Missionaries


Usually, teachers ask students to write a “What I Did Last Summer” essay at the beginning of the new school year. Well, here we are at the end of another school year and we have the whole summer laying before us. Let’s start our essay for next fall: “What will I do this summer?”

Here are some suggestions that might be helpful:

  • I will attend church regularly, just like I do the rest of the year.
  • When I take my family vacation, I will find time to worship God, especially if we’re gone over a weekend.
  • I will participate in some kind of mission activity (like Mission Spectacular in Chicago or St. Louis on June 3).
  • I will help with Vacation Bible School.
  • I will bring a friend to church with me.
  • I will get plenty of rest because I know that it is healthy.
  • I will get plenty of exercise because my body needs it.
  • I will find ways to be Christ-like to my friends, family, and neighbors.
  • I will attend (or sponsor) a summer camp for children.
  • I will actively look for a mission trip to grow in my faith.
  • I will start working in one of the on-going ministry efforts of my local church.

Fill your summer with wonderful things to do now and tell about later. Make this the best “What I Did Last Summer” essay you’ve ever written.

“I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.”  —Psalm 86:12

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, so beginning with today’s post, I will be relating what Christmas is to me. Please enjoy.

When we served as missionaries, some of our American brothers and sisters were carrying on an idea that ultimately became very disturbing. The practice was to buy tickets for a cruise. Of course, going on a cruise is not disturbing in and of itself. Many people enjoy taking a leisurely vacation cruise to spend time with friends doing what they mutually agree is fun. But that isn’t the whole story. On this river cruise, there would be Bible studies led by big named preachers and worship directed by the most fascinating personalities in the Christian music market. Again, nothing is throwing up red flags to this point—although one can wonder if the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on this vacation might be better spent.

The cruise down the Dnieper River (and later moved to a different river in Russia), and the tourists would bathe themselves in the aura of all this Bible learning and worship, then they would land at a significant city, disembark, and with the help of a translator blitz the locals with tracts and canned evangelistic presentations. They would record names and numbers to report back to their friends at home the hundreds and thousands of “decisions” made along the way.

What disturbed me was not the desire to see people come to know Christ, but that the ultimate purpose of the trips was to make the tourists feel good about themselves. The method of evangelism left little or no possibility of follow-up or discipleship among those who reportedly became Christians. Truth be told, each year it was found that some of the same people (in the hopes of getting a handout or other aid from the wealthy Americans) would “get saved” over and over again. And to me, perhaps the most disturbing factor of all was the name given to the cruise: “The Riverboat of Hope.”

More Hope is found in relationship—first with Christ, and then with fellow believers who can help us grow in our relationship with Christ. That is Christmas to me.

  “Christ in you, the hope of Glory.”  – Colossians 1:27c

As a new missionary with the International Mission Board, I spent several weeks training at the center they have for that purpose outside of Richmond, VA. The curriculum and living experience is to provide a bridging step from everyday, normal existence in the life that the new missionary knows and prepare them for what is ahead. Much of what is taught in the coursework portion of the orientation deals with a crazy animal called Culture Shock—that demon that rears its ugly head when a person moves from a familiar surrounding to an entirely different cultural atmosphere. The concern is that those preparing for service in an unusual culture will be crippled by the overwhelming nature of immersion into a new culture. Even with all the emphasis, some still despair and return to life at ease in their home country, home state, home county, home town, home.

With all the emphasis on living in a new culture, one discovers that language is integrally related to a person’s culture. We say what we say because of what it means to say what we say. We use the words we use to mean a specific thing. When crossing cultures, one must discover the right way to say what they are intending to say. Otherwise we find that we are not saying anything near what we thought we were saying. Here are several examples I encountered while serving in a Russian-speaking setting:

1. The story is told of the American preacher on a two-week trip preaching in several places. At one church he and his translator were going well until the American used a Baseball illustration. After a moment or two, the preacher realized that his translator had stopped translating and was starring at his guest. When the preacher looked inquisitively at his translator, the young man said, “Besbol, what is this besbol? We do not know this.”

2. Some of my friends commissioned to the Russian-speaking world warn new missionaries and possible volunteers to avoid talk about their passion for Jesus. The reason is that unless they have a very experienced translator working with them (and sometimes even when they do) their helper will translate that they have a “strong sexual desire” for Jesus. That’s what the only Russian word for passion means.

3. When translators first started working on getting the scripture translated into a certain dialect of one particular Turkish people group who live in the former Soviet Union, the workers began doing a word for word translation. Without properly testing the translation with native speakers, they went to press with a scripture portion complete with pictures. Searching for pictures revealed some beautiful artwork that could be used and depicted the Christ in their gospel portions. When the portion was printed and distributed, the target people would have nothing to do with it. First of all, because the language was not smooth or communicative to the people. But even more, the pictures used were Russian Orthodox icons and represented the “God of our oppressors.” Learning from these mistakes, new teams began working and rather than rushing to print, took sometimes up to two years to field test the language learning the best way to say what they were trying to say so that the message would be clear without cross-cultural baggage. Better yet, an artist from within the people group was commissioned to illustrate the stories, and many of the people not only read the first collection of scripture stories, but accepted the Christ about whom they were written.

My point with these examples is that we need to be aware of the culture in which we are sharing our faith. That is true whether we are crossing the street to a new culture, crossing the tracks to a new culture, crossing the country to a new culture, or crossing the globe to a new culture.

Today’s suggestion: learn two or three (or even four or five) different ways to say what you are trying to say when you are speaking of spiritual matters. Take the time to know your friend, and speak their language. This does not water down the gospel, but it makes it effective on all the levels it is meant to be effective. After all, the message of Christ is one that is for any and all who will hear—not just those who speak my language.

(more to come)


I’m getting ready to go on a trip. One of my church members and I will be attending the IMB Volunteer Summit Central & Eastern Europe in Apex, North Carolina. Our hope is that this two-day event will help us determine some ways that our little Midwestern church can get involved in partnering with on-going mission work on the other side of the world. This is a double good trip for me because I’ll get to visit for a minute or two with some of my former colleagues from the mission field.

Ya’ll have a good time while I’m gone now, ya’ hear. (The summit will be at Salem Baptist Church–click on the logo to see their site.)

Today, I would like to honor actually two groups—the temporal and the spiritual.

 

A heartfelt salute goes out to those men and women who have dedicated their lives to the cause of patriotism. We have military stationed at home and abroad that work daily to protect those “certain unalienable Rights” which were endowed by our Creator. We gladly live in a nation that bases its freedoms on the ideology that men can disagree with governmental decisions and make that disagreement known—broadcasting it venomously to all who will listen. I believe, however, that we ought to offer our heartfelt support to our military personnel wherever they may serve.  They are heroes with a capital HEART. We should be thankful to God and to these people that they are on the job protecting our American ideals whenever they serve.

 

On the other side of the coin, serving around the world are people who take their relationship with Christ so seriously, that they have surrendered their lives, their careers, even their families, to the spread of the gospel. These people are known as missionaries. They carry the message of Jesus Christ to the world around them, whether it is at the corner store in Backwater,
North Carolina, or at an outpost in the Zambizi desert. We as a church have romanticized missionary work to the point of placing missionary personnel on a pedestal picturing them as demigods. The reality is that missionaries are simply heroes—ordinary people doing extraordinary things. The difference between missionaries and ordinary believers is that they live to advance the

Kingdom of
God.

 

One group protects our Constitutional freedom.

 

The other advances our freedom in Christ.