Once I was at a conference where a Brazilian pastor was explaining the irony of missions today. He explained how American missionaries ventured into the heart of the Amazon to share the gospel, after spending years translating the Bible into the local tongue. He then shared how Brazilian pastors were flying into suburban parts of America to do “mission’s work”. His point was mission work is sharing the gospel and what it teaches about how to live out of that truth, no matter the location. Mission work is not becoming a missionary and traveling to a foreign country. The location does not dictate the fulfillment of the role of missions, the message does.
“The location does not dictate the fulfillment of the role of missions, the message does.”
The point I want to stress is this: Each one of us should be involved in some form of mission work as this is what it means to be a Christian. This form could be far way volunteering on a trip, teaching others in a foreign country, or committing to a life of service. But more realistically and practically this should involve, volunteering locally, working to give to good organizations, praying for the work being done and supporting our missionary’s. Since the location of missions does not matter than we can start practicing mission today where we are.
Here are 5 things that you should know about missions in developing countries that you might not know.
1. To do effective mission work in a receiving country, there are huge cultural differences that need to be overcome.
From the way you greet someone, to the way you form your basic values. Each culture holds very different standards for all aspects of life. A culture shapes a worldview and a worldview shapes the way everything is done. In order to align the biblical worldview, it needs to be presented in a way that fits a culture’s worldview. You cannot cram a square block into a round cylinder. Different cultures are not wrong, they are just different. The way a North American learns and the way an African or South American learns are very different, and so the gospel should be delivered that way. We do not change the meaning if the gospel, we simply must change the way it is presented. Often American pill ideals get pushed down unwilling throats in an attempt to help meanwhile, it does more harm than good. Many good intentions have been crippled by the presentation of the message.
To do effective missions work in a different culture, remember you will need the following things:
- Time – It takes months and years to understand what the real problem is once the culture has been understood. Only then can a correct long-term strategy be developed and applied.
- A Learning Attitude – A sitting posture and two open ears go a long way in developing strategies to implement lasting changes.
- Relationships – Mixing with the local people, developing trust and working together for a gospel-centered solution is the key to effective mission work.
2. Money goes a lot farther when aid is accompanied by guidance and instruction.
The developing world needs intellectual currency primarily, not monetary currency. Suppose I knew I would receive one dollar every day. The next best thing would be told how to make that one dollar become two by tomorrow. Teaching provides the knowledge for the next best thing. What is the highest intellectual currency that can be taught? The gospel. Following that the way the gospel is lived out in church, communities, and businesses is the best aid any developed mind can offer.
3. What is reported back home is not always the full story on the ground.
When you are at a funeral, often only the best light is shed on the person who has passed away. Similarly, sometimes reporting sheds the best light on a situation, while leaving out the muck in the background. Sadly, the everyday struggles are often not conveyed or are left out of the donor report. I am not saying every piece of dirty laundry needs not be hung out for all to see. What I am saying is that churches back home may be given a true report, no doubt, but an incomplete one. A complete report highlights the joys and the sorrows, the struggles and the accomplishments. A full report might explain about the stolen items, or the unfinished building, or the failed initiative. Does this mean we close our cheque books and eyes to the problems? Of course not, if anything it should encourage us to help out more where there is a greater need. If we only help when the sailing is smooth we may find our self-jumping overboard when the waves come crashing on us.
4. When we pray and give to mission work it makes a huge impact on many souls and lives.
The butterfly effect says that once small flap of the wing today can cause a powerful tornado in the future. I heard a true story of a small action that saved the life of someone. Steve worked for a Christian organization taking care of the grounds for 5 years in the Malawian capital of Lilongwe. At the end of a long hot week of work, a volunteer gave Steve 5 dollars as an extra gift for the quality work he had done. Little did the volunteer know that Steve’s son George was violently ill and that weekend was sent to the hospital. Steve had no money that weekend but was able to use the 5 dollars given to him to pay for the treatment of his son. His son was full of bacteria and would have died, had not the 5 dollars been given. One small act of giving or prayer can save a life or make a big impact on someone else’s.
I would encourage you to give because God has graciously given us so much. Realising that money is not ours in the first place makes it easier to give away. I would also encourage you to pray. Pray for the struggles, for the missionaries, for the money being distributed. Pray that God would use it in an impactful way and I am sure he will.
5. When mission work is accompanied with the gospel it will always have an impact.
If you are wondering where you can get the best return on investment, look no farther. The dividends that gospel mission’s pays provides the best ratio compared to anywhere else. One saved soul will light up eternity forever. No money in the world can provide that kind of happiness. Invest in missions. Invest your time by volunteering. Invest your money by giving cheerfully and intentionally. Invest your resources by providing your unique abilities. I am positive the impact and return on investment will be unmatched.
Every Christian is called to missions, in one way or another. The last words of Jesus were calling his disciples to missions work in the Great Commission. “What have you done with the task I gave you?” Might be the first question he will ask when he returns. What will be our response?
“Untold millions are still untold” – John Wesley