Hi, my name is Jared Haynes and I’m a missionary to Paraguay, South America. One week ago, I had an opportunity to share the gospel with someone. But I didn’t. In fact, I said very little of anything. You want to know why, don’t you? It’s eating you up inside, I can tell! Perhaps you’re a supporting church of mine, or an individual supporter. Maybe you’re a missionary friend of mine or a friend from High School. Well, before you go cancelling your monthly support forms and blocking me as a friend on Facebook, let me tell you why I stood by and said nothing.
First, it’s important to realize that I’ve been living in Paraguay for a whopping four months (I hope you sense the sarcasm as four months is very little time in our new home.)! Not only that, but I know almost no Spanish whatsoever. This is the biggest reason I had to stand by and “miss out” on this opportunity to share the gospel with someone who desperately needed it. Not knowing language, I physically couldn’t share the gospel even if I wanted to. Not only that, but I could potentially be doing more damage than good. Let me explain.
Not knowing language is a bigger deal than it sounds. Without knowing language, I’m unable to know culture, without knowing both culture and language; I’m unable to understand the Paraguayan worldview. Without knowing language, culture, and worldview, I have no way of telling what sort of things Paraguayans value, take interest in, what sort of things “kick the slats” out from underneath them, etc. Sharing the gospel at a worldview level and in a culturally appropriate way is extremely important. Not knowing these things leads to me sharing a totally inappropriate gospel message through which this individual not only doesn’t understand, but could potentially muddle the waters for the next believer who can explain the gospel at a worldview level, and in a culturally appropriate way.
Now listen, if you think that I’m “proud” of this situation, guess again. You have no idea how hard it was for me to sit there and not be able to communicate the life giving gospel message. It was eating me up inside! In fact, it’s given me some motivation to learn this language well. So, no, I’m not proud of this situation. But what could I do? Instead, I had to listen to him talk about how he is a Jehovah’s Witness but doesn’t really know if he believes that anymore. He went on to say, “I’ve been reading the Bible and I just don’t think the Trinity is in the Bible.” Thinking he was referring to the Trinity not being all present at the same time, I quickly flipped my Spanish Bible open to the passage found in John 3:13-17 where we see the Father, the Son, and the Spirit all present during Jesus Baptism. He then said, “I mean that they’re not all God.” In frustration I said, “I’m sorry. I can explain better in English, but I can’t in Spanish.” And so I said nothing…
But here’s what I did do. I sat down and passed Tereré (A Paraguayan tea served with cold water and Yerba Maté leaves that is shared with groups or between individuals.) back and forth with him and asked if he had any kids. I asked him if he likes his job and what sort of sports he likes. I asked him what his name was and told him what my name was. I told him I was new in Paraguay and was trying to learn Spanish. I told him what my kid’s names were and had them say, “Hi.” We talked about his grandfather and how his grandfather was a very important man who was in the military and then after taught English at a school in Asunción. He told me that his grandfather was influential to him and that he recently died. I gave him my cell phone number and invited him to play volleyball with our church. And lastly, I loved on him and tried, as best as possible, to build a relationship with him that I hope will last.
Many times I think we have a tendency to think that getting the gospel out as quickly as possible is the best thing we can offer people. But Jesus never commanded us to merely share the gospel quickly. He commanded us to make disciples (Matthew 28:19). Making disciples does not mean we share the gospel in unclear, incorrect ways. It means we share it correctly and ultimately bring people to maturity once they’ve been reconciled to God by placing their faith in Him as the only thing that can pay for their sins personally.
I’m slowly realizing that sharing the gospel takes time in another language and context. Language takes time, culture takes time, and learning worldview takes time. And yet all of these things are essential for someone to hear the gospel in a way that they can truly know and understand and ultimately have an opportunity to place their faith in Christ.
And so here I am. A “real life” missionary who is recognizing need and inadequacy to share the message he came to share. My name is Jared Haynes and I’m a missionary to Paraguay, South America. One week ago, I had the opportunity to share the gospel with someone. But I didn’t. In fact, I said very little of anything. Instead, I poured a piece of my life into this individual. And so I said nothing…