Teams are important. As the old expression goes: “No man is an island.” In many arenas of life, we find that working with others is not only a necessity but is part of who we are as social beings and is healthy not only for us as individuals, but also for the greater promotion of the work that we set out to do together. From organizing social events to working together in business to ruling and governing nations – teamwork is important.
“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him– a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” – Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
The life of a missionary can often be somewhat nomadic. First, there is the initial move out of one’s home country to the place where the missionary will minister. Typically, missionaries have gone for a term at a time, punctuated by furloughs – also known as “home ministry assignment or HMA”. This can be a lot of moving around! Additionally it is not uncommon for God to move missionaries from one ministry assignment to another – whether in the same nation or in a completely different nation or even language group!
One question people might have is: Where do missionaries live while on home assignment? This is a good question because traditionally the missionary home assignment or furlough can be anywhere from weeks to a whole year! Most missionaries are by no means idle during their home assignment. They are expected to visit their financial supporters and sponsoring churches to give updates on the work on the field, giving glory to our Triune God for bringing the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to the nations!
Thankfully God provides for His servants, but it is not always easy for the missionary. Sometimes a missionary owns a home back in his or her passport country. But most often not. Some have generous relatives who may offer a place to stay. Others have financial supporters who share their home or open their vacation home for a season. A few churches have what is akin to the traditional parsonage or manse: the missionary house.
Were you in church last Sunday? We all face the temptation to take Sunday worship for granted. It can feel at times like a tradition, even something we do without giving it much thought. Many Christians will admit that they haven’t made it to church in a while. Others will acknowledge that they don’t currently have a church. Maybe it is a sunny Sunday morning and the beach is calling, or a rainy day and it is hard to get moving. Perhaps the kids have a sports event. Whatever the reason, it can seem like a challenge to make church a priority. But how often do we think of the bigger picture, how our participation in the worship service exalts the God of the universe?
This past month we had the blessing of worshipping in a couple of churches in Montevideo. As our all-night flight reminded us, Uruguay is far from the U.S. In fact, this Uruguayan city is the southern most capital city in the Americas, being roughly the same latitude as Kansas, but in the southern hemisphere. And just like whatever city you call home, there are Christians from a variety of denominations and traditions setting aside Sunday to worship the Triune God. The same is true of every country that has a Christian church all over the world both today and throughout the past 2000 years.
I was particularly moved during one worship service in which a visiting pastor from Brazil was preaching. He spoke in Portuguese, and our Brazilian missionary colleague translated into Spanish. That morning the Word of God spoke powerfully to me as I heard it preached. And it was just this past May that we had the opportunity to travel to Belize and found ourselves worshiping with the Belizean believers. We sat under the preaching of a local pastor in a morning service and an elder at an evening service. The evening sermon in particular spoke powerfully to the trials in my life. In fact, you or I could go to any country in the world on a Sunday and, as long as the sermon is given or translated into a language we understand, it will speak to us just as powerfully as the sermon given in our home church. Our Great and Mighty God works through the preaching of the Word by the power of the Holy Spirit in every nation on earth!
In the last book of the Bible, Revelation, the apostle John has a vision where he sees a multi-cultural church service from the end of the age. He describes it like this: “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb'” (Rev. 7:9-10). This powerful scene is from the end of the age when there will be worshipers from every part of the world uniting as a group to honor and adore the God of all creation. This is the goal of missions and the consummation of all things. Christianity doesn’t belong to one country, one continent or one language but to all peoples.
There is very real sense in which, on a smaller scale, this verse is being lived out every single Sunday, in all parts of the world. During this one 24 hour period, each and every week, believers are meeting together to worship and to be encouraged in the Word. Some churches are large, others are tiny. Some meet out in the open and include among their members powerful political leaders. Others meet in fear and in secret hoping not be found out by the government. What unites them? Worship of the Triune God. On this one day each week, God is hearing from His people all over the world. Each and every week, there is a foretaste of that day in the future when we will be united all together. Sure, now, this Sunday, we will be separated by geography, by language, by denomination and even by the age in which we live. But whether we gather with fifteen believers or 1500, we are still gathered with a multitude giving God the worship due His name. On that day in the future our numbers will be larger. There will be believers from each age from the time of Adam and Eve. There will be peoples from every tribe – even tribes that only number in the thousands. There will be people with strange languages and different customs. There will be people whose nations were once at war with one another, now united.
There is a real sense that when we meet each Sunday, we are privileged to be joining the chorus of voices that also meet that very day all over the world. We are making a joyful noise to our God as we remember with our singing, our prayers and our sermons, that He is the Creator and we are the creature (Ps. 95:6-7; Ps. 100). We have the privilege to do this every single Sunday. We don’t have to check our calendars and see which day we might be able to squeeze the service in. No, this has been the command and custom of all churches since the Apostles.
We are united with all believers even if we aren’t with them in the same room. And this is also why so many churches remember to lift up the persecuted church in their pastoral prayer each Lord’s Day. We remember our brothers and sisters that meet as they are commanded to do, and yet they do so in fear and concern. We may fight against the temptation to get a couple more hours of sleep or to be there in body but with thoughts that are far away. They fight against the temptation to stay away for fear of another bombing or a police raid. But for them just like us, this our privilege to give our God the sacrifice of worship that is due His name and it is our honor to be part of this great cloud of witnesses (Rom. 12:1-3; Heb. 11 & Heb. 12:1-3). And when we meet, we are not just joining in with our group of 50 or 200. We are joining in with the literally millions of Christians who are meeting on this very same day in a worship service that is both shockingly similar to ours and also strange and foreign, testifying to the greatness of our God.
So whether you were or were not in church last Sunday, as this Sunday approaches, may you allow these considerations to shape your decision about what priority the worship service will have in your life. Worshiping God with every tongue, tribe and nation is not something that will be reserved just for that day when the new heavens and earth is ushered in, but in a very real sense is happening here and now every week,
What does it take to see success in missions? Is it mostly a matter of learning the right techniques for stimulating a church planting network? Or maybe it is a matter of learning the language and culture like a native? Should we focus on servant leadership and loving our neighbor or should we just faithfully preach God’s Word? Continue reading Spiritual Warfare in Missions→
A while ago MTW created what we now call regional “hubs” in the U.S. These hubs are arms of MTW located within geographical regions (e.g. West Coast or Midwest). The idea is to have MTW personnel closer to where the people are in order to facilitate church involvement in world missions. This is really important given MTW’s goal that the PCA would send out 1% of its membership onto the missions field. When I first heard this goal a couple of years ago I was skeptical. My “glass is half empty” side kicked in: Where would we find these people? How would our denomination fund these new missionaries? How will our home office be able to keep up with the growth?
Though I don’t know how the Lord will work out all the details, I now believe it is certainly a worthy goal because there are so many around the world who have not had the opportunity to hear a clear presentation of the gospel message. There are men, women and children who are perishing apart from Christ. They need to know the Savior. We need more folks to go and share the gospel message.
If I’m not mistaken, it was William Carey (“the father of modern missions”) who said “attempt great things for God, expect great things from God.” While we shouldn’t presume God will answer our every request, we do know that He is both powerful and sovereign and that He is at work expanding His Kingdom. In light of that and because of the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20), this goal of sending out 1% of the PCA as missionaries doesn’t seem insurmountable. My wife Michele was just sharing with me the other day of how she heard Dr. Lloyd Kim (MTW Coordinator) talking about this goal. He spoke of it in terms of revival and said something to the effect that if we are to realize this goal, then we will need to pray for a great revival work of the Holy Spirit. Amen brother Lloyd. “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1). If we are to see God raise up more laborers, then we must ask Him to both send them and also uphold them once they are sent. It must be a work of God if we are to see the nations reached with the Good News.
God blessed our recent four day intensive English Club outreach here in Montevideo. We had over 26 adults come throughout the week as well as several children from our church and the community.
Each day there was a gospel presentation from the Scriptures and a call to trust in Christ during the break.
The team was composed of folks from Little Farms Chapel OPC (Michigan), Holy Trinity PCA (Tampa) and Spring Hills PCA (St. Louis) in Missouri. We are grateful the Lord Lord and to this team for blessing our church and the community with Continue reading Short Term Team Leads English Club!→
We had been visiting from church to church, on the road and far from home for several months. We were in South Carolina. Sunday morning arrived, and we did not have a church to speak at, and is our custom, we planned to visit a local Presbyterian church. No one at the church knew we were coming, but we were happy to just be refreshed and worship with God’s people.
After service, one of our children struck up a friendship with another girl. This girl invited us to her home for lunch, and then went to ask her parents. Continue reading Simple Hospitality→
What is it like to be a Christian missionary in the most secular country in the Americas? Uruguay is unusual in Latin America for its level of secularism, as the Pew Research Center explains here and here. It isn’t just the most secular country in Latin America, it is strikingly more secular than any other country in the region. Many think that is because Uruguay is following in the footsteps of Spain, but in fact as this article in Spanish describes, Uruguay has a much higher percentage of atheists and those who are religiously unaffiliated than Spain or many other European countries. And although Argentina is the close cousin culturally of Uruguay, the religious landscape between the two nations are quite distinct. Continue reading Baptism and New Membership in a Dry and Parched Land→
Life in Uruguay can be different from my life as it was living in southern California or in St. Louis, Missouri. Take getting the car fixed for instance. In the U.S., if I needed the car fixed, I would leave it with my mechanic and ask my wife to pick me up. When it was done, she would drop me off and I would pick it up.
Here in Montevideo, we only have one car. The picture to the left is not our car, but I thought it was cool – so I put it here for you to enjoy. The cost of living in Uruguay is very high and the salaries are lower than in the U.S. Also, all vehicles are manufactured outside of Uruguay, which means there is no local Uruguayan car industry as far as I know. The government charges high import taxes, putting the value of even a used car at around double as it would cost in the U.S. Sometimes even more than that. Many people don’t even own one car, much less two. Thankfully Montevideo has a good public transportation system, including buses and taxis. For our first year here we had no access to a vehicle unless someone lent us one or we rented one. Thankfully, our second year we were able to borrow a car and our third year we were able to purchase one due to the generous contributions of several individuals.
But I diverge. What does all this have to do with the mechanic? Because we only have one car, when I take it to the mechanic I usually have to do a lot of walking to get to an appropriate bus stop – unless I want to spend more money and get a taxi. And when one walks, one sees more of the city.
A couple of weeks ago I was walking along and saw a beautiful Mormon building. It was made of bricks and had a great basketball court outside. I’m not sure what they call it. Is it a church? Is it a local meeting place for their ward? I’m not sure. What I do know is that their theology departs from the historic Christian faith. Their conception of God is very different and they deny the Trinity. They also adhere to a works oriented salvation, whereas the Bible teaches that we are saved by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ – God incarnate, the Second Person of the Trinity (Eph. 2:8-9; John 1:1; 2 Pet. 1:1).
I have seen many Mormon missionaries and even ran into a whole slew of them while out hiking Pan de Azucar, a small mountain a couple of hours outside of Montevideo. Michele and I also had a couple of young ladies into our home to discuss the true meaning of the gospel. Needless to say they were trying to convert us and we were trying to convert them.
The reason I bring this up is to bring up two points: commitment to evangelism and the need for the true gospel. The Mormons have an army of missionaries. While the evangelical church has a number of workers in Uruguay and the Reformed churches have sent four full time missionary families, the Mormons have dozens and dozens on the ground right now. This is not to mention their continuing cycle of sending more after their terms are up. There is true commitment. We should be asking ourselves this question: How committed are we to working toward the fulfillment of the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations, teaching them all that Christ has commanded and baptizing them in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:18-20)?
The other point has to do with the truth. We believe that the Mormons don’t have it right. They have departed from the Bible and have created a false system of worship. When Jesus said to make disciples of all nations, He said that we should be teaching everything He commanded. That implies the full counsel of God. The whole Bible. In Uruguay and throughout the world today there is a great need for men and women to bring the truth of the Lord Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth. The nations need the truth of the gospel, and what they need even more is the Person who is the Truth – Jesus Christ, who is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6).
So next time you are walking to the mechanic or driving or however you get there, be sure and pray that God will raise up an army of laborers that will be committed to declaring the gospel to the ends of the earth. And pray that God will use you and other Christians to share that message of truth and the Lordship of Christ to all who will listen. Who knows, maybe God could be calling you to be more involved in World Evangelization!
Recently, a fellow missionary approached us with a 12 passenger used van that he is selling. It is more economical than a newer model, and it will both be big enough for our family, and big enough to use for a variety of ministry purposes. We have been doing a “Go Fund Me” campaign to raise the funds, since MTW no longer receives contributions for personal needs of this nature.
We rejoice to report that God has provided the necessary funds to purchase this van!
We want to give a hearty thanks to all those who contributed and ask that you would continue to pray for the details in purchasing it and obtaining the proper documentation in Uruguay.