Advice from Asian Missionaries

My “Missionary Member Care” Class at Philippine Baptist Theological Seminary questioned missionaries here in Asia about some of their challenges in missions. I have 11 students, and they each asked 3 missionaries 12 questions and recorded their answers. All of my students are from South Asia, East Asia, or Southeast Asia. From the 396 answers, I asked the students to break up into three groups and each group come up with 15 especially relevant statements from the answers.

We listed them (as seen in the picture below) and then started sub-categorizing them. I took the challenges and advice, and created a common response. the other categorizing, I will leave for my students in another week or so.

Serving in missions is challenging. It is difficult to live in a culture unlike my own, and adjusting my living to be in many ways like those around me. It is hard to serve God in places where the people and government are not sympathetic to what I am trying to do. This becomes even more difficult when churches and people at home are inconsistent with their support. It not only makes it hard to travel and minister, but often makes it uncertain that I can care for my family, and educate our children. Team-members can be a great help, but often we find ourselves in conflict with each other. I want people to whom I am ministering to come to God, but often I am so busy and distracted that I find it challenging to spend time with God myself.

My advice to others considering going into missions is to take good time to take care of yourselves. Invest in a healthy diet, exercise, and getting enough sleep. Don’t get so engrossed with the busy-ness of ministry that you fail to spend time with God. You need to regularly take time to pray, study God’s word, and meditate. Also invest in your relationships with others, especially your team-members. Make an effort to fellowship and worship together. You need to learn to work with others– work out conflicts, and seek to live at peace with others, even including local governments. You need to take time to understand the culture, and embrace any opportunity to learn more about the people and about how best to minister to them.

Still, sometimes things seem to get out of control, and problems build up. You need to bring these burdens to God. You also need to have some close friends to whom you can share your problems with. Writing down your burdens, taking some alone time, and even a good scream or cry now and then can help as well.”


Changing Times

My wife and I were invited to attend the groundbreaking ceremony of the Crawley Bethesda Mission Center. It will be on the grounds of Philippine Baptist Theological Seminary. The plan is for the upper story to be focused on training for cross-cultural missions, while the lower floor involved more in holistic and regional missions (things may change of course).

It is a reminder of how things change. The name Crawley in the center name is for Winston Crawley. He was a Southern Baptist missionary from the United States, among the first to come to the Philippines in the late 1940s. He was instrumental in the founding of the first SB church in the Philippines and served as its first pastor. Other Americans serving as missionaries in the Philippines purchased land in Baguio and set up Philippine Baptist Theological Seminary. For several decades the seminary was foreign owned, and led by foreigners. In the late 1990s things changed with the gradual transfer of property, faculty, and leadership to locals.

The missions center shows a continuation of this change. The Philippines is more and more seeing itself as a missions sending country. The missions center itself is being built with Asian (as opposed to Western) moneys (they are still looking for donors to finish the structure). The ground-breaking has no Americans or “Westerners” in it (a couple of us attended as guests). Among those in the ground-breaking include Dr. Joyce Abugan (President of Philippine Baptist Theological Seminary), Ptr. Lino Caronongan (one of the leaders of One Sending Body, a Philippine-based missionary sending organization), and Dr. Will Kwon (Korean missions professor, and a leader with Asia Vision-STM, another Philippine-based missionary sending organizaiton).

To me, this transfer of power is valuable, and necessary. This is a natural part of what is often called the “Southern Shift” in Christianity. Power and leadership should shift along with the faith and population.

Since we live just a few minutes away from this new missions center, we are excited for what the future holds.