A Missionary Should Be Surrounded
Missionary to America Del Campbell
Right after Del Campbell graduated from Concordia Seminary he set out as a missionary to America – specifically, to build a mission field in Gary, Indiana.
For those who don’t know, today the majority of seminarians graduate to be pastors – they will take care of an existing congregation. Only a few are sent out as missionaries. In time, as more and more of us recognize America as a world mission field, that will change. In the video interview I conducted with Del I asked, “What is the difference between a pastor and a missionary?” His response was, “A lot of traveling.” That was an important answer. Why?
Del’s call was from the national church body, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, but he would report first of all to the local churches. This missionary carried a heavy burden: as Del said to me, “They are all watching!”
As any new missionary, or pastor, or teacher, Del Campbell wanted to succeed. He was under pressure, pressure to grow St. John Lutheran in Gary as a mission field. The church had been establised by white, German Lutherans in the nineteeth century but now reflected its African American neighborhood. St. John’s neighborhood is rich with opportunity and talent, but not a lot of worshippers, and not a lot of money .
Adequate funding would ultimately depend on being surrounded by churches who believe in the mission. This is not a bad thing.
In my experience, national and district mission agencies would tell congregations they were doing mission work “on behalf of” congregations; many times this ended up being “instead of” congregations. Furthermore, too often missionaries were sent out alone, reporting many times to a supervisor who was hundreds of miles away. No matter how much that supervisor cared, they could not give the support needed at the start of a new mission.
Del’s role, the missionary role, is to surround the ministry with support from local churches. Inevitably, the missionary ends up doing “a lot of traveling,” visiting churches and calling on potential supporters. So far, Del’s traveling has paid off. A missionary should be surrounded.
Del is surrounded by partner churches eager to give support. Especially for the elementary school, shuttered for a generation.
National executive Dr. Roosevelt Gray had suggested the new missionary contact churches in the area to ask for help. The surrounding churches “surrounded” the missionary and the old building with love, and hard work. They brought the building up to code.
The surrounding churches and supporters funded scholarships for students. Today, more than fifty children attend the Christian school, something that would not have happened without the support of those churches. But that was not the end.
Missionary Campbell has connected with other churches and other pastors in Gary. Together they address challenges facing most urban areas: drug abuse, poverty, ignorance, crime and hunger. The pastors surround their community with hope; Del is working hard to give a broader platform for the gospel to do its work.
Furthermore, all along Del and St. John Lutheran have been surrounded by, as St. Paul writes, ” a cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1),
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus…” Hebrews 12:1-2a
Those “winteeses” are unseen, former heroes of faith who faced impossible challenges but witnessed the power and love of God. That same power is working today for Del Campbell in Gary, Indiana. They are watching!
Most of all, He is watching: Jesus, Who stands before God on our behalf, interceding for the church and the missionary, and for you and me. Missionaries should not do their work alone. They should be surrounded.