As a young "rookie" missionary, I am trying to learn everything I can about mission work. One drawback about the way that my life has unfolded is that I was not pursuing a life as a missionary until after college, two years into the youth ministry that the Lord had led me into up to that point. Thus, I haven't had the advantage of studying missions and cross-cultural ministries at the university level. While I say this is a drawback, I don't mean to imply that it is some sort of "planning error" on God's part. Rather, we are learning from our own experiences, interaction with other missionaries, and independent study. I wanted to share a bit of this with all of you.
Independent studies - I am so grateful to God for Amazon.com producing digital reading through Kindle books. When we flew down here in January, I had to limit the number of books I could bring because of airline weight limits (I think my carry-on was actually heavier than my suitcase). While any thorough study of a subject should include a wide reading selection of several different authors, I would be confident enough to say that when it comes to biblical missions theology, one need read nothing more than John Piper's "Let the Nations Be Glad". It provides such a comprehensive view of biblical passages on the spread of the gospel as to make additional reading superfluous. I recommend it to anyone preparing for the mission field or wanting a biblical overview of missions. And I'm not even finished with it yet!
Interaction with other missionaries - We've had the opportunity to meet and work with several different missionaries here and we want to learn everything we can from them - to learn from both their successes and their mistakes. Some missionaries see their responsibility as providing people with homes, food, clothes, and generally a better life. Others see their responsibility as evangelism, discipleship, and church planting. Still others see their responsibility as caring for and raising orphans and serving those whom nobody else is reaching. We are learning from all of them.
Our own experiences - We certainly are learning from everything the Lord is taking us through. I want to share one of these lessons with all of you. This was actually what prompted me to write all of this in the first place.
The longer we're here, the more painfully evident it becomes that we are rare. What I mean is that there are not many other missionaries our age nor at our stage in life. I constantly find myself wondering what the problem is and how we could be used to encourage more young couples to get involved in missions at the beginning of their lives while they have so much time left to learn and grow. One of the problems, I have come to believe, is fear. "What if we people don't support us? What kind of things will we have to give up in order to serve God? What if we can't learn another language?" May I share what we have seen and are learning?
First of all, in order to surrender your life to missions, yes, I believe you must be willing to give up some things. But if you have an eternal perspective, that really won't be difficult. To give up earthly possessions or riches for eternal rewards and riches is not a sacrifice by any stretch of the imagination. As Jim Elliot so aptly said, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."
BUT! Having said all of that, let me tell you what we have learned on this side of the equation. God takes care of His children!
While we are willing to give up anything to follow God's will for us, we are finding that often we don't have to. The Lord always provides everything we need and even abundantly more, even to things we don't need. For example, the question about learning the language: When I started studying Spanish because I felt the Lord was leading me to Mexico, I was able within 8 months to speak well enough to preach and witness one-on-one. When we moved here in January, everyone was asking how well Abby would pick up on Spanish. Well she is! I keep hearing from the ladies in the church that Abby is learning Spanish rapidissimo (super fast!). Ricardo tells us, "Every day your Spanish is better." The question of financial provision: While our financial support is slightly up or down every month, we have all the money we need at the time. In a month where money seems low, we find we have fewer expenses or someone gives us a special gift. In a month where it's high, we find ourselves taking a 2,000+ mile two-week adventure or we find an opportunity to give the extra money away to meet someone else's need. That's why we want to share with everyone - God takes care of His children.
In addition, God gives us opportunities we couldn't even imagine. One happened yesterday. Two of the men that we serve with in Jesus Loves You Baptist Church work at a golf course. So they offered to take Brad and me golfing after the morning service. So we drove 6 kilometers north of town to Playa Mujeres and stepped onto the most beautiful golf course I've ever seen! I didn't realize they worked at Greg Norman's signature golf course, designed by himself. We played for 5 hours, 13 holes, with the clubs the course usually rents out to tourists, riding two golf carts - all for free! I played horribly. But I just kept riding around the course admiring the beauty and thinking about how the Lord blesses us and beyond. I'm telling you all, God takes care of His children! Oh and even the 6-foot crocodile in the fairway of the 18th hole didn't bother us :o)
If there is anyone reading this who feels the Lord leading them to the mission field or into a situation where you feel you might be financially unstable, please hear our testimony. Take the risk! Follow God. Prove your faith with your actions. Test God. There is only one time in the Bible where we are told to test God and it is in relation to finances (tithing specifically). Be encouraged and watch God open the floodgates of blessing from heaven. He always takes care of His children!