The spread of the gospel faces challenges because people are battling their own personal sin and pride in the face of the “offense” of the gospel. In addition to the challenge of simple human sinfulness, sometimes the gospel runs up against challenging settings. Christians in places of religious freedom carry the biblical burden to take the gospel into higher security or closed settings. The ultimate goal for these difficult settings is to see the Holy Spirit establish a long-term, doctrinally sound, multiplying church presence for the glory of God.
If we are to partner in a high security location, we must first build and maintain a relationship with a committed missionary who resides in the difficult place or among the difficult people. Workers in hostile areas live with spiritual oppression as a constant companion, much like a tumor that can’t be removed. A good partner carefully considers the spiritual, emotional, mental and physical challenges that exist in this particular setting.
God can use you to preserve the well being of your missionary partner by doing three critical things.
We must pray for them, but beyond that, they need to know we are praying for them. Ask them for specific requests and then follow up to see how the Lord worked. Find out their specific cultural challenges and commit to pray for them.. Paul asked his friends to pray for him, and he gave them specific prayer requests.
People who live in spiritual oppression are looking for someone who is living out hope. How can we play a part in ongoing encouragement to our field personnel?
We must also befriend them. These are real people who have real interests, hobbies, preferences, etc. Don’t forget that they have a favorite genre of music, a sports team they keep up with, jokes they enjoy, frustrations as a parent, concerns as a spouse, and a thousand other facets that make them human. Treat them the same way you treat other friends. Talk with them about their interests, fears, joys and sorrows.
When neglected, the humanity of our missionaries is what often takes them off of the field. When cared for, the humanity of our missionaries is often what makes them the most effective. People who live in spiritual oppression are looking for someone who is living out hope. How can we play a part in ongoing encouragement to our field personnel? Find ways, be practical and be consistent.
The Bible is replete with commands, reasons and motivations to go, serve and spread the gospel with your physical presence. It’s not only important for some of us to go to difficult places long-term, but also for others to go to these places short-term in order to help our missionaries by encouraging and supporting them. But as you go, go for the benefit of your spiritual partners and the lost, not to fulfill your own dreams. There is a specific danger present in voluntourism that makes any type of mission trip about the individuals going instead of supporting the people living on the field.
Also, be realistic about the results you will see during your time in a difficult area. In many of these places, the work is long and often “harvest” is delayed. Patience in working the soil is required. The Lord is free to work in any way that He desires, but in the meantime, those who go must keep in mind that they might not see a massive turning to the Lord on their first trip.
As you partner with missionaries in difficult and possibly hostile locations, you are part of bringing people to the throne room of God. There are many places you could go, but the greatest blessing is to go where the Lord calls you. The work is large, the challenges are daunting, the need is overwhelming, but the eternal value of even one soul is worth every bit of effort we can summon. Remember the words of the Lord Himself in Luke 10:2, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into his harvest.”
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