Sunday, November 25, 2007

Hard Questions!

I have recently been contemplating some of the realities of the contemporary missionary movement. We are in a new era, an era where being a citizen of the USA is no longer an asset in many parts of the world. It is a reality to be considered. We must remember that we, as Americans, are not the only instrument available to God for the furtherance of the gospel. Is it time to step back, evaluate, and perhaps look for new ways to evangelize? There are many places where someone else, someone of another nationality, would be better received. If our purpose is to reach as many souls as possible, perhaps we need to remove ourselves from the situation and uphold other Christians as they can continue to preach and be heard, long after we are denied access to certain people and places.

I am not saying we should not spread the gospel to dangerous places. I have put myself and my family in dangerous places many times, when it seemed necessary for the ministry. I have seen my children suffer with diseases they would never have contracted had we lived in the USA. We have been in shoot outs, walked through tear gas, had tanks on the streets outside our house, all in order to preach and teach a people of the Glory of God. But there comes a time when our presence alone is detrimental to the furtherance of the gospel. Officials in Venezuela told us our white skin and blue eyes made us unwelcome.

There are times when the missionary has to step back and consider the costs. Not just personal cost, but the overall cost to the church.

Is my presence a hindrance?
Is association with me, as a foreigner, going to cause repercussions among the native church people?
Am I staying due to a of a false sense of pride?
Am I harming the ministry of another by remaining too long?

There are places that have not yet heard the good news.

Should the missionary use mission assets to remain where he is not accepted, when perhaps another place is more willing and open at this time?
Remember the disciples "shaking the dust from their feet"?
Remember Paul allowing himself to be lowered over the walls to escape danger in order to continue to preach elsewhere?
The modern day missionary movement is now centuries old, should we not see more mission efforts from other nationalities?
Should not a missionary work himself out of his job and turn the ministry over to the indigenous or national?
Should the missionary then move on to another needy area where his resources are more needed?

Hard questions. Any thoughts?

UPDATE:
I am not questioning our personal calling to Latin America. I am thinking of places such as Venezuela where an American missionary was recently deported from an area where perhaps a national would not have been. Could this cause repercussions for the nationals involved with this same ministry? Are some things best left to the national?

The mood here in Paraguay is so open to the American and the people are asking for help, that it has revealed the lack of acceptance to the American missionary the last few years in Venezuela. Put it into perspective! The general mood on the street is totally different here. There is a much more open door for ministry. Being here has shown that to me in a great way. I had forgotten the feeling of such freedom.

24 comments:

redneck preacher said...

“The love of money is the root of all evil”, may expose a reason for the truth of your blog. Blue eyed places have access to more money. Often people of a darker hue need to be evangelized by our brothers of a similar shade. That is true also of some places in the US where reverse racism has infected the youth.

We cannot ignore those precious people and only go to white people. In countries of the lighter skinned it is not the government that has rejected God but the people. It is quite the reverse in other places. The people will hear but the government is the obstacle.

I’ll pray for the Lord to give you wisdom in finding a solution to a very real problem.

HTOITA

jennifer said...

Rita- lots of thoughts on this one. I think that prayer, prayer and lots more prayer is the solution.

Many of us could voice our opinions based on our experiences, but God knows what is needed.

I agree that there are many in the world besides the American missionary. The Mormon church uses nationals from all countries and has a missionary training center hub to get everyone jump started. But is this man trying to be so organized to usurp God's plan of having us led to the one needing to hear his word??

I think that prayer prayer prayer is the key.

Pat said...

I know you and understand your heart...I also know you and your family bathe any decision in prayer, and would only move in any direction if you felt GOD'S leading!! Be it a land wher there is only dark hari and eyes, or even fair and blue-eyed ---you would not shirk your calling!!

It is tough times ---everywhere....maybe you should train nationals to get the word out!! But, I know God is givng you a voice, no matter the place --here or afar!! Yes, God provides the man for a season---and at timnes, the torch must be passed. However,you being open to God, no matter the call or the criticism is the key--and you are OPEN!!

Prayers are going up for you around the world---You WILL GET AN ANSWER!!!

Prayers, love and hugs!!

Michael said...

This was an interesting post; very thought provoking.

You said, There are places that have not yet heard the good news.

I ask you, though, continuing the train of thought of your post & coming from someone Jewish who has (both as an individual and a group member) been 'targeted' by missionaries:

What do you do when you meet people who've heard your 'good news,' and didn't think it was all that good?

Jungle Mom said...

michael,
My job as a christian is to SHARE. If the person does not choose to believe, that is a choice only he can make as we believe in free will. I can not force a conversion upon anyone. It would not be a true conversion. Neither do I feel the need to coerce that person as I believe that is the work of God in their life. Not mine. I try to remian available if they have further questions or a change of heart.

Ther are many places where missionaries serve years and never have a single convert. Such as in Muslim countries. We are still commanded in our New Testament to share. We are to sow, but God brings the harvest.

I know you have read a lot here at my blog about christianity and evangelism. You have a free choice to agree or disagree.

In spite of our difference,I still find your blog and your life to be incredibly interesting, so I continue to read it. I hope you will feel free to continue to do so here! So, I guess ,I don't "Do" anything about people choosing to believe or not. I do pray for the salvation of individuals but that is private between me and God.

And I had a good laugh about your Thanksgiving being a week late!!! Too funny!!

Harry said...

On the other hand, when there is a natural disaster in the world, the United States is always the first to respond. Then there is love for Americans. I know that doesn't answer your question, but it may give it some perspective.

Judith said...

Wherever you are, and whatever you are doing for our Lord and Savior, I will be praying for you.

Bar Kochba said...

Very interesting post and it is amazing how you are so motivated to spread your faith. You are truly an inspiration!

I'm wondering, how do you choose which countries to go to?

Gayle said...

Not ever having been a Missionary, I can't council you, Rita, but I can pray for you. I know that you'll also pray and that God will guide you. He always has.

Blessings!

Bob said...

Your comments make sense to me. Your loving response to Michael tells me all that I need to know about you. You have the love of Christ and the Holy Spirit living in you.

Michael said...

In spite of our difference,I still find your blog and your life to be incredibly interesting, so I continue to read it.

Hevanti, v'gam ani.
(Which is, "I see, and me too.")

As for Thanksgiving, I'm glad you got a laugh from it. So did we; we haven't celebrated it in 3 years, and just forgot which day it is! We're not this confused on the Israeli and Jewish holidays, really....

Jungle Mom said...

bar,
There are several different mission agencies with different policies. Our mission agency, Baptist International Mission, Inc. has 1500 missionary teams through out the world. We are primarily a church planting mission. This means we seek out areas or people groups where there is no existing local church and attempt to start one in the community. We usually begin by home Bible studies.
In some places, such as in the jungle, we offer medical and other humanitarian assistance when needed.Our primary purpose remains to start new churches. Our goal is not to do this through other church members but through new believers.
We simply invite them to come learn about G-d and His word. What we refer to as the gospel, or good news is the following,
1)“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
2)“ . . . God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
3)“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13).

Dawn said...

Our mission program in our denomination is seeing such great things with turning the work over to the nationals entirely. Missionaries are being sent new places all the time, instead of the concept of old that kept them on the field for their entire careers. Many are coming back to pastor in the US after a time overseas. It is an interesting phenomena.

Are you in Paraguay now? Our pastor's son married a Peruvian girl while he was there in volunteer status. Then they were commissioned as career missionaries and were sent to Argentina. Now I hear they're being moved to Paraguay, where we don't have much work yet. I heard from an Ecuador missionary that Paraguay is a tough place. You don't make it sound that way at all. Interesting! I'll be very anxious to hear more.

Farmer John said...

Some random thoughts...

The very fact that you're there, I think, gives people a reason to hope and develop faith. I don't think you have to be recognized or accepted entirely by the community you serve... you serve by simply being there. Your presence serves as proxy for His, and makes Him "accessible". What other people, especially those outside your immediate neighborhood, choose to make of your presence is unimportant. Being "recognized" for your contribution is nice, but sometimes Better is the enemy of Gudenuff.

And it isn't necessarily your personal "presence" that impedes the spread of the Gospel, it's more "how" you choose to intervene. Passivity vs. activity. One need not evangelicisize 24/7. Everything has its' proper season. Listen to Him, and He will tell you when the time is right.

And I would never judge the success or failure of a mission by the number of people in the pews on Sunday or what criticism a repressive government levelled at me, for the general aim of criticism is only seldom constructive. I would judge success by the level of trust one place's in other members of the same community independent of its' size.

Jungle Mom said...

Dawn,
I am finding the Paraguayos to be very open and friendly.

Jungle Mom said...

farmer john,
Thanks for your input! Very good thoughts. I agree with much of what you say. And it is so true that just being there and available often turns out to be th best method for reaching people. I know that was true in the tribal work. It took years for the people to feel free to discuss faith with an outsider. They needed to see us live out our faith daily before they could see it as relevant to them.

Farmer John said...

Acta non Verba!

CaraqueƱa said...

I've thought much on that very thing, Rita! The day is soon coming when our beloved country will be a mission field instead of a sender, I think.

WomanHonorThyself said...

hard questions my friend and no simple answers...look into your heart!

CONNIE'S THOUGHTS FROM THE HEART said...

I am quiet sure that the Lord will make it very clear when, where, why and how he wants you all to carry on the work,He has given to you. If he closes one door, He will open another. To God be the glory. connie in Texas

Have a good week.

Sarah Joy said...

I've spent a while thinking about this post before I posted a comment. You're questions are well asked.

I love the modern missions movement, I love Baptist tradition. I am old-fashioned to the core of my core, but there are too many of us who can not make a difference between a method and God's commands. God gave us a construct in the Bible on how to give the gospel, and there are examples of how it is done. But it is clear that there are different soils, different methods. Nearly every area got a different method. And you are absolutely right about moving on. Jesus told them to do it. He left Geneseret when they asked Him to. He never forced Himself on anyone. Paul moved on many times.

God provided pastors, teachers, and evangelists. Missionary is a word we use to describe someone who leaves their home and does one of those things in another place, especially another country. Whatever your calling is, go for it! Looks to me like you are being moved into a teaching/training burden and calling, and I say, "Amen!" It blesses my heart so much when I see missionaries sent out from mission churches.

Rebecca said...

A thought provoking post Rita. You can only do what you can, and the Lord will show you the rest. I'm glad you posted this one.

Jungle Mom said...

Sara Joy,
I am not questioning the missionary movement,just some of our methods in some places. Like you said, some soil calls for different treatment.

Sarah Joy said...

Yes, I understand! I know you aren't questioning the movement, and I didn't mean to imply that. You ask questions that should be asked. Not, "how is this done before?" but, "How does God want me to do this?" Understanding that a lot of time things are traditions because they work and are great methods. But if they don't apply to the current situation, maybe God wants us to seek Him out for another plan.