This week, to finish our series on growing up, I’ve been talking about mission/outreach/mercy ministry. For obvious reasons, I can only touch lightly on each of these three areas. Today’s is on the world. It is what we used to call foreign missions. These days, it isn’t always so foreign because many of the people we used to go to, live in our neighborhoods…or not far from them!
Missions has come a long way…or have they?
It was only a few hundred years ago that missionaries packed their things in a coffin and never expected to return to the US when they left. If they were fortunate to survive the early months of living in their new environment without being killed by a disease native to that area, they often were killed by native creatures or natural disasters.
Sometimes they were martyred by people indiginous to the area because the locals weren’t interested in the one GOD being talking about…but that was usually much later, when the missionary could speak the language enough to be understood.
It was quite a commitment when people went overseas back then…to bring the gospel to people who had never heard it. The travel was difficult, adjustments were many and arduous, and the lifestyle was never an easy one. Along with the gospel came medical treatment, literacy, improved sanitary conditions and education for the people they came to.
Jesus is the answer to reconciliation…but how do we communicate that answer?
As we look around at some of the problems in the world, they look nearly impossible to solve. How would we even begin to start? In each country, the answers are different. The basic answers, however are the same. Jesus is the answer to all the questions. It is only when we become reconciled with Him that we can begin to truly reconcile with each other.
I am not minimizing the need for food, education, medical care and a host of other needs in many parts of the world. But the basic need we all have is to be reconciled with GOD. It is only as we know Jesus and what He has done for us that we can care for the deepest needs of the human heart.
He will give us the want-to…the desire to care for others who are not lovable…who are needy…even the desire to share our wealth, no matter how meager it may seem to us.
Changing the world doesn’t happen overnight
No, the world won’t change overnight. It will change one person at a time, one family at a time, one neighborhood at a time…but eventually, the gospel will change people around the world…as it has and continues to do. We must relate to people as humans made in the image of GOD who need to be reconciled with GOD, each other, their community and creation.
With the drop in American resources, will GOD’s work die?
There are good things happening. Our American dollars have been supporting ministries overseas that the local leaders in the given countries haven’t all bought into. Now that more of their money and resources will be needed to support many of those ministries because we aren’t able to provide as much as we used to, some of those ministries will be closing down or changing focus. That is also a good thing.
If local leaders don’t see the need for a certain ministry, if they don’t have the buy-in, they will not be willing to sacrifice their time and effort and money for it. It will die. They are the ones who live in that culture. They know their people and resources. There is going to be an increased level of working together with their American mentors even compared to 20 years ago. But GOD is bigger than ministries started by Americans in foreign countries isn’t He?
Are American missionaries still needed?
Are the American missionaries still needed? Yes, but in different ways than they may have been in the past. People who can advise on specialty areas such as growing crops, using land well, caring for animals and often teaching communities how to vaccinate animals to prevent diseases; medical teams that come in for help (not all medical persononnel can get permanent visas); helping people start small businesses; short term evangelistic teams that meet a felt need such as teaching English.
These are all openings for evangelism for the people who are there long-term…often a local church community. Pastors who are willing to work behind the scenes in advisory capacities rather than doing the actual work…which would often be easier; people who will train others where needed. These are just a few of the needs.
Where can I find help for my attitude if I go overseas…short term or otherwise?
Once again, the book I recommended yesterday is very helpful in giving guidance here. We must go in with an attitude that we are broken too. We aren’t the awesome American saviors there to fix all their problems. We are there, as broken people to help them in their brokenness, to find where their strengths are, what they can do for themselves…and give them the help they see they need. It will usually look different from the view we have when we are being paternalistic!
- Our greatest help here is prayer for missionaries or fields that we are burdened for. As a family you can pray for a country, a city of the world, a people of the world that you will be burdened for. Get to know all you can about the group geographically, religiously, missionally. Get to know missionaries who work there…and local pastors’ families they can introduce you to via skype or email. At some point, your family might even be able to visit this place. Imagine how great it would be after a few years of praying for these people to actually meet them…and minister in some small way to them?
- Giving is another way to help missionaries. Talk to people you know on the field and find out special projects they recommend for VBS and other fund-raising projects they recommend. Don’t push your own agenda. Find out what they see as their needs even if it isn’t something you can take a photo of!
- For some of you, going as either short-term or career missionary will be your calling. You may “only” go on a mission trip that provides expertise in a short visit. That is also an excellent help to the work being done locally.
- Many of you can use hospitality to welcome international families or students into your home. You can get to know them and make them feel welcome in your home away from home. You don’t know where that will lead…but it can be a powerful outreach in your own backyard! Check with your local college or university to find out who these students are. Yes, it is scary…but think how lonely they feel living here not knowing anyone! It may be the way they get to know Jesus! By being welcomed into a Christian family with love.
So there it is. The final, too many words on missions. Can you tell I’m a missionary kid (MK), friend of many other MK’s and missionaries over the years, a former missionary myself and mother of one as well.
This is only a snapshot of a very broad topic. Look at the world. Start praying for it and how GOD wants you to engage in it. He will make it clear!
- Get to know an individual or country that you are drawn to. Start praying for that country and the mission work going on there. Learn more about the country and its culture as a family. If you are getting to know a missionary family there, find a way to get your kids acquainted as well. Many missionaries say that their kids have difficulty when returning to the US because they don’t know any kids their age here. Have your kids write back and forth and get acquainted so when they come to the US, they will know a family here!
- Pray for this family and country that GOD will work and grow their ministry there.
- If you haven’t done so before, read When Helping Hurts by Corbett and Fikkert.