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Having missionary teammates and local co-laborers in the Gospel can be great... if they are the right people. Having the wrong people on your team can cause great heartache and frustration. We know that life is hard and ministry is hard, and we’ll never agree 100% with anyone all of the time... nor they with us. Yet, as my wife and I think about some of the challenges that we have faced during this term, we have realized the absolute necessity of having like-minded co-workers in ministry. We are praying for like-minded teammates (Thai and missionary) and brainstorming about who we can recruit to come join us on a new church planting team in the future. A lot could be said about the type of co-workers we are looking for but the following quote from Hudson Taylor lays down the foundational qualities necessary for anyone who wants to be a missionary. These are the kind of people we need.“In encouraging other young men to come out as missionaries, do us the greatest concern. One strong-headed, contentious, obstinate man would ruin us. Humble men, of sound, sterling talents (though, perhaps not brilliant) quiet, persevering men, of decent accomplishments and some natural aptitude to acquire language; men of amiable yielding temper, willing to take the lowest place, to be least of all and the servant of all; men who enjoy much closet religion, who live near to GOD and are wiling to suffer all things for His sake, without being proud of it, these are the men.” - J. Hudson Taylor
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A number of years ago I sat in a missions class watching an animated video of jumbo jets plunging into the ground one after another while a voiceover told me, “Every year, such-and-such number of people die without ever hearing about Christ, which is the equivalent of so many jumbo jets full of passengers crashing each day, killing everyone aboard.” I forget what the exact numbers were that the narrator told us, but it was quite large. The point of the video was to drive home the gravity of the need to urgently send out missionaries to those who had never heard of Christ. The planes crashing were to help us get our mind around a very large number and to be a motivator to go be missionaries.
I love reading articles about missions that both point me back to Scripture and demonstrate intimate acquaintance with the realities of life and ministry on the mission field. "Putting Contextualization in its Place" in the recent 9Marks eJournal is one of those article. The author presents an excellent explanation of how contextualization is found in the pages of Scripture, and is not an idea hoisted onto it. He then goes on to explain how and his team put this principles into practice in their setting in a Central Asian country. The article covers a lot of ground and is worth reading in its entirety but I wanted to share with you one particular section that I found to be a good reminder of what my attitude and approach should be in living with and trying to serve the Thai people.
PAUL'S PRINCIPLES FOR CROSS-CULTURAL MINISTRY
Perhaps the most widely-quoted passage of Scripture that teaches about contextualization is 1 Corinthians 9:1-23:
Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are not you my workmanship in the Lord? 2 If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.
We've been in Singapore for about two weeks now and are well into our Orientation Course (OC) at OMF's International Headquarters. We are here together with other new OMF missionaries (and their children) from a variety of countries - USA, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Switzerland, Philipines, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, etc. There are about 40 adults and 16 kids. Fortunately, there are some kind grandmas from UK and Australia are helping with childcare so that Sun and I can attend the lectures and not have to watch Joshua all the time.
The content of the lectures have covered medical issues (insurance, malaria, dengue fever, where to get medical advice and care on the field), finances (how OMF financial system works), the vision and mission of OMF International, times of Bible study, prayer, and worship, and meetings with the International Directors and Intl Medical Advisor. Joshua was able to get his six month shots right here at OMF HQ so we didn't have to go look for some place around town or wait.
At one point in the history of missions, it was rather difficult to get approved for missionary service unless you were an ordained pastor (or married to one). There were exceptions, of course, for those who were going to serve as school teachers, doctors, and other types of ministries that did not primarily involve Bible teaching. However, where we find ourselves today, in many cases, is at the opposite end of the spectrum. Churches and mission organizations vary in their requirements, from very stringent to very lax, but since I got involved with missions about twelve years ago on a short-term trip to Poland, I have heard many times over, from various places, something along the following lines, “If you love Jesus and are willing, then you’re ready to be a missionary.” Granted, loving Jesus and being willing are very important but is that all that is needed? I was reading the book of Ezra today and came across this verse:“For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.” (Ezra 7:10)
A young man from one of our supporting churches recently emailed with the following question, "I was wondering if you have ever heard of anyone using music education as a platform for missions. If someone wanted to do something like that, how might they get started?" I imagine that there are lots of Christians out there who are interested in missions but not quite sure if their interests and skills are usable on the mission field and if so, how. So I thought I would post our answer to his question in hopes that others who are wondering about getting involved in missions, particularly in the area of music, would be benefited."There are lots of ways to use music education in missions. Formally, you can get a job teaching music education in a school, either in the local language or more likely in English. In a number of countries, there are schools that want to offer an international track where local students have all their classes in English, including various subject matter like science, math, music and so forth. Of course, there are also international schools, both secular and Christian where one can also be a music teacher. The requirements to teach in the Christian (MK) schools are probably lower than the secular ones. Getting a job as a music teacher in a school is something that