As I mentioned in a previous post, these are lessons I have learned along the way as a missionary.
- Walk, don’t drive. My experience has been that in general taking a car cost much more than it helps. One example: When we needed to go and visit a family about half an hour up the mountain walking, we were tempted to do it in 5 minutes driving. We walked. As we walked with one of the family members, we told Bible stories and listened to her stories. By the time we got to the top, we were in the company of nearly a dozen. All of them hearing these stories. We were then introduced to another dozen people who wanted to hear more. When we got to her house, we stayed for a 15 minute visit. By car, that would be 15 somewhat superficial minutes with a family. On foot, that was over an hour, and highly intimate. We met a dozen more people through an existing relationship.
- Do copiable things. Today I found out that another friend of mine started reading the Bible with friends at work when he started a new job. I never told these men that they needed to go and make disciples in their workplace by reading the Bible or telling Bible stories, but that is what they did. They saw us doing it, and when they left our company to work in another place (and even country) they did what seemed natural to them. They had seen it done, easily. So some of our disciples have gone and made disciples and we never knew about it until much later.
- Spend the Night. This idea is related to the first. We would go into a small community and have a Bible study with one family, visit another and then take the bus home. We always had to alternate which family would get the Bible study because of time. One night, the family told my wife and I. “Look, you can stay here. Go ahead and miss the bus, take the one at sunrise, you will be back in your city by 7:00.” They gave us their own clothes to wear to bed. The result was that we spend a long time sitting around the kitchen table talking with them and drinking coffee. You know how those kinds of conversations go. In one night, we became family. There was a bond that formed that was stronger than 3 years of weekly 1-hour visits.
- Be careful with traditional church time. Service in traditional churches is always appreciated, and noticed. However, missionaries should be seeking the 1 lost sheep, not tending the 99 in the fold. I have noticed that the more time I spend meeting in our church, the less converts I have at the end of any given time. The best way to spend your time in traditional churches is in worship together, when possible. Calling out and training workers for the harvest, and giving testimonies as to what God is doing in the harvest.
(I’ve also noticed that it is better to be broad and bottom line oriented when making presentations or calling for workers to join you in traditional churches. Often if the mission churches don’t have the same look and personality as the traditional church the work gets questioned… and it can get ugly.)
- Don’t overprotect your family. You steal opportunities for service from your family and yourself when you decide on your own, what your family is or is not capable of doing. I have erred on the side of caution quite often, and the result has been that some people did not hear the gospel, and also that my wife was discouraged from doing ministry in some cases. We have talked this through and are changing how we decide these things.