Thursday, October 29, 2009
Excerpt taken from the Latin America and the Caribbean Communiqué October 2009
WHY WE RESPECT YOU, THE MISSIONARY
“Honor to whom honor is due” Romans 13:7 (ISV)
I’ve been reflecting recently on the fact that the missionary (not to mention AGWM) is under fire and that our relevance in today’s world is being questioned. I’ve also been reflecting on the missionary’s value, his or her worth. What is it about who we are or what we do that is compelling enough to command respect for its own sake?
Here are a few somewhat self-evident points about why we honor and value you. First, you have invested a significant part of yourself in getting to where you are. I recently spoke about the significance of that fact with a missionary who has been on the field for five terms.
For example, let’s assume for the sake of argument that you, the missionary, were appointed in 1980 at the age of 32 and will approach retirement in 2015 at the age of 67. That means:
* You have spent more than half of your life on the mission field.
* Of 35 years as a missionary, about 27 years were spent on the field doing missionary ministry.
* During that time, about 8 years of your life were spent itinerating and building partnerships with churches and pastors.
* Using conservative figures, you probably were in about 1200 missionary services, perhaps logging half a million miles or more on your vehicles.
* To book those services, you made 8400 phone calls or contacts of some other sort, of which perhaps 4200 were ignored/not returned and another 3000 produced no results.
* Of the 1200 services over your career, perhaps 180 (15 percent) or so committed a monthly amount. These were your faithful partners over the years.
* In other words, about 1 in 50 (2 percent) of your phone contacts resulted in a monthly commitment. So 49 times out of 50 you went to the well, but there was no water there. (I speak in human terms since we know our planting and watering is never in vain. We may not get a commitment, but we nevertheless have invested in the work of missions.)
So my challenge to any detractors would be this: Until you are ready to give half of your life to missionary work and eight years of your life traveling, presenting your ministry in a thousand pulpits, meeting pastors and missions committees, and sleeping in hundreds of Holiday Inns and Motel 6s, why not give honor to whom honor is due and respect missionaries for what they have done? (And lighten up a little on the surveys questioning what they haven’t done!) A missionary is an investment worth preserving.
It is popular today for some to say, “Everyone is a missionary.” Most of us would contend everyone is a witness. Not everyone is necessarily a missionary, however. But you answered a specific call to missions, and you embraced all it means. Many times we hear a missionary colleague at a crossroads in life and ministry ask, “But what about the call?” It is very difficult to walk away from that call.
I’m not sure everyone understands what that call is all about, but you do, and for that we honor you. Thank you for answering that call and investing your life in fulfilling it.
Second, in most cases you spent at least a year—and certainly continually throughout your missionary career—in language acquisition. You have learned Spanish, French (Creole), Dutch, Portuguese, and a variety of indigenous languages (Quichua, Aymara, Kek-chi, etc.). That is significant and valuable. And you work to provide literature, CDs, and a variety of materials in those languages. As one woman put it, “Now I know God loves me, because He speaks in my language!” We honor you for these efforts that bring value to missions work.
Third, you spend a lifetime adapting to the culture. You learn the values, priorities, social mores, and customs of people who are very different from us but who are equally valuable in the kingdom of God. Often our kids are raised in those cultures and become “third-culture kids,” unalterably impacted by those cultures and sometimes more at home in the country in which you serve than in the United States. A veteran missionary stopped by my office recently and recalled how his youth pastor in the States, an MK, struggled to read his English Bible when he spoke to the youth group, so he would revert to his Spanish Bible and translate in his head instead!
All of us struggle to make the shift when we return to the States to itinerate. Reverse culture shock can be formidable, especially given the rapid rate of change in American culture. But you do it, and sometimes make lemonade out of lemons; you take a tough situation and overcome it. We honor you for that effort.
Fourth, although not everyone is multi-talented ministry-wise, you give your best to missionary ministry. Sometimes even miraculously, something wonderful happens: your ministry flourishes, a church is planted, people are impacted, lives are changed, and young people say, “I’d like to be a missionary (or a pastor) someday!” At the end of the day, you look back on something tangible that didn’t exist there before, and you can say, “With God’s help, we did that.”
By Richard Nicholson, Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean
Assemblies of God World Missions