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When New Missionaries Hit the One Year Wall

For many missionaries, the road to the mission field is a long one.  From the time that they first decide to go, to the time that they actually go, it can be many years.  There have been applications, candidate courses, church visits, theological studies, support raising, and a thousand other things to be done before they can finally leave.

But that day does come.  And it is fantastic.  You are finally there!  After so much preparation and waiting, it is time to begin the ministry that you’ve been dreaming of.

Almost.

First comes language study.  After all the hurdles that it has taken to get to the mission field, it feels like once you get there, it is time to begin what you’ve always wanted to do.  But you can’t.  Alas, there is more waiting to do before you get good enough in the local language to say the things that you’ve so desperately wanted to say to the people that you’ve come to serve.  But for the moment, you are in no condition to serve anyone because you don’t even know where to pay your electric bill or ask for simple items at the store.  But that’s okay, because as you buckle down into language study, your ability to fend for yourself grows by leaps and bounds each day.  Everything you are learning is immediately applicable to daily life.  Numbers. Colors. Weather. Food. Directions. Months of the year.  Past, present, and future tense.  You are barely a few months into language study and you can do so much already.  Okay, so you can’t share the Gospel yet but, you just wait!  At this rate, I’ll be preaching in the streets a year from now.

But a funny thing happened on the way to fluency.

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Why Missionaries Can Never Go Home Again

When a new missionary first gets to the mission field, it is obvious where home is.  It is that place where you just left.  It is the place where you grew up, went to school, got an education, discovered a church family, and formed your most important relationships.  

But when you live overseas long enough, a strange transition takes place.

Your “home” country doesn’t quite feel like home anymore.  When you “go home”, some of the same people and places are there, but life has moved on in your absence.  When you show up for the so-called “home assignment” or “furlough,” you can not just pick up where you left off.  You are a visitor.  An outsider.  A guest without a permanent role.  Your close friends have made new close friends.  Half the people in your home church only know you as a line item on a list of prayer requests.   Some new technology, slang, or cultural trend has become common place… expect for you because you missed it when it first came out.

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Announcing the 2014 Southeast Asia Reformed Conference

In the world of evangelical missions, there are lots of ideas, methodologies, and strategies. Some are biblical and helpful. Some aren’t. Few are developed from a consciously Reformed framework. What should the Reformed faith (what's that?) look like in Asian soil? What does it look like to proclaim and live out the implications of a Reformed, Gospel-centered faith in Southeast Asia and beyond?

Earlier this year, a missionary friend in a nearby country asked on Facebook if their were any Reformed conference in Southeast Asia.  No one could think of any, so some of us decided to do something about that. Started by four missionaries from three organizations in two countries, the newly launched Southeast Asia Reformed Network aims to bring together Reformed believers (and those open to Reformed teaching) to answer those questions. The Southeast Asia Reformed Network's is a network of Reformed believers who want to see an increasing number of missionaries and Christians in Southeast Asia grounded in a Reformed worldview and able to apply the Scriptures faithfully to life and ministry in Southeast Asia.

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3 Reasons Missionaries Should Learn Biblical Greek and Hebrew

John 1:1 in Greek New TestamentHow should missionaries best prepare themselves for the field?  What do they really need to know in order to serve God overseas?  In many places in the world today, the greatest need is basic evangelism and foundational biblical teaching in the local language.  So obviously, a growing personal faith in Christ and knowledge of the Bible is necessary.  And skills in cross-cultural communication and language are a must.

As a result, many missionary preparation programs (both formal and informal) focus on culture learning, anthropology, communication skills, and some basic Bible courses.  And there is often a lot of talk about strategy and methods.  But higher level courses in theology, biblical interpretation, and the original languages (Greek & Hebrew) are often left out, either because of time constraints, or because they are thought to be not very useful on the field.

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Why Villages Matter: How the Church Died in North Africa, but Survived in Egypt

Kakopetria Village Stock imageIn recent years, it has become popular among evangelicals (especially Reformed evangelicals) to emphasize church planting in big cities.  Numerous books, articles, and blog posts have put forth the call to plant churches in the major urban centers of the world,under the belief that what happens in the city will eventually influence the rest of society.  In many ways, the renewed emphasis on cities is a good thing.  We should not neglect the cities, and we should seek to influence the influencers of society in hopes of having a broader impact upon society at large.  

However, with all the rhetorical emphasis on the city, some people have begun wonder, “Hey, what about the countryside?  What about small towns and villages?  Don’t rural areas matter too?”  Although I don’t think we could find anyone who’d say that rural areas don’t matter, the unspoken message is that the countryside matters less.  Way less. Rural areas are not strategic.  They are not centers of influence. What happens in the countryside stays in the countryside.  In sum, small towns and villages are not strategic in terms of impacting a society for the Gospel.  Or are they?

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How Then Shall We "Go"?

airplane-traveling-the-globe-mdIt seems like such a simple command. “Go”, said Jesus, “...and make disciples of all nations...” (Matt. 28:19). But who exactly is supposed to go? Some have claimed that Jesus’ command to go and make disciples was only for the original apostles, and that the Great Commission was subsequently fulfilled by those apostles.  But such an enormous task would have been impossible for just eleven men to complete.  And Jesus’ promise to be with them “to the end of the age” implies that the validity of this commission would extend beyond the lifetime of the apostles.  If that’s so, then the church has inherited this commission from the apostles. And it is the church’s responsibility to obey the command of Christ until He comes again.