Case study: Flirting on a mission team — Giving Jeff a thrill

Jeff felt like Katy had betrayed him.

On Sunday evening the two college students had been introduced to each other as teammates for a summer of short term missions. They had then spent an intensive week of training together with their four other teammates as well as students going to 20 other countries. At a Saturday evening bonfire on the beach, Katy made a remark to Jeff that seemed too flirtatious and possibly even laced with sexual innuendo.

He felt it needed to be addressed, but he didn't know in what way.

It had been a great training camp in California. Jeff, who was a student at a university in America's heartland, was excited about spending the summer in Nigeria with the team to which he had been assigned. His five teammates were all from different universities. They seemed a good mix of personalities. Katy was by far the most boisterous. Jeff thought some of her outbursts bordered on the inappropriate. Still, in his confidence that the Holy Spirit had put their team together, he trusted that Katy's exuberance would be used in their ministry which they had been told would involve an outreach to Muslims.

They had now arrived at the next-to-last night of training camp. The nearly 100 Youth in Mission participants and the training staff were at an evening campfire on the beach. The laid-back evening was a welcome break from the crammed week of seminars, team building exercises and spiritual development sessions.

As Jeff stood facing the fire, he was lost in reflections on the weeks of ministry ahead. People from his own team and others were milling around, enjoying the fire and the sound of ocean waves on the sand. Directly on the other side of the fire from Jeff stood his teammate Katy. Her back was to the fire as she talked to friends.

There was a cool breeze blowing, but the fire was hot. As the fire warmed up those standing around it, Katy decided to take off her sweatshirt. When she pulled it over her head, the back of her tee-shirt underneath rode up with it.

Though Jeff was facing Katy, his mind was far away. In just 48 hours they would be in Nigeria! Then, when Katy began taking off her sweatshirt, her movements caught his eye. Jeff found himself staring at his teammate's bare back. He shifted his gaze away. It was too late. One of the young ladies with Katy saw Jeff looking across the fire and said something to Katy. Pulling her shirt back down, Katy looked back over her shoulder with a mischievous grin.

"Give you a thrill, Jeffie?" she said loudly enough for all of those nearby to hear.

Stunned, Jeff just stood there. For a millisecond he tried to think of a snappy comeback. Then he decided not to respond as Katy turned back toward her friends.

What Katy had just done seemed very inappropriate. Even outside the Youth in Mission context, her language and manner seemed too coquettish. As far as Youth in Mission was concerned what she had done ran counter to several things emphasized during their week of training: (1) The need to protect team dynamics and guard against cross-cultural misunderstandings by avoiding romantic involvements during the summer (2) The insidiousness of sexual temptations during lonely times they might encounter in their 8 weeks away from family and friends and, (3) Specifically for Jeff and Katy's team, the opportunities they would likely have in Nigeria to challenge the Islamic view that American Christians were morally bankrupt.

As the evening went on, Jeff wondered what he was supposed to do now.

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