You Could Hear A Pin Drop

You Could Hear A Pin Drop

Missionary to America Dr. William Utech

William Utech has an unusual view of missions. He is the Assistant for Missions in the Minnesota South District. We usually think of the Great Commission as going to the ends of the earth, but Bill sees the ends of the earth coming to Minnesota. “The only place there are more Somalis is Somalia.”  According to a missionary in Minneapolis, two thirds of the population of Minneapolis are other than White English speaking people.

How do you help congregations that are primarily White and English speaking want to reach out and welcome these new citizens? How do you encourage them to get involved in immigrant communities and share the love of Christ? How do you make them passionate about mission work?

Bill Utech and the Minnesota South District have found a way. 

Bill focuses on new mission starts in Minnesota South.  One of the primary roles of a mission executive is to nurture a vision for mission. In Bill’s District district mission leaders see their primary role as helping existing churches start new churches. But how do you help churches that have been around since 1935, like Bill’s home church, Trinity, Medford, gain sharper “mission eyes”?

Trinity Lutheran Church in Medford is fifty five miles south of Minneapolis, but those refugees and immigrants who first arrived in Minneapolis are moving to small towns all over the State. As mission executive, Rev. Utech did not want to ask others to do what he was not willing to do himself. He worked with the Pastor of Trinity, Mark Biebighauser, to organize a mission trip to Guatemala. Bill himself went on the first, exploratory trip. Helping a congregation to think outside of itself is a must for opening a door to a heart for missions. 

Utech knew about CALMS, the Central American Lutheran Mission Society, an organization that helps churches be successful on mission trips. CALMS provides a consultant that helps churches understand the culture of people in Central America, and a translator. Before they went on the trip the congregation had to agree to a five year partnership; just going one time does not allow for building relationships.

On January 15, 2016, Pr. Biebighauser and seven Trinity members  left for Taguayni, Guatemala.  Of course they shared their love for Jesus, and, they ran a sports camp, establishing relationships with the local people. When they returned, Pr. Biebighauser made time on Sunday morning for the team to report back to the church members. Bill says, “You could hear a pin drop.” 

Just talking about the mission to a congregation is a first step. Sharing pictures and stories about the needs of others is helpful. But when God opens a door for mission, and the people of God meet and form relationships with those who need our love, need our prayers, need the love of Jesus in their community, the Spirit of God opens our eyes, our ears, and our hearts, so that “you could hear a pin drop.”

 

To see a fourteen minute interview with Dr. Utech, click here.

To see a short two minute introductory video, click here.

 

¿Qué tienes para perder?

¿Qué tienes para perder?

Andrew Mezilus renunció a muchas cosas. Durante su infancia en Haití, aprendió a ser sastre y misionero. Luego se convirtió en diácono en su iglesia y estudió durante cuatro años en un Instituto Bíblico. Su meta era comenzar una iglesia nueva. En 1987 se fue en bicicleta hasta Balaban, una pequeña ciudad a dieciocho millas de su casa. Allí predicó a las personas que pasaban por la calle, diciéndoles que Dios amó tanto al mundo, que envió a su único Hijo a morir en nuestro lugar. Sólo una mujer respondió. Sin embargo, esa primera conversión produjo cincuenta más. A medida que la iglesia fue creciendo, se hizo evidente que lo que ganaba como sastre y las donaciones de los miembros de la iglesia no iba a ser suficiente para llevar adelante la misión y mantener a su familia. Así es que, en 1988, entregó el liderazgo de la iglesia a uno de sus líderes y, aunque no tenía visa, llegó a los Estados Unidos a trabajar.

Durante seis años estuvo separado de su esposa e hijos, haciendo lo que tenía que hacer para mantenerlos a ellos y a la misión que había comenzado en Haití. La vida frugal que llevaba hacía que extrañara aún más a su familia. En esta nueva tierra, viviendo constantemente con el temor de ser deportado, buscó maneras de legalizar su estatus. Mientras tanto, consiguió empleo en un hospital, manejó un taxi, trabajó como sastre, hizo cualquier cosa que le generara los fondos que necesitaba para enviar a la misión y a su familia en Haití. Para poder darles una vida mejor, perdió años de la vida de su esposa e hijos. Se sacrificó para que la misión que había comenzado tuviera los recursos necesarios para crecer y expandirse a otras áreas.

Eso es lo que hacen los misioneros: dejan atrás las cosas que más atesoran, para seguir a su Señor. Así fue como los apóstoles respondieron al llamado del Señor: Santiago y Juan dejaron su casa y su negocio inmediatamente; Pablo tuvo que ser quitado de su misión de perseguir y encarcelar a los cristianos, y cuando deja su posición privilegiada es odiado por sus amigos y colegas. Durante años Pablo ministró al margen de la iglesia, porque muchos creían que era un fraude, un espía.

En 1994, con ayuda de la Iglesia Alianza Misionera y la Iglesia Luterana del Sínodo de Missouri (LCMS), el pastor Mezilus logró legalizar su estatus. Para ese entonces, la iglesia en Balaban, con el apoyo financiero y espiritual de Andrew Mezilus, había crecido en cinco iglesias. Pero eso no era todo.

Trabajando con el grupo Amigos en Cristo en Immokalee, Florida, Mezilus continuó estudiando en el “Ethnic Immigrant Institute of Theology” (EIIT) de la LCMS, y fue ordenado en la LCMS. En conjunto con Amigos de Cristo, el Pastor Mezilus comenzó una iglesia en Immokalee.

Actualmente, Mezilus y su familia viven en la Florida, pero sus corazones y apoyo financiero permanecen con las cinco iglesias en Haití. Mezilus lleva grupos de líderes de iglesias americanas al Cabo Haitiano y a Balaban, con el fin de obtener más apoyo para los hermanos en Cristo que tienen muchísimo menos que nosotros. Como resultado, esas cinco iglesias han sido bendecidas con crecimiento espiritual y financiero. Y todo gracias a que un hombre no tuvo miedo de perder su vida, con tal de ser fiel al llamado de su Señor.

¿Qué tienes para perder si permaneces fiel?

Como profetizó Jesús: “El que ama su vida, la perderá; pero el que aborrece su vida en este mundo, la guardará para vida eterna.” Evangelio de Juan, capítulo 12: versículo 25.

Tr. B. Hoppe

To see a one minute video introduction of the interview with Pr. Mezilus, click here.

To see the full eighteen minute video interview, click here.

What Have You Got To Lose?

 WHAT HAVE YOU GOT TO LOSE?

Missionary to America Andrew Mezilus

What have you got to lose?

Andrew Mezilus gave up a lot.  As a child growing up in Haiti he trained to be a tailor, and a missionary. He became a deacon in his church, and went four years to Bible School. His goal was to begin a new church. In 1987 he rode his bicycle to a small city eighteen miles away called Balaban. There he stood in the street and preached to anyone passing by how God loved the world, and sent His only child to die in our place. One woman responded.  However, that first conversion turned into fifty.  As the church grew, it became apparent that income from his vocation as a tailor and donations from the church members would not be enough to fund the mission and support his family. In 1988 he handed the church leadership over to an elder, and even though he had no legal status, he made his way to the United States to work.

For six years he was separated from his wife and children, doing what he had to do to work to support them and the mission he had begun in Haiti.  Living frugally, he missed his wife and children terribly. In this new land, living in fear he would be deported, he sought ways to  gain legal status. In the meantime, he trained as a  hospital worker, drove a taxi, did tailoring – whatever would give him the funds needed to send back to Haiti, to the mission and his family. He missed years of his wife’s and his children’s lives to give them a better life. He sacrificed so that the mission he had begun would have the money it needed to grow and expand to other areas.

That’s what missionaries do. They leave behind the things most dear to them, to follow their Lord. That is how the Apostles responded when they heard the Lord’s call – James and John leave their home and business immediately; Paul has to be pried away from his mission to put Christians in prison, and leaves his privileged position to be hated by friends and colleagues. For years Paul ministered on the edges of the church because many believed he was a fraud, a spy.

In 1994 Pr. Mezilus, with help from the Missionary Alliance Church and the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, was given legal status. By then, the one church in Balaban, with the financial and spiritual support of Andrew Mezilus, had grown into five churches. But that was  not all.

Working with the group Amigos en Cristo  in Immokalee, Florida. He went back to school through the Lutheran Church’s “Ethnic Immigrant Institute of Theology,” and was ordained in the LCMS.” Working with Amigos, Pr. Mezilus began a church in Immokalee.

He and his family live in SW Florida today, but their hearts and their financial support remain with the five Haitian churches. Pr. Mezilus leads regular trips for American church leaders to Cape Haitian and Balaban, to gain broader support for brothers and sisters in Christ who have significantly less than they do. As a result, the churches have been blessed with spiritual and financial growth. All this because one man was not afraid to lose his life to be faithful to the Lord’s call.

What do you have to lose to remain faithful?

As Jesus prophesied, “Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who lose their life in this world will keep it for eternity.” Gospel of John, chapter 12: verse 25.

To see a one minute video introduction of the interview with Pr. Mezilus, click here.

To see the full eighteen minute video interview, click here.

¿Por qué deberías conocer a Bennego Kangar?

 

¿Por qué deberías conocer a Bennego Kangar?

(This is a translation into Spanish of last week’s blog. Please let us know if the Spanish is helpful and whether we should do this on a regular basis)

Imagine que le han dado una visión convincente: ha descubierto una oportunidad única para compartir el increíble amor de Dios con miles y miles de personas, NO solo en su propio país, sino en todo el mundo. Pero, también sabe que NO tiene el dinero para hacer frente a la oportunidad. ¿Qué hace?

Conozca al reverendo Bennego Kangar.

EL Rev. Kangar es miembro de The Alley, un nuevo ministerio en Minnesota. En noviembre pasado, él y otros miembros del ministerio tuvieron el llamado para equipar a mil líderes de la iglesia en Liberia. Uno nunca hubieras esperado eso de los primeros años del reverendo Kangar.
Bennego creció como miembro de la tribu Bassa, en Liberia, un campo misionero cristiano. Pero en los primeros quince años de su vida no le fue bien. Salía con la gente equivocada y se metía en problemas. Entonces, su madre lo arrastró a una escuela cristiana. Ahí es donde Cristo lo encontró enojado, temeroso, solo, y lo animó con su amor. Desde entonces, ha dedicado su vida a compartir el amor de su Salvador.
A diferencia de la iglesia en América, los cristianos en Liberia saben que están en un campo de misión. El ministerio se hace de manera diferente en un campo de misión. Pregúntese: “Si mi iglesia fuera repentinamente trasladada a la India, ¿qué tan diferente sería?”. Supongo que podría enumerar cientos de diferencias. Hay algunos cambios importantes que quizás le interese considerar.

Por ejemplo, quizás podrías aprender el idioma de las personas que te rodean; probablemente podrías descubrir qué cosas afectan a la comunidad y diseñar ministerios para satisfacer las necesidades de las personas, es decir, mostrar visiblemente el amor de Dios a la gente. Tratarías de encontrar líderes locales confiables y discipularlos, para poder avanzar al próximo campo misionero. Algo así como lo que hizo San Pablo. La emoción de saber que Dios es amor y que Él me ama, no es algo fácil de callar.

En un campo misionero, casi todos los cristianos sienten pasión por compartir su fe. Desde sus últimos años de adolescencia, al Rev. Kangar se le enseñó la importancia de que los cristianos no escatimen esfuerzos para llevar a Cristo a los vecinos, a los amigos y a sus compañeros de trabajo. No sólo eso, sino que también le enseñaron cómo hacerlo. Bennego participó de seminarios con otros jóvenes cristianos donde aprendió a compartir su fe.
Eventualmente, a Bennego se le enseñó a enseñar a otros. Uno sabe que se encuentra en un campo misional, cuando los líderes locales son discipulados rutinariamente para poder enseñar a otros. Lo realmente importante es que a Bennego y a otros jóvenes se les enseñó a hacerlo sin depender de fondos externos. Es por eso que dirigió un esfuerzo para enseñar a las iglesias de las zonas rurales a cultivar arroz y usar las ganancias para financiar la misión.

Utilizó lo que tenía a mano localmente para hacer crecer la iglesia. El aula que utilizó en Malawi fue el espacio debajo de un árbol Baobab. Cuando trabajaba con líderes de misión en los Estados Unidos, me preguntaba:   “¿A dónde va la iglesia cuando el dinero es lo que impulsa la misión?” La respuesta, por supuesto, es a las personas ricas.

Debemos encontrar formas de apoyar la misión de Cristo utilizando recursos dentro del contexto del campo misionero local. Entonces el amor de Dios puede llegar a todas las personas.

En un campo misionero, el dinero NO limita las iniciativas de evangelización. Las personas siempre encuentras un camino. Bennego Kangar trajo esa idea al campo misional en Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota.

Para apoyar su ministerio mundial de formar líderes para construir ministerios sostenibles en un campo misional, Bennego Kangar se convirtió en un “fabricante de tiendas de campaña”. No literalmente; al igual que San Pablo, él financia su trabajo con los ingresos de su negocio. Bennego tiene seis hijos; dado que él y su esposa creen que su primer ministerio es para sus hijos, los han involucrado en su nuevo negocio: “Tapicería de Ben e Hijos”. Durante nueve meses, la familia Kangar trabaja creando y reparando tapicería en Minnesota; los otros tres meses viaja a Liberia, Nigeria, Malawi y otros países donde el evangelio necesita ser plantado. Benego y su familia no trabajan sólo para vivir, o viven sólo para trabajar: ellos trabajan para ministrar. Esto significa que la familia depende menos del dinero externo para llevar a cabo su ministerio.

Una visión convincente para un nuevo campo misional puede llevarle lejos. Aprender el idioma y las costumbres locales, satisfacer las necesidades de sus vecinos, discipular a líderes nuevos, equipar discípulos para que compartan su fe, todos estos son puntos muy importantes en el campo misional. También lo son las finanzas.

El apoyo financiero desde fuera del contexto ministerial sólo puede durar algún tiempo y siempre corre el riesgo de evaporarse. El misionero sabio encontrará formas de usar lo que está a su alcance para ayudar a financiar su ministerio.

Por todo eso, sería bueno conocer a Bennego Kangar.
“Después de estas cosas, Pablo salió de Atenas y fue a Corinto. Y halló a un judío llamado Aquila, natural del Ponto, recién venido de Italia con Priscila su mujer, por cuanto Claudio había mandado que todos los judíos saliesen de Roma. Fue a ellos, y como era del mismo oficio, se quedó con ellos, y trabajaban juntos, pues el oficio de ellos era hacer tiendas. Y discutía en la sinagoga todos los días de reposo, y persuadía a judíos y a griegos…” (Hechos 18:1-4)

Un árbol “baobab” en Malawi, como aquel bajo el cual Bennego enseñó a los misioneros.

Many thanks to Beatrice Hoppe for translating the story of Bennego Kangar into Spanish!

Thanks you to Pr. Jose Flores and Ms. Beatrice Hoppe for the translation from English to Spanish.

Why You Should Get to Know Bennego Kangar

Why You Should Get to Know Bennego Kangar

Missionary to America Bennego Kangar

Imagine you’ve been given a compelling vision: you’ve discovered a unique opportunity to share God’s incredible love with thousands and thousands of people – not just in your own country, but around the world.  You also know you don’t have the money to meet the opportunity. What do you do?

Get to know Rev. Bennego Kangar.

Rev. Kangar is  a member of The Alley, a new ministry in Minnesota. Last November he and others from the ministry had the call to equip a thousand church leaders in Liberia.  You would never have expected this from Rev. Kanga’s early years.

Bennego grew up as a member of the Bassa tribe, in Liberia, a Christian mission field. He was a ne’er do well  in the first fifteen years of his life. He hung out with the wrong people, and got into trouble. Then, his mother dragged him into a Christian school. That is where Christ found him, angry, afraid, alone – and warmed him with His love. Since then his life has been devoted to sharing his Savior’s love.

Unlike the church in America, Christians in Liberia know they are on a mission field. Ministry is done differently on a mission field. Ask yourself: “If my church were suddenly picked up and put down in India, how would our ministry be different?” I guess you could list a hundred ways. There are a few very important changes you might like to consider.

You would  want to learn the language of the people around you; you probably would find out where the community was hurting, and design ministries to meet the needs of people, ie, visibly show the love of God to the people. You would want to find local leaders you could trust, and disciple them, so you could go on to the next mission field. Something like what St. Paul did. The excitement of knowing God is love, and that He loves me, is not something easily held onto.

On a mission field, just about every Christian is passionate about giving their faith away. From his late teenage years Rev. Kangar was taught the importance of Christians going out of their way to bring Christ to neighbors, to friends and people at work. Not just that, they were given instruction in how to do it.  Bennego attended seminars with other young Christians to learn how to share their faith.

Eventually, Bennego was taught to teach others.  You know you are on a  mission field when local leaders are routinely being discipled in order teach others. What is really important is that Bennego and other young people were taught to do this without depending on funding from outside.  that is why he led an effort to teach churches in rural areas how to farm rice, and use the proceeds to fund the mission.

He used whatever was at hand locally to grow the church. The classroom he used in Malawi was the space under a Baobab Tree. When I worked with mission leaders in the United States I would ask, “Where is the church going when money drives the mission?”  The answer of course is: to affluent people.

Ways must be found to support the mission of Christ using resources from within the context of the local mission field. Then the love of God can reach all people.

A “baobab” tree in Malawi, like the one                                                                  under which Bennego taught missionaries.

On a mission field, money does not limit the initiatives for evangelizing. People find a way. Bennego Kangar brought that idea to the mission field of Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota.

To support his world wide ministry of training leaders to build sustainable ministries on a mission field, Bennego Kangar became a “tentmaker.”  Not literally; he supports his work, like St. Paul, through an income producing business. Bennego has six sons; because he and his wife believe their first ministry is to their children, they have involved their boys in the new business: “Ben and Sons Upholstery.” For nine months the Kangar family works creating and repairing upholstery in Minnesota; the other three months see them in Liberia, Nigeria, Malawi and other countries where the gospel needs to be planted.  Benego and his family do not work just to live or live to work: the Kangars work to minister. This means the family depends less on outside money to carry on their far reaching ministry.

A compelling vision for a new mission field can bring you so far. Learning the local language and customs, meeting the felt needs of your neighbors, discipling new leaders, equipping disciples to give away their faith, these are all important on a mission field. So are finances.

Financial support from outside the ministry context can only last so long, and is always in danger of evaporating. The wise missionary will find ways to use what is at hand to help fund their ministry.

That is why it would be good to get to  know Bennego Kangar.

“After this Paul[a] left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade. And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks.”




To see the full interview, click here.

Below is a longer short version of our interview

 

 

 

 

The Blessing of Bad Times

THE BLESSING OF BAD TIMES

“Sometimes God presses us with bad times.”  Nader Alaraj.

What do you call someone who’s lived in three different countries and has been driven out of two of them? A Palestinian.

Nader Alaraj is a Palestinian, born in Kuwait. How does a man from Palestine end up in Kuwait? it happens when, in 1948, your family is forced to leave their home in what was Palestine but is now Israel.  You think you have found a new home in Kuwait, and then,  Iraq invades Kuwait; the Palestinians are on the wrong side, and you are forced to leave once more. So, when Nader was fifteen years old, he and his family were forced to find a “temporary” home in the country of Jordan; however, they kept the keys to their (now Israeli) home and family farm, the farm they had owned for generations – hoping someday to return. It would be like Russia invading Alaska, forcing Americans to get out, so that Russians could move into their houses and take over their businesses. What would you do?

What do you do when bad times come? Nader’s family had been Christians for centuries. The faith of some Palestinian Christians became cold. Nader was one of those. He did well in school, and wanted to help humanity, but he questioned who God was and why was this happening to Christians like him?

He was given a chance to come to America to study health care at a university in Ohio. Not everyone in America values immigrants, especially immigrants from the Middle East. He did not make many friends in America. He was lonely; he began questioning himself. But he stuck with school, graduated and became a medical technician. He found a job – but the people at work were suspicious of Nader, made accusations against the Arab, and taunted him. He reached a low point, wondering who he was and what his purpose was. This was a dark time.

Finally, under an oppressive load of self-doubt, he fell on his knees and did something he hadn’t done for quite some time: he prayed. “I fully want to follow you in your steps. You lead me Lord Jesus.” And a strange thing happened: the room he was in became “warm.” At the end of the prayer, Nader was a new person – he became, he says, “joyful.”  

The joyful Nader came to the conclusion that sometimes God presses us with bad times, with the hope we will ask, “What does God have in mind for me?”  And with that in his mind, Nader sought God, until he discovered that, all along, God had been searching for Nedar.

Nader sought out other Arab Christians, helped form a midwest Arabic Christian Fellowship. He matured spiritually, studying the Bible, worshipping God, praying with other Palestinian brothers and sisters in Christ. Today Nader is a missionary in Minnesota, seeking out Palestinians and other Arabic speaking people with whom he can share the love of Jesus. It is much easier to share Christ with Arabs when they are in this country than back home in the Middle East.

Haven’t we all at sometime felt like Nader? The family of Lazarus did. “Lord,” Mary said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:21).  And Jesus responds,  “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”

If God can raise a man like Lazarus from the dead, He can raise us up out of every awful situation. I am convinced, no great accomplishment has ever occurred without some great sacrifice.  God made the Great Sacrifice for us. Jesus’ death on Calvary paid the price for all of our faithlessness, all our questioning God and His motives. We are forgiven.

God keeps searching for those whom He wants to serve Him. He also promises them, “Lo (pay attention) I am with you always.” 

Please keep Nader in your prayers.

To see a short introduction to our interview with Nader, click here.

To see the full interview with Nader, click here.

 





The Baladi Dance Missionary

Missionary to America Diana Wolf

The Baladi Dance Missionary

Diana Wolf never would have guessed the trip to Turkey with her church would give her two life changing opportunities. She could not have imagined becoming a missionary, and, she did not know that Baladi  dancing in Turkey with refugees, would bring so much joy to those with whom she danced.

In the middle east, especially in Lebanon, Baladi has sacred meanings; it is a prayer (think of David in 2 Samuel 6:14, or Miriam in Exodus 16:20, et al). We in the Western world refer to this form of “country dance” as “belly dancing,” and imbue the dancing with negative meaning. Yes, in some places it is secular and demeaning. But for many in the east Baladi is a spiritual and social experience. Different cultures see things with different eyes.

Diana Wolf learned the dance from her Lebanese grandmother. In the video interview you can see the joy on her face as she remembers going to visit her grandmother. As the two of them danced together they experienced bonds of joy and love. In her grandmother’s tradition, women danced only for other women, or family and close friends. To dance with the refugees – many of whom had lost family  – created a bond Diana knew she needed to share with others. She got the opportunity back home in St. Louis.

Invited by the group “Christian Friends of New Americans,” Diana began a ministry with girls who had come to America as refugees from Syria. At first the girls misbehaved, were at times “out of control.” But she loved them, cared for them, listened to their pain and confusion. According to Diana, the dancing taught the girls discipline and respect, for themselves and those around them. They have become a cohesive group, sharing and caring for each other. The girls came to know a greater love, the love of a God who gave Himself so they could live. That gave them something blessed to dance about.

Someone without Diana’s cultural background may not have appreciated the customs of the Syrians –  much less taught and danced the Baladi with them. The girls have grown closer to each other, to Diana and to the Lord.

Diana demonstrates two keys to outreach to refugees and immigrants: respect for their culture and love for them as individuals. If you or your church has the opportunity to bring the love of Christ to people of another culture, take time to understand before you judge.  There is meaning for traditions that are foreign to us, that may make us uncomfortable. Then, love those displaced people beyond the confusion and fear they feel. Love with the same love Diana Wolf showed to those refugee girls. The unlimited love of Jesus.

To see short two minute introductory video of Diana, click here.
To see the full fifteen minute interview, click here.

To learn more about Missionaries to America, go to www.MissionNationPublishing.org

Why Foreign Missionaries Can Be More Effective in US Missions

A Hope for Christianity in the United States

Missionary to America Stanish Stanley

To see a short introductory video of Missionary Stanish Stanley, click here.

Let me say up front: the hope for Christianity to grow again in the United States is in the hands of the missionaries to America.  That is why God is sending them to us.

I know there are impediments for those sent by the Lord from outside this country. Sometimes language is a problem. OK. Having to learn a new culture is daunting. I get that. Most will need financial assistance. True. But all in all, what these missionaries bring us is more efficacious.  Stanish Stanley is a case in point.

Stanish grew up in Mumbai, India.  His father was a Lutheran pastor. Even though Christians are a minority in India (about 6% of the population), Christian hospitals, colleges  elementary and high schools are highly valued.

Stanish did well in school, and became an attorney. But God was not finished with him. He became seriously ill and should have died; the Lord restored the Indian man, and led him to give himself to a higher truth, the gospel.  He was eager to share the good news of a God of love, One who had saved Him – for this life and the next.  That is what he taught Christians in India.

It was a challenge to make Christianity understandable to Indian culture. As every good missionary, he listened to the people. From research he did for a doctorate, he learned the early Lutheran missionaries listened – they heard a fear of evil spirits, ghosts, that were ready to repay for sins committed. In response, they preached the presence and protection of the Holy Spirit. The missionaries from another culture took time to understand, and the gospel spoke, spoke to the hearts of the Indian people. And they listened.

Stanish listened to the lives of the Indian people. When a tsunami crushed houses and took lives, the Hindu interpretation was that the sea goddess was taking back what was hers. People lived in fear of such capricious gods. For Stanish, the Christian response was given by a man whose two children were lost in the disaster. Knowing we live in a broken world, the man said “The Lord Jesus has paid for my sins and the sins of my children. I do not fear God. I know I will be with Him and my children in eternity.”

Sent by his church to study in America he saw opportunities to reach out. He listened. to the Americans, and to refugees to America. Today he is privileged to share the God of love with Nepalese immigrants in St. Louis; he also sees the excess love of money and comfort in American culture. His dedication to the gospel and his simple lifestyle are a witness to many in this country – as are the lives of many other missionaries from foreign countries.

In my view, missionaries from outside the United States have an advantage over missionaries who have grown up inside our culture. Why? Besides being able to minister more effectively to immigrants from their own country and culture, in reaching out to US citizens:

  1. They “see” things we do not. Because they come from another culture, they have to study our culture. This makes them more sensitive to the good, and the evil, in our culture. If anyone still does not know America is a mission field, the missionaries to America certainly know it.
  2. Through the missionaries to America, God is giving us a model of how to sacrifice, something necessary on a mission field. They are so passionate about sharing the gospel they will give up anyting. Many suffered in jails and in torture chambers for their faith. Some were shot at, forced out of their countries, leaving everything behind, because of their passion for their Lord. They suffered for the faith. They did not fear rejection. Many churches have come to see the blessings of these “foreign” missionaries to America. Where at first barriers were put up to their ministries, today those barriers have been steadily coming down.
  3. The foreign missionaries are more mission minded than most Christian leaders; they grew up in cultures that demanded missionary actions. They came to America believing God sent them here for a reason – to proclaim the gospel to a hurting people. As Dr. Yared Halche said in this blog some months ago, when he lived in Las Vegas he was moved to tears by the despair he saw in that city. His words were, “Despair is the mayor of Las Vegas.” The missionary from Ethiopia had to share the good news of Jesus in that city. He had no choice.
  4. The foreign missionaries are used to living a simpler life. Their most important “pay” is to be able to freely share Christ, to preach without fear of arrest, to hold worship services and not be afraid of a bomb going off under a pew.
  5. By now everyone knows Christianity is declining in America. Some Christians and Christian leaders have resigned themselves to the idea of a declining church. Too many see withdrawal as a solution, believing, like the third steward in Matthew 25 that “faithfulness” means holding on, rather than stepping out in faith. The missionaries to America see the challenge to Christianity in America not just as a glass half full – but as the reason they were sent to this mission field. They will not stay within the four walls of their church buildings. They will vigorously pursue the mission.

In the video interview we made for this blog,  Stanish shared research he had done on early Lutheran missionaries to India. Many Indian people came to faith, and he wanted to know why. His conclusion was that the missionaries listened, listened to the Indian culture. Because of their critical look at the culture they could hear the cry of the people. It was at that point, Stanish says, the gospel spoke to India.

The gospel is speaking to America through God’s missionaries to America. The message is not just for unbelievers; it is also for the church in America; the foreign missionaries are sent to us as a model of what it means to be “missionary.” . It is a message of encouragement, of sacrifice, of love, of hope. Will we listen?

To see the full interview with Missionary Stanley, click here.

“MISSIOLOGY IS THEOLOGY DONE RIGHT”

“Missiology Is Theology Done Right”

So says Missionary to America Professor Victor Raj

(To see the short interview with Prof. Raj, click here)

Prof Raj was born in India, in Trivandrum, Kerala State, six miles from the Arabian sea. He is a Missouri Synod Lutheran, his faith and witness the result of Lutheran missionaries who began mission work in Krishnagiri in 1895.  Krishnagiri is six miles from where St. Thomas first brought Christianity to India. Yes, St. Thomas, as in the Apostle.

Raj grew up as a Lutheran-Christian, one of the twenty eight million Christians in India. His family was well off, and his father planned a future for Victor as a doctor. Someone had a different idea: A missionary from the United States, Herbert Zorn.

Zorn invited the young Mr. Raj to a long dinner. The missionary had seen something special in the young man. Zorn challenged the talented student to consider the impact he could have as a minister of the gospel; he would touch many more lives, and bring healing to the whole person. A “Dr. of the Soul.” The Spirit of God led him into the holy ministry. When he goes back to India, as he does on a regular basis, his classmates who became medical doctors show deference, honoring him for the choice he made.

I cannot remember the last time I invited a talented young woman or man to a long dinner to challenge them to consider full time mission work.  Can you? I hope so.

As a new missionary in the India Evangelical Lutheran Church (IELC), Victor rose rapidly in responsibility. It was not long before he was asked to lead a revitalization effort in the IELC – which had grown inward and become too self satisfied. Victor visited three hundred and fifty of eight hundred IELC churches – on his motorcycle. He led Bible studies, and singing and gospel preaching. It had a profound effect on the churches. One evidence of this stands out. The way new missionary/pastors were developed in this Indian church body.

First, a college degree was not a prerequisite for entrance into ministerial training; a student’s spiritual and mission aptitude was what was important.  Formal training  for church workers was not begun until over a century  after Jesus gave the Great Commission.

After formal schooling for the Indian students has been completed, the now “Probationers” are sent out with the assignment to begin a new mission – before ordination.  This experience gives the seminarians not only practical experience, but encourages a missionary approach to their future ministries.

Today Prof. Dr. Victor Raj teaches American seminary students at Concordia Seminary in Clayton, Missouri. He has taught seminary students Religions of the World, and Greek New Testament classes, and he does this with a missionary’s heart. That is one of the reasons he serves as the Editor of the international journal Lutheran Mission Matters. 

Things are different when we know we are on a mission field. The US is just beginning to wake up to this; Christians are realizing a growing decline in conversions and membership. According to The General Social Survey, the percentage of Americans who claim they never go to church has increased – from 10% in 1970 to 28% in 2015.

While progress is being made, seminaries have a long way to go to put in place a missionary mindset, along with actual training for missionary work. We are very concerned about teaching correct theology in our seminaries;  we are still learning how to form missionaries for America. Maybe a corollary to Prof. Raj’s statement would be, “The better theology is missiology done right.”

We have a lot to learn from international leaders like Professor Raj, leaders who who know what a mission field looks like; leaders who know what type of preparation is needed to create missionaries for America. Thank God the United States is seeing more and more immigrant and refugee missionaries from overseas mission fields; hopefully, we will learn from them to.

To see the full, 38 minute interview, click here.

 

 

 

After the Euroclydons

“When a gentle south wind began to blow, they thought they had their opportunity. So they weighed anchor and sailed along, hugging the coast of Crete. But it was not long before a hurricane called the Northeaster swept down across the island. Unable to head into the wind, the ship was caught up. So we gave way and let ourselves be driven along.” Acts 27:14-15

That is how the last months have been for our family.  St. Paul and the crew of the ship bringing him to trial in Rome were  caught in a  (Greek Word) “euroclydon” – cyclone, or hurricane. That is how Lynn and I have felt after two hurricanes: the leaving for heaven of our dear son in law Richard, and then the arrival of Hurricane Irma.

At one point we pretty much “gave way and let ourselves be driven along.” Thus, there has been no blog, no “Giving a voice to missionaries to America,” since July 15.  But, like St. Paul, it was a “giving way to the Lord.” That is why he could say to the crew of the sailing ship, “Keep up your courage, for I have faith in God.” That faith is what sustained us. We are home now, and we are safe. Repairs to home and neighborhood have begun. It is time to get back to “Giving a voice to the missionaries to America.”

This weekend I will be in St. Louis to interview three “missionaries to America.” Trips, cancelled because of the storms, have been planned for Minneapolis and Texas.

Right now I want to tell you about a significant new tool for missionaries, and the leaders they are raising up. We have just published the second volume of Dr. Paul Bruns’  THE MISSION BIBLE COMMENTARY: The Letter to the Hebrews and The Letter to James.  This follows LUKE-ACTS.  As far as we know, this is the only mission commentary on Scripture. Dr. Bruns draws out the mission emphasis in these sacred books. The commentaries deal with deep meanings, but are written in simple English. Paul Bruns wrote the commentaries  especially for new leaders in the church, especially those who speak English as a second language.

The Commentary is free to download in PDF form from the Resource Page of Mission Nation Publishing, www.MissionNationPublishing.org.

To purchase the print edition, click here.

So, to conclude, Lynn and I are at home again. Mission Nation is getting back on track. In other words, as Paul would say, “We gave way and let ourselves be driven along,  and today a “gentle south wind” has begun to blow.”