We bless God that He has graciously yoked our family with like-minded churches and pastors. With nine supporting churches and about a dozen families, we have been able to spend around a week with each church. I don’t think this is ideal. Probably, 2-3 supporting churches and a month at each one would be the best, but that is an argument for another series of posts.
This post follows the previous one introducing in brief a philosophy of missions regarding furlough. Knowing the way people scroll through blog posts reading just a few sentences of each, I feared this illustration may get lost unless it was published separately.
So, here is a step in the right direction—a brief illustration of the way a great church made a great week for an average missionary.
In Iowa, we arrived at Grace Baptist Church on Saturday afternoon where we were to stay until the next Friday morning. They had a missionary house near the church where we stayed which gave us a little privacy while also keeping us accessible to the church.
Sunday morning, our family went to Sunday school as normal students. Many of the people in a church of 250 or so greeted us before the morning service. The pastor graciously allowed me to preach in the morning and show my slides in the evening. For the evening service I was given 45 minutes to show pictures and talk about our ministry and philosophy.
Sign up lists were placed—at the pastor’s initiative—on the back table so that we could have dinners with the church members throughout the week. There was no spot for lunch so that we could eat by ourselves without exhausting our kids too much. Tuesday-Thursday, I had four chances to speak to the young people at junior camp. They also closed camp with a question answer time between the missionary and the kids. After they asked me questions, the pastor even gave me a chance to ask them questions!
Before arriving, I had asked the pastor if I could meet with him and the church leadership for a time of accountability and prayer. Rather than have a meeting behind closed doors, he asked me to address the entire congregation again on Wednesday night where he set up a little panel of question and answer time for nearly an hour. He also thought to ask Amy to answer questions as well.
The pastor took the initiative to talk and pray with me even though I know he was busy. He was humble enough to listen, but bold enough to say at least once, “You’re wrong. That is sin.” Such friends are rare indeed.
By the end of the week, we felt sad to leave. We had answered (and asked) so many questions about family, homeschool, ministry, and Africa that conversations had naturally and repeatedly been spawned. At the end of time we may see that heartfelt conversations were the greatest tools to engender prayer for missionaries. I certainly doubt that eternity will reveal classy prayer cards, brilliant DVD’s, or a well-polished missionary sermon vying for first place as the greatest impetus to praying for missionaries.
The week was invested in eternity because relationships were built to the glory of God. The only problem was that seven days was too short.