Here are just a few random reflections on the recent mission trip to South Africa (for more details, you may order the audio recordings of our report at Fulkerson Park by calling 269.683.7880).
Missionary life in a third-world country is really difficult. I got a better taste of it this year than last. Our accommodations were not quite as good. The food wasn’t quite as good. We were further from a large city. Which was all fine – even helpful – because my appreciation skyrocketed for the people in the field who sacrifice so much comfort.
America is rich. That stands out in bold relief after witnessing the incredible poverty of Africa. It just boggles the mind to see what they do without. Even those who are more well off in Africa do without some of the things we almost take for granted – regularly eating out, high speed internet, Amazon.com and cheap books, et cetera. Maybe they are not suffering, but they definitely don’t live as posh as we do.
Africa is open to the gospel. We handed out gospel newspapers in the parking-lot of a strip mall in Barberton, right outside the local grocery store and Wimpy’s (the premiere chain-hamburger joint). And people wanted them! You would rarely encounter such openness in America – to anything. We are so saturated with literature and advertisements and junk-mail and solicitation, that we don’t even want to deal with more stuff to sort through – even less so if it is religious. But Africa is open and hungry. The downside to that is that they are also open to false teaching and false religion.
Missionaries may be the best missions prayer warriors. This amazed me. The staff and students of Back to the Bible Training College, where we ministered, daily and systematically pray through Operation World. They probably spent 15-20 minutes each day praying very specifically for missionaries (each of the seventy-five students have adopted one) as well as broad missions objectives. After the first day I thought “they probably just prayed more for missions in the past half hour than we do in an entire year.”
Giving away books is a highly effective missions strategy. We gave away two hundred and sixty-four books – Bibles, concordances, dictionaries, commentaries, books on theology, leadership, evangelism, preaching, etc. And I wish we had had two thousand and sixty-four books! When I gave away the first batch, the students spontaneously burst into songs of praise. They were so thankful. Our one regret was that we didn’t have Bibles for all seventy-five students (we just took books for the twelve we were adopting and training). But praise the Lord, when we shared that with our church once we were back in the States, someone generously offered to purchase the Bibles for the remaining students.
Expositional preaching is needed. The twelve I trained had not heard of it before I came. But they grasped the concept and, I believe, gained a vision for it. “The meaning of the passage is the message of the sermon” was the constant refrain of our time together. And now they are being equipped with both skills and tools for doing expositional preaching in their own ministries.
The harvest is white, but the laborers are few. To apply Jesus’ words in a slightly different context, the harvest of students and pastors who long for training is white. But the laborers – pastors and churches who are willing to adopt and equip those students – are few. My hope is that God will raise up many, many more churches like Fulkerson Park, with people willing to dig deep and give large to the task of equipping men of God in Africa with the skills and tools necessary for making them effective preachers and teachers of the Word.