Category Archives: 2016 – Mar/Apr

My Most Memorable Moment As A Missionary — Various

The people of Chuuk Island are a poor people.  Outside of the one “town area,” the road is virtually unusable except with a 4×4. Medical care on the island is meager. The people make do with what they have.  We have seen railroad wheels being used as weights on a weight bench, a turned-on-its-back freezer used as a bathtub, and banana leaves used as eating plates.  One very creative use of resources is sewing rice sacks into purses and backpacks.

Epinupe village is remote.  The best way to get there is to take a boat ride followed by a hike over some jagged rocks. My 12-year-old daughter was privileged to make this trip in the summer of 2015 and quickly made friends with the other girls there her age.  Many of their clothes would be considered sub-standard by most of the world.  Some of the girls needed obvious medical attention, but with a difficult trip to town and medical treatment on the island being what it was, they simply did not go.

We were able to visit that village every day for a week, and friendships were formed between the girls.  When it came time to leave, a rice-sack purse was given to my daughter.  It was what they had to give; it was from the heart; and it was the most beautiful purse my daughter and I had ever seen.  Like Mary when she washed Jesus’ feet with her hair and tears, these teenage girls did what they could (Mark 14:8).  My daughter continues to keep that purse which reminds her of the friends she has in Epinupe village, Chuuk.

jtntreat@yahoo.com

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I was on a Bible study in Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia.  This Bible study was with an individual by the name of Jones. Scott Shanahan, a friend and local missionary, had been teaching Jones.  Jones was always very hospitable and had good questions.  The culture in Pohnpei is very open.  Doors and windows are usually open.  Houses are very close and people are roaming around everywhere.  While we were studying, a man by the name of Edgar came to listen at the door.  Once Jones recognized he was there, he invited Edgar to join us. Edgar accepted Jones’ invitation.  Later, Scott and I went by to visit Edgar, but he was not home.  We went by another day and he was there.  He agreed to study and it went great!  Edgar had been exposed to many denominations.  As we read the scriptures, he recognized the truth and would point out the false teachings by various denominations.  Edgar really understood the truth, and, thankfully, he obeyed the gospel.

One might wonder why this particular moment is such a memorable one.  As far as I know Jones, the man I originally was teaching, never obeyed the gospel.  Edgar was a man merely passing by, and, yet, he is the one that obeyed.  This event has made me more aware of the fact that we never know who will have the honest and good heart.  Five months later, something else occurred that caused these events to stick in my mind. I had been emailing Scott to see how Edgar was doing.  He was attending worship and doing well. I then received an email from Scott informing me that Edgar had died.  I was shocked.  I have thought many times since then of where Edgar would be had he not stopped by Jones’ house that day.  What if Jones had not invited him into the house? What if Scott and I had not gone back to see if Edgar wanted to study?  What if we had not been out teaching?  As far as I know, Edgar is saved.  Those turn of events made the difference in his eternal destiny.  These events remind me to always be looking for every opportunity to teach others the truth.

staceyferguson@bellsouth.net

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My most memorable moment as a missionary occurred in Guyana while still engaged in local preaching in the US. Having already been to Guyana on a short-term campaign, I was determined to return. In July 2012, my wife and I traveled to Moruca in Guyana’s northern region for a ten-day campaign. The days were hot, and the nights were terrible. The spiders and roaches kept us alert. We walked everywhere along dirt roads, paths, and trails that lead to nowhere in particular except to the next Bible study.

At first, people were hesitant to study the Bible, but then they began to open up to our presence in the community as well as the gospel. Half of the persons that were ready to be baptized made the decision to do so during the last two days of our campaign. By the end of the week, there were 20 baptisms. My wife and I had the privilege of studying with half of those 20 souls that I was later blessed to baptize. I had not been a part of an experience such as that in all of my years of local preaching in the U.S. That event was the single biggest factor in my decision to transition from being a local preacher in the U.S. to being a full-time missionary. This decision has left no regrets.

Returning to Moruca in July 2015, we campaigned around the newly constructed church building in the Mora community. There were 16 additional baptisms, and I had the privilege of immersing seven of those being baptized. Five of the seven were of the same family. As I remained in the river awaiting the next family member to wade out to me, the passages in Acts where complete households were immersed into Christ flooded my mind (Acts 16:15, 34; 18:8).

At that same 2015 campaign, I was able to see and follow up on a few of the ten persons I had baptized three years earlier. It was a joy to know that they were still faithful to the Lord. These visits answered the questions I had about those I had previously baptized. I look forward to returning in order to check on those baptized and to set up additional studies with others. Moruca ranks among the top of my most memorable experiences.

David@livingwater414.org

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While working short-term with a preaching school in Lethem, Guyana, I made an offer to the congregation there to study with anyone who was willing. A sister asked if I could come visit her non-Christian son, Kenny. Kenny was staying with his mother because he had broken his leg while drinking. It seemed like a wonderful opportunity to highlight the need for repentance, and Kenny was certainly a captive audience.

To reach Kenny, I had to cross a river on what locals called the “monkey bridge.” It consisted of a fallen tree and some crudely nailed together planks. I went to visit Kenny two or three times during my stay, and each time I had to cross that bridge. On the last Sunday I was there, Kenny came on crutches to hear me preach. His mother later told me that he said, “If Patrick can come across the monkey bridge to see me, I can go to church to see him.” Unfortunately, he did not obey the gospel that day, and I have yet to return to find out if he did. However, this event reminds me that I need to cross bridges myself if I expect others to do so in coming to Christ.

swayne@gmail.com

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It is truly difficult for me to determine which moment as a missionary is the most memorable one given that God has blessed me with an amazing number of memorable moments. Perhaps, however, my most spiritual memorable moment happened in a small Russian village in 1991.  The weather outside was 30 below zero. We were sitting in a small, warm, and cozy apartment teaching a 92-year-old Russian babushka. This sweet lady told us how she had hidden a Bible in her fireplace behind a loose stone for many years. She told of how she would take it out to study it and then hide it again. We noticed that when she talked about spiritual things, she used the same verbiage that well-studied New Testament Christians use. She had not had any teaching from any source other than her own study of the Bible. Her knowledge and discussion of the Bible were absolutely amazing!

As our study with her was drawing to a close, she looked right into my eyes and said, “I have been waiting for years for someone to come and baptize me into Christ. Why have you waited so long?” With tears in my eyes I answered, “I came as soon as your government would allow me.”

demar.dixie@charter.net

Training Locals in Mission Work — Demar Elam

Many wonderful leaders in the Church have made the mistake of bringing young men from other countries to the U.S. for their Bible training. The goal of this approach is to prepare the men trained in the states to return to their native country in order to teach and to evangelize. Often, however, this plan does not work. The plan may sound like a good idea, but, in the long run, it is not at all a good idea. This missionary wishes the church to know of the importance of training locals in mission work in their homeland. The term “locals” will be used in this article to refer to Christians in foreign lands who have been converted in a mission area of the world outside of the U.S.

The number one reason for training locals in their native land is because of the effects the American lifestyle has upon foreigners. Once foreigners come to the U.S., most of them are not happy once they return to their native country. This observation is especially true if they come from a third world country. For many people around the world, the U.S. is the “promised land.”  Unless an individual has spent time in some of these third world countries, he or she cannot really comprehend the vast difference between the lifestyle of those in U.S. and other countries around the world.  Often, the men trained in the U.S. that go back to their own country usually find a way to come back to the U.S. as quickly as possible. Thus, by bringing them to the U.S. to be educated, American Christians are in effect robbing the mission fields of their most talented and capable leaders. Some have coined the phrase “brain drain” to identify what American Christians have been doing to deplete the mission fields of their best leaders. Instead of the “cream of the crop” working in their home countries—where they are so desperately needed—they wind up working in the U.S. Frankly, the U.S. already has an abundance of talented, dedicated, and zealous Christians to accomplish the work at home.

In truth, many of the men who have been brought to the U.S. to be educated have had every intention of returning to their homeland to work. Undoubtedly, they are good men. However, after four years of being assimilated into the American way of life, they most often change their minds and decide not to go back home. The statistics prove this observation to be true. Admittedly, there may be some reading this article that know of a situation where the missionary family did return to their homeland.  Most likely, however, that situation would be the exception and not the rule. Even in those cases, an individual would probably discover that over time that family returned to the U.S. through the contacts they made while living in the U.S. for four years. Unfortunately, those coming from foreign lands allow themselves to become incapable of ever being happy while living in their homeland. For them, the daily comforts of living in the U.S. are unimaginable in their country. They have experienced love and hospitality from so many Christians in the U.S. They have benefitted from good medical care, police protection, excellent transportation, elders to guide them, and fellowship in American churches. They have had material blessings in abundance that they have never had in their native country.  If they do decide to go back home, they expect an American salary which would result in them living considerably above the locals in their homeland. Unfortunately, this situation often results in jealousy, friction, and strife within the mission congregations.

The way to avoid this outcome is to train locals in newly established congregations in their native land. Bringing foreigners to the U.S. to educate them in the word of God is not the answer. It is far better to develop preacher training schools, colleges, and universities in their own lands so that they can receive the education that they need without leaving their native environment. This missionary believes that the key to worldwide conquest for Christ is: New congregations, new congregations, and new congregations! God is the great door opener (Rev. 3:8; 2 Cor. 2:12; Col. 4:3). It is best for a missionary to go into an area like the apostle Paul, baptize individuals into Christ, establish a new congregation made up of those who have been baptized, and teach them what they need to know about the organization and worship of the church. The newly converted Christians should be the ones leading the singing, the prayers, and the Lord’s Table. Locals should be taught how to carry on without the American missionary holding their hand or doing it for them.  Locals should be taught to give financially to support their own congregational works. After all, Paul taught locals and left them to carry on without his presence. He established indigenous congregations. He left them but he did not abandon them. Instead, he and Barnabas revisited them in order to comfort, strengthen, and edify them. Paul’s methodology worked in his day and it is working around the world today. It works in third world countries as well as in the highly developed and industrialized nations of the world. Paul’s pattern of evangelism works in all cultures!

The challenge for American Christians deals with educating locals in newly established congregations in other nations.  In 2006, Philippine Theological College (PTC) was established in Salomague Sur, Bugallon, Pangasinan Philippines to specifically train young men to be preachers. In January of 2015, PTC became Asian Christian University (ACU) and began offering the Master of Divinity as well as the Doctor of Ministry degrees. Currently, ACU is seeking accreditation.  Lord-willing, it will become a fully accredited University in 2016. At the March 2015 commencement exercises, 19 faithful, dedicated, and well-trained men graduated with their degrees in Theology. These men, along with five other graduated classes, are already preaching in the Philippines. Additionally, they are prepared for the great day of evangelism that will occur when God opens the door to China. The dream, goal, and vision of ACU is to have hundreds of well-trained, educated, and effective minsters of the Gospel (Philippine missionaries) to cross the South China Sea in order to go throughout China to preach and teach Christ. Ultimately, they will establish new congregations, new congregations, and new congregations! These same missionaries are being taught Mandarin Chinese in order to properly prepare them for the time when this amazing avenue of evangelism opens. However, as has already been established, these young men would have been lost to this great opportunity if they had been sent to the U.S. for their Bible education.

Historically, churches of Christ have not done so well in planning for evangelistic opportunities and fully executing the plan. Sometimes, men are motivated, educated, trained, and prepared to do the work of Christ, but failure occurs when these same men are not activated. The locals in the Philippines that are trained in their homeland, by contrast, will be able to continue a lifestyle that will not hinder them in their service to their native land as well as to China one day.  Likewise, wise decisions must be made that will advance the cause of Christ throughout the world. Therefore, it is this missionary’s sincere belief that it is only logical and prudent to educate and train locals in their homeland.

demar.dixie@charter.net

The Local Church and Supporting Mission Work — Patrick Swayne

The building is paid off. The preacher is paid well. Additionally, he is surrounded by a supporting cast including two secretaries, an associate minister, a youth minister, and a family and involvement minister.  Somehow, there is still some money left in the budget. What should be done with it? The logical conclusion is to get involved in mission work. Several questions immediately come to mind. Who should be supported? Who does the preacher know? Who has sent a letter in the mail, and which letter has the most attractive font? How can the most number of people be reached and/or achieve the most number of baptisms with the least amount of money?

While admittedly this scenario is a caricature of how a congregation might come to support mission work, for some congregations it is a little too close to the truth. It goes without saying, however, that such should not be the case. The local church has a God-given mission to support, uphold, and spread the truth (1 Tim. 3:15; Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16). God could have caused Bibles to rain down from heaven upon the unconverted, but instead He left the church with the responsibility of getting the truth to them. What should the church know about supporting mission work?

First, the church should know that prioritizing mission support is intrinsically tied to blessings. Many congregations of God’s people take a reactive approach to supporting missions. Normally, they wait for a missionary to come to them, and then they decide whether or not to help based upon the resources they already have at their disposal. However, reactivity rarely results in world changing activity—only proactivity does. Mission activity is not a vestigial organ to be kept only if it does not cause any problems. Instead, it is the lifeblood of a healthy church. When God’s people are challenged to give to worthy causes, they respond and subsequently are blessed.

The church at Jerusalem illustrates the power of proactivity. This church heard that some wonderful things were happening at Antioch (Acts 11:20-21). They responded by proactively sending Barnabas to help (11:22). No doubt, sending Barnabas was a high price to pay for missions in both money and manpower. After all, the Jerusalem congregation lost the “son of encouragement” (4:36)! Sending Barnabas, however, paid dividends. Not only did the church there grow (11:23-26), but it was also able to turn around and help the church at Jerusalem when famine struck there (11:27-30). Later, the church at Antioch even began its own mission program (Acts 13:1-3), and the congregations this formed also sent money to Jerusalem (Rom. 15:25-26). What if Jerusalem had kept Barnabas at home?

Second, the church should know the wisdom behind a targeted approach to mission work. Many congregations take a “shotgun approach” to world evangelism. In other words, they give a little money to a lot of missionaries. This practice seems to follow the adage, “Don’t put all of your eggs into one basket.” Doubtless, it feels good to help twenty places to receive the gospel. However, when those twenty places are actually twenty missionaries receiving $50 a month each, it probably translates into twenty missionaries needing a lot more to survive. As a result, these twenty missionaries are going to spend a lot more time fundraising, reporting to supporters, and worrying about making ends meet. Missionaries love small churches that give $50 sacrificially, but they struggle when larger churches could do more but choose otherwise.

Though a “shotgun approach” appears to be “safer” and “better,” it usually is not. It is actually incredibly difficult to keep up with twenty or so different works. What often results is poor stewardship as funds are sent to works that are not truly advancing the cause of Christ. A more targeted approach (ideally, picking a field) gives a congregation something upon which to focus. It leads to powerful prayer (less names and places to remember) and a greater connection between said congregation and the missionaries it supports.

Third, the church should know that there are no shortcuts to evangelizing the world. Increasingly, brethren are turning to mass media and short-term mission trips with their mission dollars. This effort often results in less support for long-term missionaries. The justification for this approach is the speed and ease of reaching people when compared to long-term efforts. No doubt, souls are won to Christ through mass media and short term missions. However, one wonders how often vibrant and autonomous churches are established through such efforts alone?

This missionary heard of one short-term campaign in Ukraine which yielded 200 baptisms in two weeks. Amazing, right? A year later, however, campaigners returned and found that there was not even one soul worshipping as the Lord’s church. Essentially, 200 babies were born (John 3:3-5; 1 Pet. 2:2) and abandoned. Had a long-term missionary been there, these babes in Christ could have been cherished and fed (1 Thess. 2:7-8). Short-term missions and mass media ought to work in conjunction with long-term missionaries, but not in lieu of them.

Fourth, the church should know the dangers of supporting third world missions. Brethren often favor supporting third world missions because, as more than one elder has told this missionary, “You get more bang for your buck.” “Bang” generally refers either to reports advertising large baptismal figures or to the relatively little money required to support indigenous preachers. However, the question must be asked: Where are the vibrant and autonomous churches from third world efforts? In particular, where are those vibrant and autonomous churches in which the American church has paid an indigenous preacher? Such congregations do exist, but fewer of them than one would expect. Too often, third world missions are plagued with corruption and/or result in anemic churches which will forever depend on America for guidance and support. Americans going into the third world need to go in with eyes open (cf. Tit. 1:12-13) and with an exit strategy for their support so that planted churches can learn to stand on their own two feet.

Fifth, the church should know that supporting mission work is more than just sending a check. Ideally, supporting mission work is a partnership. Paul thanked the brethren at Philippi for their “partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (Phil. 1:5). Paul did not work for the brethren at Philippi—he worked with them. Yes, they sent him financial support (Phil. 4:16-18), but they also appear to have collected funds for him from others (Phil. 4:15). They were not content to just get a report from him. On the contrary, they sent Epaphroditus on a short-term mission trip both to deliver support and to help him (2:25). Though not explicitly referenced in Philippians, a supporting congregation should also be a partner in prayer—praying specifically and frequently for the needs of the missionary (Rom. 15:20; 2 Cor. 1:11; Col. 4:3; 1 Thess. 5:25; 2 Thess. 3:1).

In conclusion, this missionary wishes the church knew one more thing about supporting mission work. Simply stated, he wishes that brethren knew of the many congregations which are already applying these thoughts and achieving great things through their mission programs. May God bless reader’s congregation as it strives to support missions meaningfully.

swayne@gmail.com

The Benefits of Foreign Missions to the Local Church – David Paher

American Christians are sometimes misguided when it comes to foreign mission work. Some might believe that money, energy, and resources are better used at home in spite of the fact that more dollars are spent in the U.S. than anywhere else in the world. Some folks might even point out that unsaved people reside in U.S. communities in an effort to limit global outreach. Furthermore, some brethren will claim that the congregation’s budget contains no room to commit to foreign mission work but somehow it has plenty of funds for padded pews, cradles, decorative tables, large kitchens, pavilions, awnings, and playgrounds. If congregations of the Lord’s church only knew of the benefits of foreign missions to the local church, there would be more effort to support them.

The first benefit of foreign missions is that it helps the local church follow the Lord’s directive. The church’s spiritual directive is soul-driven. God is mindful of the lost when he waits patiently and delays judgment (2 Peter 3:9; 1 Timothy 2:3-4). Paul was mindful of the lost in his anticipation to preach the gospel to others (Romans 1:15-16). Therefore, the church should be mindful of the lost since the members of it are considered the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13).

The Lord’s directive is clearly seen in the Great Commission. Thus, foreign missions reminds the church of Jesus’ words in Matthew 28:19-20. The Limited Commission of Matthew 10 concentrated exclusively on the Jewish nation in Jesus’ day. In contrast, the Great Commission directs Christians to go to the ends of earth for the cause of Christ in the present day. The Great Commission is called “great” for at least three reasons. First, it is great, because the Lord, himself, uttered those words. Second, it is great, because it is a noble calling. Third, it is great, because of the grand scope of its application. Without a global outreach, Christians are not practicing the Great Commission. Simply stated, the church’s mission is the Great Commission!

The second benefit of foreign missions is that it helps the local church find purpose in identity. The church’s unique business is people.  Foreign missions helps to connect saved people to lost people. Rather than focus on money, time, success, efficiency, or social or political agendas, missionaries help people draw near to God (James 4:8). They help people in foreign lands who are outside of the body of Christ to develop and confess faith in Christ (Romans 10:9-10). For those who are already Christians in foreign lands, missionaries encourage and assist their growth in the Lord (Hebrews 5:14).

Additionally, foreign missions helps the church to develop its purpose in saving souls.  Everywhere Jesus went, he sought lost souls (Luke 19:10). He talked to individuals and groups. He talked to rich and poor. He talked to Jews and Gentiles. He talked to males and females. He talked to urban folks and rural folks. Indeed, he talked to everyone about God and his kingdom.   From the book of Acts, one observes that the early disciples followed Jesus’ example of what he did and taught (Acts 1:1). As a result, nearly every chapter speaks to the growth of disciples in some way (Acts 2:41; 4:4; etc.). In this way, foreign missions helps to further connect the church to soul-saving. Physicians heal the body; counselors restore the mind; but evangelists save the soul. There is no higher vocation than sharing the gospel with another person. Not surprisingly, the Apostle Paul wrote of evangelists’ feet being beautiful (Romans 10:13-15).

The third benefit of foreign missions is that it helps members of the local congregation to focus on others rather than on self. It is easy for human beings to become self-absorbed. In the realm of Christianity, for example, Christians sometimes stop sharing the faith with others. Foreign missions, however, proves that Christians are still interested in religious things. Christians in the US often encounter those who are uninterested in spiritual truths. Unfortunately, Christians sometimes allow these encounters to relax evangelism’s urgency. However, when missionaries visit the local church to give their reports, it can serve to remind the members of the fact that the fields are still white to harvest. An even greater reminder of this truth comes when members visit the foreign mission fields.  Both of these efforts can help to increase the church’s fervor to reach the lost just like the early Christians.

Similarly, missions shifts the church’s focus from pettiness to people. How many disagreements have risen over personality conflicts? Ditch-diggers don’t seem to argue over the details of their shovel as long as they do their best at their job. Likewise, effective soul-winners seldom resort to pettifoggery because the stakes of salvation are simply too high. Paul’s words are clear, “But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless” (Titus 3:9).

Christians can also become self-absorbed congregationally. When congregations merely keep a preacher, pay the utility bills, and mow grass, evangelism has gone from history to myth. Where can a struggling church turn to but to soul-winning evangelists? Foreign missions can pull the church out of “maintenance mode.” In some places, the 21st-century model seems to have replaced missions with do-good, be-seen, outreach. Yes, the local church should strive for a positive influence in the community; but it will only thrive by firmly handling the plow (Luke 9:62), setting the eyes on the harvest (John 4:35) and carrying the gospel with beautiful feet to some soul in need of Christ (Romans 10:15).

Moreover, missions feeds local evangelism. In places where congregations are evangelizing the lost, commitments to foreign missions exemplify the results of soul-winning efforts. While fruit and number will vary greatly from mission point to mission point, the results unify and energize the efforts in the local congregation.

The fourth benefit of foreign missions is that it helps the local church reach its full potential. Naturally, Christians understand that a congregation cannot be the Lord’s church without the biblical plan of salvation. Equally important to the Lord, however, is having a scriptural eldership in place in local congregations both at home and abroad. The benefits of having a congregation with biblically appointed elders is clear. In addition to helping souls be taught the gospel in order to be saved, foreign missions helps to mature men in the faith to qualify for the role of elder.

There are several conclusions and observations that might be noticed. First, neither foreign mission work nor local work is more important than the other—both are equally important to the Lord’s church. Second, foreign missions simply cannot exist without a healthy local congregation. Third, local congregations without foreign missions is neither light nor hope to the world beyond the local community. Congregations that want to engage in the benefits offered by foreign missions may call a missionary today.

David@livingwater414.org

The Challenges of Mission Work – Stacy Ferguson

Mission work is an area where many challenges exist.  At the same time, it should be stated that there is much for which to be thankful. This missionary, for example, is thankful that he can do mission work in the Pacific Islands; have good overseeing elders at the Forest Park Church of Christ in Lake City, Georgia; and have many good additional supporting congregations.  Challenges are opportunities for growth. Everyone has them. As challenges are met, maturity and development occur.  Until this writer became a missionary, he never dreamed of some of the real life issues that confront those in the mission field. What are the challenges of Mission Work? Four of them will be highlighted in this article.

In this missionary’s experience, and from what he knows from other missionaries, one of the primary challenges of mission work is raising sufficient funds for one’s family as well as the work.  There are individuals known by this missionary who have not gone to the field because they were unable to get the support needed.  More missionaries would go into the field if finding financial support were not such a problem. Even if it is assumed that a man has zeal, a love for God and the lost, and has his heart dedicated to the place he sees the need to labor, challenges still exist in the area of raising funds

First, in raising support, a good overseeing congregation is required. Most congregations, known to this missionary, want to send their money to an eldership instead of an individual. This plan is wise, and, perhaps, best.  Finding an eldership and congregation that will be involved, supportive, and devoted to a missionary, as well as his work, can be difficult.  The elders do not simply need to handle finances. They also need to go where the missionary lives. This effort keeps the Lord’s work and the missionary’s family’s best interest in mind.

What makes getting funds so difficult?  When recalling the first raised funds for full-time mission work, this missionary remembers that raising those funds was a huge task. A man must have many congregations to contact, spend countless hours on the phone, travel thousands of miles, and talk to many elderships and congregations in order to have the support needed to do the work.  Building a list of good sound congregations, while finding a key person to contact in that congregation, is possibly the greatest challenge of all when it comes to getting the necessary funding.  Even after contacting potentially 100 to 200 congregations, there is still the remaining challenge of finding enough congregations, among those contacted, to commit to supporting the work. This task can seem endless.  From this missionary’s own experience, a personal contact in a congregation is more likely to lead to getting support.  After raising funds, the challenge of fund-raising is then further complicated. Specifically, a missionary must try to retain his current support while raising even more support as the work grows.  Reporting to supporting congregations in person and by newsletters is extremely important in this additional fund-raising effort.

This missionary is involved in the Pacific Islands Bible College work.  In this school, there are teachers that go on two or three week trips to conduct college classes.  Personally, this missionary has often heard of the difficulties that workers have experienced in raising funds. Unfortunately, these difficulties prohibit some from going while discouraging others from even trying. Thus, this missionary would like to encourage elders and congregations to truly consider both the person seeking support as well as the work that they plan to do.  It is very easy for a congregation to turn a missionary away by stating that they are unable to help.  Instead of this response, it would be better for a congregation to give missionaries, seeking support, an opportunity to share the work with the congregation.  Even if a congregation does not have money in the budget to support a missionary, they may be challenged to increase their giving once they see the need. Additionally, individuals in the congregation might be willing to help even if the congregation as a whole cannot.

A second challenge in mission work relates to time. It has been said that time stands still for no man.  How true that is!  This missionary just turned 50, and he is thinking that he should not be this old.  Where has the time gone?  While the work in the Pacific has many opportunities for growth, there is simply not enough time for missionaries to do all that needs to be done.  For example, as this article is being written, this missionary and his wife have just finished a trip to Chuuk, Federated States of Micronesia.  “Busy” would certainly be the way to describe this trip.  Indeed, this missionary is glad to have had so many opportunities to teach on this trip, and he thanks God for them.  However, a one-legged man in a soccer match would be a good description of this particular effort.  Many things needed to be done while in Chuuk that time simply did not afford. Specifically, people needed visiting, studies with the lost needed to be conducted, other islands needed to hear the gospel, etc.  Each day, this missionary and his wife were working from early morning till after sundown. Time to eat lunch was barely taken during this trip. Even so, there was still not enough time. When there is not enough time to do the things one knows are so necessary, it can be very disheartening and challenging.

A third challenge in mission work regards workers. This challenge fits right in with the previous point.  Since there are only twenty four hours in a day, more workers are needed.  Often, this missionary thinks of what Jesus said, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few.  Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Matthew 9:37-38).  One thing noticeable in the Pacific is that the denominations have people living and working all throughout it.  For example, many Mormons live and work in Chuuk.  The challenge in regard to workers, then, is having men and women of all ages willing to make the selfless sacrifices necessary to live and work in the mission field.  Since those who are teaching false doctrine can be so devoted, should not those who know the truth be more dedicated to the spread of the gospel?

It should be noted that not only are Christians living in the mission field important, but, also, short-term workers are very important and beneficial.  Those going on short-term mission trips should be going to teach God’s word.  The most important needs of men are spiritual.  Several preachers have been willing to help with the work in the Pacific, but often congregations where they work are not willing to give them the necessary time to help. This unfortunate reality sometimes requires preachers to use their vacation time.  It is this missionary’s prayer that God will bless the work in the Pacific with congregations willing both to support and send laborers into his kingdom.

A forth challenge in mission work is meeting the needs of the congregations while continuing to spread the gospel to new areas.  Usually, on the mission field, the congregations are relatively young.  Therefore, they need a lot of teaching, edifying, and equipping.  When spreading the gospel, it may be very easy to have a new congregation established because of people being receptive to the truth in different villages or islands.  This fact, of course, leads to another church needing edification and equipping.  It is useless to plant churches if they will not remain faithful.  Providing for the needs of the congregations in assisting them to grow and develop takes much time and teaching.

Some additional challenges in mission work might include developing leaders, dealing with language, understanding culture, understanding customs, food challenges, transportation challenges, and the list could continue.  Mission work is indeed challenging, but it is very rewarding.  While bringing up these challenges, this article has not presented detailed solutions.  This missionary knows that the reader can determine the changes that need to be made in order to help mission work be done throughout the world.  The solutions begin with each local congregation considering the challenges presented while learning, growing, teaching, and training all the members to be true self-sacrificing servants of the Master.

staceyferguson@bellsouth.net

The Blessings of Mission Work – Joey Treat

The blessings of mission work are both numerous and extraordinary. In this missionary’s mind, however, two of these numerous blessings standout above all others. The first blessing is that mission work is project-driven. The second blessing is that mission work allows one to see the church in its very beginning stages. These two blessings will be discussed in the words that follow.

This missionary is blessed to work among the native islanders of Micronesia which includes the islands of Palau, Saipan, Yap, and Chuuk.  Rather than having a list of daily office chores like a located preacher in the U.S., the work among these islands moves from project to project.  While there are office tasks to be done, the work shifts to whatever is the most important task at hand after the office work is accomplished.  In this way, mission work among the Micronesian islands is similar to the way the native islanders think.

Islanders are project-driven.  Their ancestors lived in the jungle.  When it was time to eat, they hunted or fished in groups.  When it was time to build, the whole village came together under the leadership of the chief to build a hut.  There were few routine tasks (like being at work at 9:00 AM), but many large group tasks.  The villagers lived and worked together by going from project to project.

The transition into the modern world has proved difficult for many islanders.  They long to be project-driven in a world where daily tasks are common.  Stories abound in the islands of how local people have lost their jobs because they couldn’t show up to work on time or took too many days off for a custom.

A custom in Palau may be a wedding, a funeral, or a first-childbirth ceremony.  For any of these events, the islanders may expect to be exempted from work for several days so they can fulfill their obligations in the custom.  For weddings and funerals, enormous amounts of food must be provided which takes the hosting family several days to prepare.  For a first-childbirth ceremony, the large, extended family assembles and watches the woman who has had her first child go through an elaborate ceremony.  The planning and preparations for this particular event are extensive.  When a foreign employer does not understand the need for so much time off, a significant cultural conflict develops.  The islanders long to be project-driven as opposed to punching a time card from 9 to 5.

In mission work, there are recurring weekly tasks. Developing lessons, visiting, and writing newsletter articles for monthly reports are among those tasks.  In addition to those weekly tasks, there are the less frequent tasks that involve building projects and outreach efforts. One of the largest tasks for a missionary is that of travelling to the U.S. to report to supporting congregations.

While the tasks just described may not sound like blessings to the reader, as the title would suggest, it is the variety involved with these project-driven tasks that is terrific.  Some days, the missionary is filming a TV show or recording a radio program. Some days, he is mixing concrete by hand or hiking through the jungle to a remote village.  Some days, an entire day is spent developing a series of lessons for a Bible class. Some days, the day is wasted as the missionary tries to renew his legal status with government workers who are not at their desks because of a custom in their families!  Mission work is project-driven, which creates an exciting expectation of what the day may bring.

The second blessing in mission work is the opportunity to see the church in its infant stages.  It is rare to see Christians fighting with one another in Palau. Instead, they are fighting against the Devil.  They are trying to develop a beginning faith, and all of their spiritual efforts are focused on this goal.

In the U.S., arguments might exist concerning the use of one-cup vs. many cups in the Lord’s Supper. On the other end of the spectrum, arguments might exist over applying the Scriptures too loosely. In the islands, however, the brethren rarely consider such things.  In contrast to the challenges brethren face in the U.S., a challenge among the islanders might involve being a good steward of the Lord’s materials while trusting that God’s way is the right way.

The island of Chuuk, in Micronesia, is severely underdeveloped.  A simple example of this truth is seen in the fact that brethren have difficulty finding grape juice on the island.  Whenever the juice can be found, the brethren stock up on it because they know it will not last.  To provide juice for the Lord’s Supper, the brethren usually boil raisins and squeeze them for the juice. To say the least, this process is time consuming and difficult. It is certainly a great deal more difficult than simply opening a bottle of Welch’s Grape Juice!  Sometimes, individual communion cups are brought in to the island to help the brethren in their effort to provide the Lord’s Supper.  This effort does make it easier, but the cost of bringing in the cups makes it prohibitive for this practice to be carried out regularly.  Needless to say, all care is taken to make these communion servings last as long as possible.

A denominational teaching in Chuuk is that of transubstantiation. This doctrine teaches that the Lord’s Supper literally becomes the flesh and blood of Jesus.  Although the brethren in Chuuk are aware that this popular teaching is false, the effects of this teaching still slip into the church.  Since transubstantiation teaches that the bread literally becomes Christ’s flesh, it also teaches that nothing should be left in the communion plate after communion is completed.  Denominations holding to this false doctrine teach their people to eat any remaining bread because the “body of the Lord” cannot be thrown away carelessly.

On a recent trip to Chuuk, the effects of this false teaching upon the church was observed. After the Lord’s Supper was given, a brother noticed that too many individual communion cups were placed in the serving tray. This fact resulted in a few cups of juice remaining in the tray.  These cups were still sealed, and, considering the value of them on that island, one would think they would have been put back into the box to use the following Lord’s Day. Instead, the brother who was presiding at the Lord’s Table took it upon himself to open every remaining packet, eat all of the remaining bread, and drink all of the remaining juice.  Given the fact that food is not plentiful in Chuuk and grape juice quite rare, it may be that the temptation to have the rare treat of grape juice influenced this brother. The goal, then, is to teach the good brethren of Chuuk to be good stewards of the Lord’s materials.  “Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful,” (1 Cor. 4:2).  Good stewardship applies primarily to the gospel message, but also to all that the Lord has entrusted to the Christian.

Unique aspects of the culture also remind one that the church in the islands is young.  Among the islanders, there is a belief that the ancestors are watching over the people and can cause disruption in their lives if they are not living correctly.  On one occasion, a young girl became ill.  The family assumed it was the result of an ancestor not approving of certain actions between the family members.  Consequently, all of the family was called together, and everyone admitted their wrongs.  This effort was done by the family in the hope that the ancestor was appeased.  When the girl did not get better, it provided evidence that this ancestral belief was false.  Had they followed God’s word and realized the dead cannot affect the living, they might have saved the girl considerable pain.  Concerning the dead returning to the earth, Abraham explained to the rich man in Luke 16:26, And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.”

Indeed, the islanders have a rudimentary faith. Their efforts are spent on dealing with issues of personal spiritual growth rather than hot topics.  To see the church in this stage is a blessing. It must in some sense resemble what the apostles and Jesus saw in the 1st century.

In conclusion, these blessings make mission work one of the most rewarding ways to serve our God and Father.  It is this missionary’s desire that all Christians be enabled to experience these blessings, as they, too, are gifts from the Lord.

jtntreat@yahoo.com

Editorial: What The Church Needs To Think About Concerning Mission Work (March/April, 2016) – Spencer Strickland, Associate Editor

Sharing the gospel of Christ with the lost of all the world should be the interest of every Christian. After all, Jesus communicated to his disciples the need to preach the gospel throughout the world in some form at the end of each of the gospel accounts (Matt. 28:19-20; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47; John 21:15-17). The church has the responsibility to take the gospel to the lost in its surrounding community, but there is also the obvious responsibility to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). This issue of the Carolina Messenger serves to highlight some of the matters that congregations of the Lord’s church need to think about when it comes to mission work.

Many congregations of the Lord’s church are privileged and blessed to be able to support missionaries that have dedicated their lives to preaching and teaching the gospel in foreign lands. These efforts should not be diminished in any way, but, at the same time, it should always be every congregation’s desire to improve its efforts in serving the Lord no matter what area is being discussed. Who better to ask how to improve mission work than missionaries? Men who are actively laboring in the field must certainly know best how churches in the United States can better and more effectively support missionaries and mission work. Therefore, each of the subjects covered in this issue will focus on making the church in the United States more aware of what missionaries face and how churches might better serve mission efforts.

The reader might be interested to know that the original intent of this issue was to begin each title with the phrase: “What I Wish the Church Knew About . . .” and then finish that phrase off with the titles that appear currently in this issue. For instance, the first article was intended to read: “What I Wish the Church Knew about the Blessings of Mission Work.” However, since including this phrase would have made the titles too lengthy to include in the current format of the Carolina Messenger, the titles had to be shortened. Nevertheless, each article is intended to better inform the reader of some matters that missionaries face in view of the commission that Jesus gave to go into all the world and preach the gospel. There are blessings in mission work. There are challenges in mission work. There are benefits to local congregations in the United States that are derived from mission work. There are some approaches to supporting mission work that are better than other approaches. There are some wiser ways of training those converted in the mission field than other ways. These are some of the concepts that are brought to light in this issue of the Carolina Messenger. No doubt, practical “nuggets” of information may be mined from the articles that these missionaries have contributed.

In addition to better informing Christians about matters relating to mission work, this writer also thought it beneficial to add a personal touch to the issue. Therefore, each of the missionaries that contributed an article were asked to write a few paragraphs describing his most memorable moment as a missionary. Mission work is about people just as any effort to reach the lost is about people. Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). Jesus spent time with people in order to reach them. The reader will find that the events these missionaries describe as their most memorable moments are touching, encouraging, and thought-provoking.

Finally, this writer would like to thank his wife for putting the idea into his head to have an issue of the Carolina Messenger dedicated to missionaries and mission work. As far as he knows, there has not been an issue dedicated solely to highlighting foreign mission works. The challenge to put together something different as well as informative in each issue of the Carolina Messenger is real. This paper strives to always be both biblically sound and practical for those who read it. This issue is offered to the reader in hopes that it will bless his or her daily walk with Christ.

-Spencer

spencer.strickland@ymail.com