What will you do now?

This coming August 14th I will celebrate ten years of full-time mission work in Latin America. Almost ten years ago, at age twenty-two, I was met at the airport outside of Caracas, Venezuela by fellow missionaries. I spent that night inside my very first apartment in Latin America. With a suitcase full of clothes, several books, a few things to remind me of friends and family, I began organizing my new life.

Anaco, Anzoátegui, Venezuela

So much has happened in the past ten years: I’ve witnessed new births into God’s Kingdom. I’ve helped establish new congregations. I’ve sung at weddings, funerals, and helped expecting parents choose names for their children. I’ve run from armed gunmen and I’ve run into the arms of newfound family and friends. I’ve grown. I’ve cried. I’ve sweat and I’ve suffered.


So now what? People ask me, “What will you do now?” To ask, “What will you do now?” is a haunting question in our postmodern, liquid society. Very few people keep a job for very long anymore and many people move around fairly regularly. We expect new seasons in life to bring about important changes on many levels. So, What is my answer? What am I going to do? I would like to continue doing what I am doing now.

Edo. Amazonas, Venezuela

My desire is to spend the coming years in Latin America as a missionary. This is not because I am somehow overly qualified for the job or never face uncertainties about my vocation. I recently discovered the following truth in a conversation with a friend while on furlough. Confession time. Here it is: I need to be a missionary.


Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that the people of Latin America need me or that somehow the church would feel my absence. Quite the contrary, both friends and family in Latin America would do just fine without me. But I need to be a missionary because I need them – my Latin American friends and family.

Parque los Chorros, Caracas, Venezuela

You see, mission work isn’t just about teaching – it’s also about learning. It’s not just about helping others, but being helped yourself. It’s about denying yourself certain privileges in order to walk alongside others. It’s about setting aside a part of your self to be transformed into someone different. Mission work changes you.


I would dare say that I’ve learned more about myself in the past ten years than I would have if I would have stayed in white, suburban America. Nevertheless, this self-knowledge would be entirely vain and egocentric were it not understood in light of my experience with the risen Lord.


You see, Latin Americans teach me about Jesus all the time. I’ve learned more about Jesus in dirty urban slums and in the Amazon than I did from a trip to the Holy Land. I come face to face with Jesus whenever I serve or am served by one of the “least of these”.

Plaza Bolívar de Chacao, Miranda (East Caracas)

I don’t want to leave Latin America because there is so much more that I have to learn about Jesus. There is so much more that I have to learn about what it means to walk with Him on the asphalt, the dirt roads and through the high grass. I need to hurt, to struggle, to be alone, to be present, to laugh, to cry with my people because it is this pilgrimage together that teaches me who I truly am. It teaches me where I am going and to whom I am going.


I’m a missionary in Latin America because I need these people.

For Parents of Missionaries

Jim Elliot was a missionary in Ecuador in the 1950’s. He felt God’s call to seek and save the lost. He was passionate about missions and longed to be on the mission field. He felt that God wanted to use him in a powerful way. And He did.


Like many young missionaries, he was discouraged from going to the mission field. When friends and family could no longer convince him to avoid the dangers of jungle life in South America, many well-meaning brothers and sisters in the US pointed to the great need for preaching the Gospel near home. Nevertheless, he was unshaken in his commitment to serve the Lord in South America.


In a letter to his parents, he wrote the following words:


“I do not wonder that you were saddened at the word of my going to South America. This is nothing else than what the Lord Jesus warned us of when He told the disciples that they must become so infatuated with the kingdom and following Him that all other allegiances must become as though they were not. And He never excluded the family tie. In fact, those loves which we regard as closest, He told us must become as hate in comparison with our desires to uphold His cause.


“Grieve not, then, if your sons seem to desert you, but rejoice, rather, seeing the will of God done gladly. Remember how the Psalmist described children? He said that they were as a heritage from the Lord, and that every man should be happy who had his quiver full of them. And what is a quiver full of but arrows? And what are arrows for but to shoot? So, with the strong arms of prayer, draw the bowstring back and let the arrows fly – all of them, straight at the Enemy’s hosts.


“Surely those who know the great passionate heart of Jehovah must deny their own loves to share in the expression of His” (page 132, Shadow of the Almighty: The Life & Testament of Jim Elliot by Elisabeth Elliot).


I am thankful for parents who train their children up in the Lord in such a way that they choose to serve Him in foreign lands. I am thankful for the parents who in quiet prayer let go of their children and allow them to serve as Christ’s ambassadors far from home. I pray for those parents who will some day have to decide if having their children close to home is worth more than having spiritual grandchildren all over the world.


Parents of missionaries, join with us, your children in sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ! Strengthen us with your prayers. Support us with words of encouragement. Send us with your blessing so that we might be a blessing to others.

The Writings of Jim Elliot

I am impressed by the men and women in history who have literally given their lives for Christ. I am talking about the martyrs of the Christian faith. I’m not talking about people who longed to die for Christ – the real martyrs were merely interested in living for Him and dying for Him was natural consequence of their living faith. I am afraid that many today would espouse such a faith but when it came down to it, their faith would falter. I wonder if my own faith would make the cut.


This week I have been reading the life and journals of Jim Elliot – a man who was slain by the very people to whom He went to share the Good News of life in Christ! Jim Elliot was a simple young man. He did not have postgraduate degrees in theology and he was certainly not the founder of “Jim Elliot Ministries.” He was a man who was deeply touched by God’s Word and moved by His Spirit. Here are a few sections of his journals that have greatly touched me this last week:


A prayer: “Lord, make my way prosperous, not that I achieve high station, but that my life may be an exhibit to the value of knowing God.”


“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”


When Jim Elliot went to college he was seeking a college degree. But the most important degree he could receive would be the A.U.G. degree – the Approved Unto God degree.


Jim set his alarm every night to waken him in time for prayer and study of the Bible. “None of it gets to be ‘old stuff,'” he wrote, “for it is Christ in print, the Living Word. We wouldn’t think of rising in the morning without a face-wash, but we often neglect aht purgative cleansing of the Word of the Lord. It wakes us up to our responsibility.”


“How wonderful to know that Christianity is more than a padded pew or a dim cathedral, but that it is a real, living, daily experience which goes on from grace to grace. And its goal — sometimes seemingly distant, but bright and unfading, lit up and glowing with the beauties of the Sun of Righteousness.”


“God is still on His throne, we’re still on His footstool, and there’s only a knee’s distance between!”


“Cold prayers, like cold suitors, are seldom effective in their aims.”


“What a brutish master sin is, taking the joy from one’s life, stealing money and health, giving promise of tomorrow’s pleasures and finally leading one onto the rotten planking that overlies the mouth of the pit. It is with honest praise to God I can look up tonight and rejoice in His loving-kindness in delivering me from a life of useless frustration and the ultimate agonies of the gnawing, undying worms of remorse and regret.”


“Missionaries are very human folks, just doing what they are asked. Simply a bunch of nobodies trying to exalt Somebody.”


In studying the separation of the Levites in Deuteronomy 9 and 10, and of their having “no inheritance,” he wrote, “Lord, if Thou wilt but allow me to take this set-apart place, by Thy grace, I shall covet no inheritance. Nothing but Christ.”


“No one warns young people to follow Adam’s example. He waited till God saw his need. Then God made Adam sleep, prepared for his mate, and brought her to him. We need more of this ‘being asleep’ in the will of God. Then we can receive what He brings us in His own time, if at all. Instead we are set as bloodhounds after a partner, considering everyone we see until our minds are so concerned with the sex problem that we can talk of nothing else when bull-session time comes around. It is true that a fellow cannot ignore women — but he can think of them as he ought — as sisters, not as sparring partners.”


“Fix your eyes on the rising Morning Star. Don’t be disappointed at anything or overelated, either. Live every day as if the Son of Man were at the door, and gear your thinking to the fleeting moment. Just how can it be redeemed? Walk as if the next step would carry you across the threshold of Heaven. Pray. That saint who advances on his knees never retreats.”


“Our young men are going into the professional fields because they don’t ‘feel called’ to the mission field. We don’t need a call; we need a kick in the pants.”


Elisabeth Elliot,  Shadow of the Almighty: The Life & Testament of Jim Elliot. NYC: HarperOne, 1979.

10 Ways to Raise a Missionary

10 Ways to Raise a Missionary



1.  Share you authentic faith with your children through joint service and worship.


2.  Be generous with your time, possessions and friendship, in other words, be hospitable.


3.  Serve people who are different than you, culturally, linguistically and economically.


4.  Expose your children to different foods, sports and forms of entertainment.


5.  Talk with your children about current events in the news and pray for these things.


6.  Encourage your child to see the spiritual benefits of learning a second language.


7.  Teach your children to develop a Christian worldview, to think with the mind of Christ.


8.  Use your family vacation time to visit small congregations and serve other people.


9.  Encourage your children to do a short-term mission trip in college to a foreign field.


10.  And most importantly, pray for and with your children.



10 Ways to Raise a Child not Interested in Missions



1.  Warm the pews of your local congregations on Sunday and make your children go with you.


2.  Make yourself very busy, be stingy with God’s blessings and don’t invite people into your home.


3.  Stay in your comfort zone and stay away from people who are different than you.


4.  Avoid trying new foods, sports, and forms of entertainment that are not American.


5.  Take an interest solely in your own country and think ethnocentrically about world events.


6.  Encourage your child to learn a second language in order to make more money after college.


7.  Let the world teach your children how to think and to follow the different fads and fashions.


8.  Use your family vacation for personal benefit only! It’s all about you and your “needs!”


9.  Encourage your children to do get a summer job to be more competitive in the job market.


10.  Wish the best for your children and encourage them to make something of themselves.




Homesick Missionary

Ten Ways You Know You Are a “Homesick” Missionary

Homesick is in quotes because right now I’m homesick for Denver. Once I’m “home” in Denver, then I will miss my “home” in Caracas and I’ll become “homesick” for my other “home.” Either way, I’m just a poor wayfaring stranger homesick for my heavenly home. I hope my list makes you laugh and realize that “home” is really where God calls you to be, whether it’s here, there or in Timbuktu. Enjoy!

You know you’re a “homesick” missionary when . . .

1. You look up the house where you grew up more than once a month on Google Earth.

2. You’ll pay just about anything for an obtusely small jar of peanut butter.

3. You start pulling out your sweaters even though it’s 95 degrees outside.

4. You make a special effort to brush up on your English for the trip “home.”

5. You pull out those American flags you stored away in the closet to put them on display.

6. You start dreaming about Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club conveniences.

7. You smell imaginary doughnuts when you wake up on Saturday morning.

8. You get nostalgic every time you go to the mall and hear cheesy 80’s music.

9. You start reading CNN and the New York Times to catch up on what’s go on since you left.

10. You realize that life at “home” has gone on without you, but you’re thankful for where you live and what you are doing.

Changed by the World

The following blog post was written by Sam Shewmaker, former Harding professor or missions and missionary to Rwanda, Africa. I copied it from his blog on the Missional Outreach Network.


“Changing the world” is a slogan I heard often during the years I taught missions at a place called Harding University. We had a lot of the younger generation who wanted to ‘make a difference’ in the world and I wondered how long that idealism would last. Best I remember we figured about 18 to 20% of the mission interns we sent out each summer actually returned later to serve full-time in missions for at least two years outside the United States. Not to shabby, maybe.

So whatever happened to the other 80%? Well, I don’t know but I still pray that the seeds planted will yet bear fruit. Oh sure, some went just to see the world, to check off another continent on a tax-free air ticket, been there, done that. But others saw the world with spiritual eyes and returned home changed people… changed by the world.

The world starts at your doorstep or maybe closer. And changing it starts inside of you! Changing your value (or obsession) with safety, overcoming your dread of ‘the world.’ Being willing to live a transformed life before the world, and so earning the credibility to share the transforming message.

Some are pretty good at changing the world from afar, emailing World Bible School lessons or writing cogent missional blog posts. But most people need to see a real, live example of a transformed life lived before them. More of us need to get down and dirty ‘in the world’, living among those who need change and to be changed, entering in to the suffering of a hurting world; being incarnational, not just thinking and writing about it.

Come on World Changers… lift up your eyes… and look across the street… down the block … or around the world! And Go!

You Know You’re a Missionary If

You know you’re a missionary if . . .


The scale in your house has been used more to weigh luggage than to track your diet.


One fine day you realize that people in other parts of the world eat the animals you kept as pets in your childhood.


Someone scares you and you’re likely to react in any number of languages.


You’re an expert in bathing without running water and washing dishes without a sink.


You can chat with friends in different countries in multiple languages at the same time.


You can talk on two phones at once, interpreting from one language to another.


You’re ready to teach a Bible class, preach a sermon or teach kid’s class at any moment.


You have no problem picking up and showing love to unknown street children.


You’ve learned to never take the word “no” from a government official.


You’ve learned to negotiate a price so well that the locals congratulate you when you seal the deal.


Someone has yelled at you for being a “gringo” to which you politely respond in any number of accents to confuse the aggressor.


At one time the barber told you that you were the first person with blonde hair that he has attended to in his forty years of work.


You’ve slept in any number of spaces, kinds of floors next to any number of people.


You know how to get off a bus without waiting for the bus to stop.


When after living so long in a tropical climate, you put on a jacket when it’s 65 degrees Fahrenheit outside.


You really start believing that it’s best not to show up on time for any appointment.


You have entire conversations with people and later you forget which language you were speaking in.


You see visits to dangerous ghettos as an opportunity to grow in your faith.


You’ve shared a fermented drink out of same cup with people who have no teeth.


These are just a few!