Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Missionary Man

You can tell it's that time of year when churches are fundraising for foreign missions. Videos are being posted on Facebook from sponsored churches and missionaries are making the rounds to local congregations. Churches may be raising money to send someone from their own congregation long term or for the summer, or they may be raising money to support a church in the mission field. My church is in the midst of the latter, supporting churches in the Baltic and Nordic regions of Europe.

That may not sound sexy, but both are hit with unique challenges. In the Baltics, they still bear the scars of the former Soviet Union. I met a guy last week who was in Russia for nine years. He was in the middle of Siberia. We talked about how when communism fell everybody wanted to go to Russia, but few made it further than Moscow. In the meantime, the former Soviet Republics were suffering for being a forgotten mission field. In the Nordics, the situation is different. They are not necessarily hurting financially; they are first-world, yet they are taxed to such an extent that there is very little disposable income. No disposable income translates into an inability to pay ministry staff, rent facilities, or otherwise maintain an active church (unless that church is state-sponsored). Before I moved to California, the church I was a part of supported churches in the Philippines, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos who face abject poverty, communism/dictatorships, and many other obstacles to the Gospel. So they, too are on my heart.

I can't embed the Flash videos from Facebook, but here are updates from the Baltics and from the Pacific Rim. (I'm not sure if the privacy settings will let you through or not, they're not my videos)

At the same time, there's a risk of being tempted to just throw money at the mission field without a personal stake. An attitude of "let someone else deal with it." David Platt gives an example in his book, Radical, where he was speaking at another congregation and was being thanked by the local pastor:
"Brother David, we are so excited about all that God is doing in New Orleans and in all nations, and we are excited you are serving there. And, brother, we will continue to send you a check so we don't have to go there ourselves...
I remember a time at my last congregation when a missionary from Japan came to speak. I told that church that if they didn't give financial support to this missionary, I was going to pray that God would send their kids to Japan to serve with that missionary...And my church gave that man a laptop and a whole lot of money." (Radical, pg 63)
So I admire those who are willing to pack up their things and actually put boots on the ground. One of my coworkers organizes semi-annual mission trips to Russia while also spending a long weekend in Mexico quarterly. One of these days, I tell myself, I'm going to tag along.

Once upon on a time, my family of churches shared the attitude of "go anywhere, do anything in the name of Christ." As we've all gotten older that attitude seems to have waned. It will be easy for some to give exponentially to these foreign missions, while I recognize in the current economic climate it will be hard for others. But I wonder if it would be easier for all of us if there was an actual passion on our hearts for that mission field. That if we can't be boots on the ground, we can pray fervently, we can keep in contact with the churches overseas (made even easier today with Facebook and Skype) to encourage and strengthen them in the faith, and we may share their struggles with others to possibly inspire and encourage another to "stand in the gap" in our place. That together we may share the Gospel until the whole world hears.

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