I’m interviewing a missionary in Slovakia with the International Mission Board.
Why don’t you start out by telling us a little of where you’re from and what you’re currently doing?
I graduated from NC State University with a B.S. in Applied Math. Currently I am enrolled in the 2+2 International Church Planting degree program at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC.
2+2 is not an example of the kind of Applied Math you did at NC State is it?You are currently serving with the IMB with the Southern Baptist Convention in Slovakia. What is it that led you to minister in Slovakia?
Well my first ever mission trip was to Eastern Europe and to the Ukraine. God later used this experience, as well as some other things, to call me into full time ministry. In the process I returned to Eastern Europe, but this time to Slovakia, on a short term trip where I saw an opportunity to for me to return to Slovakia for a year long commitment. During this year in Slovakia I saw a disconnect between much of the ministry we were doing and actual church planting and multiplication. Thus, after my return to America I enrolled in seminary with a desire to return to Slovakia to work towards seeing churches planted and strengthened. God opened many doors to allow my family the opportunity to return to work for his glory in Slovakia.
What do you see as the missionary’s task?
I think that the missionary’s task is to be obedient to the Lord to go and make disciples of all nations. I also believe that this ministry of making disciples can be done in many forms, but ultimately I think that the Bible clearly shows that God’s vessel for spreading his fame is through his church. Thus, any missionary ministry should have an end focus of starting churches that will multiply and start other churches.
Why should be people go overseas when there is so much work to be done here in the United States?
Sure, this is a great question. There is also a rather simple answer in my opinion. I firmly believe that Jesus clearly says to “Go… into all nations.” To me this is a mandate that we should be going and sharing the Gospel to the nations. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be sharing the Gospel to those where we are, namely, at home in the States. And it is obvious that not all will go, and that not all can go, but that doesn’t change the fact that Jesus said to “go”.
What have been your greatest challenges thus far on the mission field?
There are many challenges to being on the mission field. Most of them are directly tied to being a new culture. We respond and react according to our instincts which are culturally biased to our western, and more specifically American, culture. This can cause many misunderstandings and conflicts in the new culture as they interpret our words and actions based on their cultural filter, not ours. Another challenge has been the adjustment to the missionary life. In America, I always experienced a clear division between my school work, my job, and my family. If I was at home with my family, I was not focused on my job or on my school work. I would get out of the house to do my school work and my job was always away from home. Since being on the field, my entire life is part of my ministry as a missionary. I have found that being a missionary doesn’t mean leaving the home to go to a place to do the “job” of a missionary. My job requires me to be at home with my family, modeling a Christian family to our neighbors. It requires me to be at home all day studying language, including taking breaks to change a diaper or feed our daughter without feeling like my “task” is going unfulfilled. This has been a major challenge for me as a task oriented person. I have found out very quickly that my life now is not about completing tasks (i.e. planting churches, holding Bible studies, witnessing to “x” number of people), but it is about living out my faith in practical ways and building relationships with non-believers all the while working to accomplish the task of seeing people come to faith and group together with our believers.
How do you see the church’s relationship to sending missionaries?
I see the church as the major sending mechanism for worldwide missions. This is the model of the early church in the book of Acts. The church convened at the moving of the Spirit in Acts 13 to send out Paul and Barnabas, who then returned to the church in the end of Acts 14 to report what God had done through their obedience and faith. Thus, I think it is the church’s responsibility to teach Jesus’ command to “go” and then to support those who God does raise up to be sent out. The church should support missions financially, through prayer, through encouragement and through accountability. I think one of these that gets left out the most is accountability. The church should stay in contact with its members who are on the mission field on a regular basis. The accountability should help the missionary remain strong spiritually and to have specific goals that he is working towards in his ministry. In my context, a lot of this accountability is done from the IMB as the sending agency and arm of the SBC, but I still think there should be a stronger focus of the local churches to keep consistent contact with their own that are on the field. Even with the strong accountability I have from my fellow missionaries and leadership, it can never compare to those who know me well and intimately keeping me in line spiritually and helping me maintain my focus on my ministry.