Mission work is an area where many challenges exist. I am thankful to God that I can do mission work in the Pacific Islands and have a good overseeing eldership at the Forest Park Church of Christ in Lake City, Georgia. I am also thankful for the many good, supporting congregations. Challenges are opportunities for growth. We all have them and, if we meet them, we will mature and develop. I never dreamed of some of the real life issues that confront missionaries until experiencing them for myself. What are the challenges of mission work?
From my experience, and what I know from other missionaries, one of the primary challenges of mission work is raising sufficient funds for your family and the work. I know of those who have not gone to the field because they were unable to get the support needed. I believe more would go if finding the financial support were not such a problem. Challenges exist in the area of raising sufficient funds. I’m going to assume a man has a love for God and the lost, zeal, and has his heart dedicated to the place where he sees the need to labor. In raising support you must have a good overseeing congregation. Most congregations want to send their money to an eldership, not an individual, which is wise and best. Finding an eldership and congregation that will be involved, supportive, and devoted to you and the area you are working can be difficult. The elders do not simply need to handle finances, but go where the missionary lives, having the Lord’s work and his family’s best interest in mind.
What makes getting funds so difficult? I remember when I first raised funds for full time mission work. IT WAS A HUGE TASK! A man must have many congregations to contact, spend countless hours on the phone, travel thousands of miles, and talk to many elderships and congregations in order to have the support needed to do mission work. Building a list of good, sound congregations to contact and a key person to contact in that congregation is possibly the greatest challenge of all when it comes to getting the money needed. After contacting possibly 100 to 200 congregations, finding enough of them that will actually support you seems to be an endless task. From my own experience, a personal contact in a congregation is more likely to lead to getting support. After raising funds this challenge is complicated by keeping it and continuing to raise more as the work grows. Reporting to supporting congregations in person and by newsletters is an extremely important help in this area.
I am involved in the Pacific Islands Bible College. We have teachers that go on two or three week trips to conduct the college classes. I have heard many times the difficulties they have had in raising funds. It prohibits some from going and discourages others from even trying. I encourage elders and congregations to truly consider the person seeking support and the work they plan to do. It is very easy to say, “We will not be able to help at this time.” Give the missionary an opportunity to share the work with the congregation. Even if the congregation does not have money in the budget, once they see the need, they may be challenged to increase their giving or individuals might help.
Another challenging area in mission work is that of time. I’ve heard it said that time stands still for no man. How true that is. I just turned 50, and I’m thinking I should not be this old. Where has the time gone? The areas in the Pacific where we work have many opportunities for growth. We do not have the time to do all that needs to be done. Let me give you an example. As I am writing this, my wife Kathy and I have just finished a trip to Chuuk, Federated States of Micronesia. We were busy! We were glad to have so many opportunities to teach and I’m thankful to the Lord for them. Many things needed to be done that we just did not have the time to accomplish: people needed visiting, studies with the lost needed to be conducted, other islands needed to hear the gospel, etc. We were going from early in the morning until after sundown, barely taking time to eat lunch. Still, we simply ran out of time. Not having the time to do the things you know are so necessary can be very disheartening and challenging.
The need for workers fits right in with the previous point. Since we only have twenty four hours in a day, more workers are needed. I think so often of what Jesus said, “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few. Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest that He will send forth laborers into His harvest” (Matt. 9:37-38). One thing I noticed is that the denominations have people living and working all throughout the Pacific. Many Mormons live and work in Chuuk. Our challenge is having men and women, both young and old, willing to make the sacrifices necessary to live and work in the mission field. Since those who are teaching false doctrine can be so devoted, shouldn’t those of us who know the truth be more dedicated to the spread of the gospel? Not only Christians living in the field, but short-time workers are very important and beneficial. Those going on short-term trips should be going to teach God’s word. The most important needs of men are spiritual. Several preachers have been willing to help, but the congregations where they work are not willing to give them the time, sometimes requiring them to use their vacation time. May God bless us with congregations willing to support and send laborers into His kingdom.
It is also challenging to meet the needs of the congregations and continue to spread the gospel to new areas. Usually on the mission field the congregations are relatively young. Therefore, they need a lot of teaching, edifying, and equipping. When spreading the gospel, it may be very easy to have a new congregation established because of people being receptive to the truth in different villages or islands. This of course leads to another church needing edification and equipping. It is useless to plant churches if they will not remain faithful. Providing for the needs of the congregations, to assist them in growing and developing takes much time and teaching.
Some other challenges are: developing leaders, language, culture, customs, food, transportation and the list could go on. Mission work is challenging, but very rewarding. With these challenges I have not presented detailed solutions. I know you can determine changes that can be made to help mission work be done throughout the world. The solutions begin with each local congregation considering the challenges, learning, growing, teaching, and training all the members to be true, self-sacrificing servants of our Master.
Stacy works with the Forest Park church of Christ in Lake City, GA and the Pacific Islands Bible College
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