Recently, I met a missionary to Brazil who described herself as the “product of a missionary.” In her native country of Peru, this woman had been introduced to Christ through her friendship with a foreign missionary. Her statement made me reflect on my life and the influences that have shaped it. While I can’t say that my salvation experience was the “product of a missionary,” my growth as a Christian and my decision to be a tribal church planter have definitely been influenced by my relationships with missionaries.
It all began at New Tribes Bible Institute, where I learned what it really means to live the Christian life. For the first time, I heard that the Christian walk is not about what I do, but instead is all about what Christ has already done. But, what made these truths come alive to me was my relationships with the staff at NTBI. As I observed their lives and got to know them, I learned how to apply those truths in my own Christian walk. I heard that dependence on Christ must be central in the Christian’s life, but they showed me how necessary it truly is. Without their friendship, those amazing truths would have remained mere head knowledge. And, I would have considered myself inadequate for the Christian life – or for missionary work.
Thankfully, God’s use of missionaries in my life didn’t end when I left NTBI. After that, I had the privilege of receiving two more years of missions and language training with New Tribes Mission. During this time, I learned so much about culture, tribal church planting, and language learning principles. But, again, what made those two years of training so profitable? It was the friendships I developed with NTM’s staff. In class, we learned how important relationships are in tribal church planting. As our teachers developed relationships with us, we came to believe that relationships are vital. In class, we learned how important discipleship is for the growth of a believer. As our teachers discipled us through their lives, we became convinced of this truth.
Today, I’m 27 years old and will soon be in Mozambique, Africa, planting a church among a people group who has never heard about the amazing relationship that God desires with them. Do I feel adequate for this task? No, but I am convinced that Christ is adequate. Do I think I can love a people who will most likely prove unlovable? No, but I know that Christ can love them through me. In myself, I know I’m not adequate for the task ahead, but I am so grateful for those missionaries who invested their lives in mine and, by their example, taught me to rely on Him. I guess I am the “product of a missionary,” after all!