FIRST-PERSON: From the heart of the mission field
SPRINGDALE, Ark. (BP) -- Jeana and I have just returned from 12 days away, with much of that time in the heart of the mission field. As we conversed one-on-one and in several meetings with our missionaries in challenging fields all over the Middle East, we were able to hear their hearts loud and clear. As I have thought about this upon my return home, I feel it is incumbent upon me to share what I am able to within the boundaries of security.
In each meeting, I asked our missionaries: What do you want me to share with our churches back home? The missionaries and their leaders were not timid at all. I want to highlight the things they shared with me:
1. Pray for us
Without any question, the need for prayer rang loud and clear! They are fully aware they are called to forward the Gospel message in territories of the world where this message has never been heard before. They know their giftedness in and of itself cannot penetrate the lostness of the ethnicities of people they are trying to reach. They know they need what only God Himself can do.
In fact, one of the biggest challenges for which they pleaded for prayer is the ability to learn the language of Arabic. This is an ongoing challenge for them, and for a segment of their initial term, it dominates their schedule. To the level of learning and articulating the language will be the level of their ability to live cross-culturally and share Christ effectively.
Since they realize the places they serve are in the harder places of the world, they are always in need of prayer for their flexibility, security and welfare. Yet, they are more than aware God has them there and are convinced He will use them in all kinds of places in the world. While they may intend to go one place, the doors close, and they have to adjust to the Spirit's leadership rapidly.
Pastors and churches, pray for our missionaries. Begin to pray daily for them personally and more regularly in our churches.
2. Pray for open doors
With every global crisis you see through the media, realize it is time to pray for our missionaries to have an open door for the Gospel. The call of God upon their lives drowns out their fears. They know God has called them, and to that call they are committed.
They believe the Arab world is more open to the Gospel now than ever before. Many in the Muslim faith are evaluating their religion now more than ever before due to the extreme practices of some. God is using the ISIS crisis to expose the darkness of a life without purpose and a relationship without God. In fact, our missionaries said to us again and again, "Tell the American people to not judge the Muslim people by what ISIS and others may be doing. They are friends, astounded themselves by what is happening, plus we are trying to reach them for Christ." They are just like us: They need a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
We all need to pray that even for those within ISIS themselves, that our
God would reveal His power to many of them, converting them to be Christ-followers. He did it with Paul who was a persecutor of Christians; therefore, God can do it again.
3. Partner with us
Almost every missionary was passionate about desiring true partnership with our churches in America. They greatly desire personal correspondence of any kind, whether it comes in the form of emails, notes, or even through gifts of encouragement of things back home. Additionally, they desire the sense of family created through relationships.
Churches partnering with our missionaries may also result in churches going to the regions, serving alongside of the missionaries. Not serving as tour guides, but ministry partners. Perhaps as some mentioned, rather than sending teams, send their friends who know them well, and can help with the endless challenges of raising children, taking care of the house, the needs of the children, and the friendship of sharing burdens which exist on the mission field.
Missionaries need partner churches because they lose identity, even with their home churches. At times, their pastor leaves the church, or leadership of the church transitions, or even the church goes through such transition in the course of one, two, or more terms of a missionary that they do not even recognize the church any longer. Therefore, they need our churches to do all we can to establish a relationship with our missionaries, becoming real partners with them.
If your church has been fortunate to have missionaries called to serve on the field, then your church, as ours does, must take this seriously. Our prayer support must be tremendous, our relationship strong, and our partnership defined and fulfilled at every level. They need to know we are with them as they serve overseas.
4. Thank you
Endlessly, the missionaries asked me to tell our churches thank you! Therefore, thank you to the Southern Baptist churches that give through our Cooperative Program to help place our missionaries on the field. They also wanted me to tell you thank you for your generous support of the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions. Their thank you was not only endless but generous.
They also wanted to say please do all you can to continue to give generously and grow in giving sacrificially so we can have more missionaries on the field to do all we can to help advance the Gospel to the world, including the hardest places on this planet. Therefore, Southern Baptist churches, please continue to give and increase giving through our Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions.
Therefore, as they have let me share their heart with the churches, I also was able to share the heart of the churches with the missionaries. To God's glory, we join in this grand task together: Extending the glory of God to the Nations!