At the age of sixteen I met a girl who intrigued me. She asked some serious questions on our third date, questions I’d never before been confronted with. The question that stopped me in my tracks was when she asked if our relationship were to become life-long, would I consider being a missionary.
In my minds-eye I thought, who asks such questions; all I wanted to do at that time was to hang out with girls. I had no interest in future marriage but I wanted to date this girl again so I lied… “sure, I’d be willing to be a missionary” I said. (What’s that anyways, I wondered?) I figured if I said I was ‘willing’ that I’d have a chance at another date and a possible way out of something I was unsure about.
Some years later I married that girl… and I’m still married to her today.
Early in our marriage she’d learned we were unequally yoked, that I wasn’t a believer in Jesus at all, and that I had some wicked ways about my character that put a wedge in our relationship. Although I had a variety of skills, fixing a broken marriage wasn’t one of them. We both felt that divorce wasn’t a solution to the problem so we became distant though we remained together. In my desperation to fix things I pulled a bible from a shelf and decided to begin reading at the place where it fell open… Romans chapter one.
Startled by what I read in that opening chapter I concluded that God wrote a chapter about me in His good Book. That was pretty scary; though I read on to see what else He had to say about me. By the time I got to chapter five the shackles were falling from their grip and I realized for the first time I needed Jesus. There, in a little remodeled barber shop apartment I became a new creation in Christ. That was forty years ago July.
Slowly I picked up the shattered remnants of my life as a local pastor and his wife poured their time into discipling us in our walk with the Lord. The desire to impact others with the truths that so radically changed my life became an everyday pursuit through opportunities to lead others to Jesus by following the godly example of that dear pastor and his wife who poured themselves into us.
It was during these formative years that the Lord began to nudge me about those questions ‘that girl,’ now my wife, had confronted me with so many years earlier. Soon thereafter we ramped up our evangelism efforts –at our places of employment, in the community, and in local ministries of the church. But something was missing.
We felt a gnawing in our hearts that there had to be something more we could do in serving Christ. Little did we realize that God would turn our hearts to the need of those beyond the reach of the gospel. Then, as we read Romans 15:20 the light dawned upon us that we could spend or lives declaring the gospel in regions of the world where Christ was not proclaimed. But how do you do that? …And where do you get the equipping for such a monumental task?
We knew we wanted nothing more than to be involved with reaching people who would never hear the gospel unless someone was willing to endure the hardship of going into isolated areas where few would travel to reach such ones for Jesus. But how do you engage such an endeavor… and who goes to such places anyways?
Training was essential but where do you find such equipping to give you the necessary tools to minister cross-culturally. Was there anyone doing this kind of work?
We wrote to twenty-three missions agencies… groups that were doing good things all around the world. But then we realized amid our research that the majority of them was doing good things all around the world in urbanized places that had Bibles and churches and Christians. –Our interest was riveted in Paul’s desire to preach Christ where there was no gospel witness. …And then we stumbled on to three missions agencies who were doing just that.
One agency offered five weeks of training, another offered three and one half months of equipping, and then there was this group called New Tribes who had extensive training that included Bible knowledge, a church planting approach from the New Testament, practical skills and medical insights for survival in destitute locations, bible translation & literacy skills, and language and cultural courses to equip us in the effort of engaging an unreached people. That made sense to us but the time duration to receive such equipping seemed too long to someone who wanted to get ‘out there’ to make life impact.
As I contemplated the training that was offered through all three agencies it made the more sense to get all the equipping we could get for such a task. It was then that I put our training in context of someone becoming a heart-transplant surgeon. Let me explain:
Lets say you need a heart transplant and that I am a heart surgeon. You consult with me about your procedure, during which time I proudly announce that I have five weeks training. Hey, where did you go?!!
Next you approach the surgeon with three and one half months of training. You feel no more peace with him than you did with the surgeon with five weeks training.
Now what if you visit a surgeon who has been to pre-med school, medical school, has done post graduate work and served a lengthy internship at the side of a successful experienced surgeon with a good track record. …And what if this surgeon has assisted in hundreds of operations at the side of that experienced senior staff member… you would feel pretty good about having the operation, wouldn’t you?
Well that’s exactly how we looked at equipping for missionary service. We believe that in-depth training is a necessity to grasp all the tools and concepts for doing effective Biblical ministry in the effort of making disciples among peoples vastly different from our language and culture in order to bring them the gospel and leave them functioning as a maturing church.
Looking back down the road to thirty-six years ago when we began this endeavor it now doesn’t seem that it took so long to get the training necessary for effective ministry. We have no regrets for the time investment to receive the equipping we needed to do what we do.
We are grateful to the Lord for the wisdom and insights we’ve gleaned through godly instructors at the New Tribes Bible Institute. …And we are glad for the many godly instructors who came along side us in the Missionary Training as well in the classes of language and cultural taught in the Language Science School.
New Tribes Mission can train you or anyone you know who takes seriously the command of Jesus to be disciple makers among the nations, and primarily in regions of the world where the gospel was never declared. Oswald Smith of the Peoples Church in Toronto said it so well many years ago when he proclaimed “Why should anyone hear the gospel twice when there are those who have never heard it once. What a timeless thought to consider.
Perhaps the Lord is prompting your heart to go beyond your place of contentment to make the sacrifices needed to engage an unengaged people group with the story of God and the gospel. Don’t wait… do something about it now. We are here to help you in this journey so feel free to contact us… let’s talk.
Oh, and by the way, we will never pressure you into doing something you don’t want to do but if the Lord God is moving you out then respond wholeheartedly to His still small voice.
Dave & Joyce