September 2004

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Being a missionary is a call to stepping outside our customary roles, going beyond one's training, taking risks that are uncomfortable, and being, in effect, all things to all men.. In this letter we share some of the many roles we have been compelled to play, both on the field and at home.

The common theme which unites our life in Chad and our life in the USA is this: that Kwong men and women would gladly and lovingly submit to the lordship of Christ, or put another way, that the Kingdom of Heaven would so undermine the kingdom of Satan among the Kwong that it’s collapse in the last day will be a mere formality.  That is one unifying theme of our lives - and the major one. The other one is that we are perennially out of our depth, whether we are in Chad or in the USA.
We are not ethnomusicologists, but we (more specifically Diane) tries her best to figure out the Kwong’s pentatonic scale and complex rhythms in the hope of using them for the praise of Christ’s glory. We are not accountants or administrators, but we spent a year and a half doing accounting and administration, so dozens of other missionaries could keep on doing what they do best. By all accounts (no pun intended) we did ok at it, but ministry among the Kwong simply stopped. Again: while Mark makes a pretense sometimes of being a theologian, he really isn’t - he’s a linguist. But the necessity of understanding things more profoundly and organizing them more coherently than does our classical evangelicalism simply drives us to be theologians - so that we can explain the gospel with a maximum of clarity and poignancy to the Kwong.
Likewise, we are not civil engineers, but we lengthened an airstrip a few years ago. We are not architects but we build buildings. We are not relief workers, but we constantly maintain a supply of grain in case that day should come. We do not “do kids” but realize that if we don’t, and things keep going the way they are, there won’t be a next generation of believers. Similarly, we don’t do “AIDS awareness” but realize that there won’t be a next generation of anybody if we don’t do something fast. We don’t know squat about radio broadcasting, but we are building an FM radio station - which, besides Bible teaching, will hopefully help do the AIDS awareness thing. And last but not least, notwithstanding the many gracious comments we hear to the contrary from our Kwong friends, we are not Kwong - but we are called upon each and every day to behave like a Kwong, speak like a Kwong, eat like a Kwong - in sort, to be Kwong, After this many years, we’re getting better at it, but like the Good Book says, a leopard can’t change his spots.
So, we come home to the USA to escape all this for a time. And guess what? We are not George Lucas, but we have to put together a slam-dunk PowerPoint presentation that will wow our jaded audiences and not exceed their stunted attention spans. We are not layout artists, but we have to put together the all-important missionary “display” - which we did, at considerable expense, only to discover that nobody reads a single word on it. With luck they might glance at the pictures. We are not preachers, but we (more particularly Mark) preaches - something he enjoys for one Sunday, but which always renews his sympathy for those who have do it every Sunday. Like we said, we do not in general “do kids”, but we somehow come up with something for the kindergarten Sunday School class - and kind of enjoy the little munchkins after all. And, last but not least, we are not motivational speakers, but we do everything in our power to motivate somebody, somewhere here in the USA or Canada to come out to Chad and do the accounting, lest we be roped into it again (a very real possibility), and another person to come run the radio station - all so we can maximize our gifts in Kwong Bible translation.
So what’s the point? First, if the Lord is calling you to missionary service, don’t get too hung up on your training. Assume, rather, that the Lord will enable you to do anything he asks you to do - he has so enabled us. Second, do regard your training as a potential solution to somebody’s problem - like, say, if they need someone to run a radio station. Thirdly, the variety of tasks involved in missionary service are unparalleled in the world. We love it, and thank the Lord for blessing us with such a challenging ministry. And lastly, remember, as we are so often constrained to remember, Jesus’ comforting words to Paul - and to every missionary:
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness. (II Cor 12:9)
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