prominence to be noticed.
Third Culture Kids, or TCKs as they are sometimes called, were often referred to formerly as “MKs” – missionary kids. But the borders of that tribe have been expanded to include other groups, such as children of diplomats, international business workers, and military personnel. These young people grow up not necessarily identifying with the culture in their country of passport, nor in their current country of residence. Thus, a virtual third culture has been created. TCKs frequently connect with each other through attending international schools or international churches.
Because of their early life exposure to racial and cultural diversity, they tend to develop a cultural fluency that is a lot like learning a second language, but without an accent. Given their cultural sophistication, third culture kids seem to belong everywhere. And so, TCKs have been called cultural brokers, bridge people, and peace-makers. Andrew and Debbie have been rearing a family of disciple-leaders who have every possibility of playing important roles as “mobile people of peace” in a global-gobee generation. It will be a delight to see how each of them continues growing into their faith
Personal Impact and Possible Futures
Meanwhile, Andrew and Debbie can more than handle the oddness that is (sometimes) me and love me exactly where I’m at. I’ve seen them demonstrate that same kind of grace and ease with others anywhere on the scale from traditional to transitional to radical. Doesn’t matter. You’re included. There is a graciousness, patience, and kindness there that is magnetic! And yet, they also challenge me to be and do more than I think is possible. For instance, I am certain Andrew must take the award as The Person Most Responsible for Getting Brad to Blog. And that is not the only element of inertia in my life that Andrew has gently prodded me to push past. Like teach more, connect with this or that person, go to such-and-such summit. Debbie frequently asks questions, and offers deeper insights and creative perspectives, that challenge me to stretch my thinking. And her courage, flexibility, and perseverance in being mobile and global especially encourage me.
Anyway, since I want to live with as few regrets as possible, I’ve been making it a practice to say in person what I would write in a “when I think about you, this is what comes to mind” card. And so, at our parting after the Squat & Gobble connection, I thanked Andrew and Debbie for the role they as a couple have had with their family in nurturing new waves of disciples who were fumbling to find their footing in the worlds of emerging cultures.
We will look back 20, 30, 50 years from now, and see that Andrew and Debbie Jones stand among the most influential people in offering a portal for possibilities in this new era of ministry. First, by understanding a new set of questions about ministry in the here and now, and second, by serving as stabilizers for many, many people young and old who needed a word of welcome or a place of relief and restoration. These have come at a cost to themselves and their family. But with their sacrifice has also come an immense investment in a more constructive Kingdom future for all of us. Andrew and Debbie and their kids are heroes to me!
Missional Metrics –
Compositing a Profile of Christlikeness
From themes in the lives of Andrew, Debbie, and their family, I see demonstrated that missional disciples …
- Take on situations and make a way forward so those who come along later have at least a route to follow, though not a totally paved road.
- Consistently welcome people into their life, and it’s about an expansive heart more than an expensive home.
- Follow the Holy Spirit’s leading faithfully in whatever place or process to which they are called, whether that is global or local, rooted or mobile.
- Can live creatively, frugally, and outrageously because they have embraced freedom in their followership.
- What qualities do you see in the lives of Andrew and Debbie that seem to you perfectly suited for new paradigms and cultures that are unfolding in what was previously Christendom?
- If you could interview the Joneses about what it means to them to be everyday disciples who are learner-leaders, what specific questions would you want to ask?
This article was original posted at my futuristguy@Missional Tribe blog on January 5, 2009.