A friend recently mentioned to me that the word missionary usually brings to mind preachers, teachers, and doctors. We seem not to have much room in our imagination for those many missionaries who fail to fit neatly into any of these categories (and there are many). Since posting several weeks ago about my role with Peru Mission, I’ve come to realize that the supportive role I have been called to fill is not at all a typical, traditional missions role.
First of all, missions work in the 21st century in some ways is very different from missions work in other eras. It seems rather trite to mention that the world is more connected these days, yet I cannot help but marvel at the change. Yesterday, I spoke on the phone with people in Trujillo and Cajamarca, Peru, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Louisiana . . . all at the same time. Last night and this morning, I spoke with friends in Peru over the Internet. And we could see each other, in real time. This new connectivity is wonderful. It opens up so many opportunities for followers of Christ to learn about each other, and get involved with each others’ lives. It also helps us to realize that we really are members of one body, even though separated by vast distances and even oceans.
Greater opportunity for communication means improved accountability. It also means greater responsibility on the part of the missions team to ensure that their support base in the U.S. (or elsewhere) is informed as to how they are spending their time, what goals they have set, and how the Lord has been working in, among, and through them.
And connectivity is only part of the picture. We praise the Lord that a desire to pursue Biblical stewardship of what we have been given (both materially and spiritually) is increasingly to be found at the heart of many ministries around the world today. This attitude requires enhanced attention to things that have traditionally been considered mundane, inconsequential, or even un-spiritual, things such as accounting, paying the bills, coordinating ministry efforts efficiently, and working to develop and adapt new technology to our God-given purposes of enjoying Him and glorifying Him in all we do.
The missionaries I mentioned above, the preachers, teachers, and doctors, have a lot of work to do in ministry. Indeed, few jobs are more demanding, and often times the eight-hour work day means little or nothing to a missionary (and pastors in general, I might add). These men have been called and prepared by God to preach His word, teach His people, and minister mercifully to the sick and the poor. It is, I believe, highly undesirable that so many missionaries have spent far too much time fulfilling roles they have neither been called to nor prepared for, roles that are nonetheless vitally important to their ministries and therefore unwise to neglect. How many hours have been devoted to sending out newsletters, calculating payroll, and crafting web pages that might otherwise have been employed in direct ministry?
While my examples are modern, what I’m talking about here is nothing new. The apostles, in responding to a need among the widows in the early church, had this to say, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:2-4). There are still tables to serve. In our current world, we might include the many tasks we can attend to in order to allow our ministers to “give [themselves] continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” This, in the end, is precisely what I have been called to do as a support member of the Peru Mission team.
So, when we arrive in Peru this upcoming August, I will serve as Peru Mission’s communications coordinator. I will be heading up several projects in editing, translation, and publishing, and will also be coordinating inter-ministerial communications on the field, as well as communications with our support base in the U.S. One of my first large projects in Peru will be to create a Spanish-language website which we hope will be the premier web portal for evangelical Christians throughout Latin America. This website will house resources in audio and print, and will (we hope and pray) help to encourage, exhort, and instruct believers throughout the region.
I will be working closely with Peruvian ministry leaders and pastors, as well as North American missionaries, to assist them with technology and communications in their various ministries. As I’ve elsewhere in this post discussed, this work is a vital component of our goal to establish vibrant reformed churches in northern Peru for the following reason: as I (and other support persons) labor to administrate in the mission, to keep in touch with our supporters in the U.S., and to take on dozens of tasks related to running our ministries, other missionaries (such as Wes Baker, Allen Smith, and Scott Davenport) can attend to the work God has called them to and prepared them for: teaching, discipling, counseling, writing, and evangelism.
So, yes, I suppose I am a missionary after all. I believe this is a necessary task, and I am so thankful and blessed to have been directed toward it by Divine Providence. I am also thankful for the many people who have given sacrificially and lovingly so that I might fulfill this role. Whether I do so effectively, or whether my efforts bear any fruit, is ultimately in God’s hands, to whom I find, time and again, I owe all success.