Someone knocks on your front door. You hear a discussion that you don’t understand. Then a stranger walks into your room with a friendly but tense smile. They reassure you that you are safe but that it is time to leave. You quickly grab your favorite stuffed animal while they put a few items of clothing into a bag.
Your world begins to close in and everything that used to be normal, regardless of how messed up it was, now has changed. You are sleeping in a strange home with different rules and expectations. You don’t know if you will ever see your toys, clothes, or even your family again.
A few days later, some more of your clothes and toys do show up—again, in more bags.
You are only eight-years-old. No one would expect you to understand what is happening to your world. And you don’t.
I am excited to begin this series—An Interview with a Missionary. I have enlisted missionaries serving all around the world. As I mentioned in my blog, Six Questions for a Missionary, some will have to remain anonymous because of their location. My plan is to post one interview each month. These are those who have made a longterm commitment, some a lifetime commitment, to serve in a foreign country.
My hope and prayer is that as you meet each missionary and learn of the work they are doing you will feel compelled to make the Great Commission a priority in your own life.
Danielle and I got to know Nella in 2007 while we lived in Thailand for six months. Danielle volunteered often at the Tamar Center during that time. At the time of this interview, Nella is home for a three-month furlough. Because of her accent, I ask her where she is from for the viewers benefit. Her answer is revealing.
Please watch the video interview to learn more about Nella and the great work that she has been a part of in Pattaya, Thailand.
I know he didn’t hear me. I asked him, “Son, what did I just ask you to do?” He looks up at me with his big, brown eyes, “Umm, I don’t know. Can you tell me again?”
We all have done it. Whether we are a four-year-old boy busy playing and talking, a 14 year-old teenager plugged into their own world, or a 53 year-old man watching his favorite sporting event on TV.
Someone can stand right in front of us talking directly to us, and we won’t hear a word they say.
I usually get frustrated when my son does this. It seems that the only thing that works is for me to patiently get down on my knees, take his face gently in my hands and ask for his eyes.
Then he hears me.
Greatest challenge we have to hearing God?
That is the title to a book I read about five years ago. Some books transcend time. This is one of those books.
The first time I read The Key to the Missionary Problem: A Passionate Call to Obedience in Action, I was riding in the back of a small van traveling around a sub-tropical island off the coast of China. Lush vegetation covered the island with a mountain range running through the middle.
Van I rode in
Sharing a meal with friends in a village home
View from one place we spent the night
View from the back of the van
Two large cities populate the island. An industrial city on the north end, and on the south end – a beachfront city rivaling any you would find in Hawaii.
Scattered throughout the island are many small towns. Most living in the towns migrated from the mainland. If you venture deeper into the rural parts of the island, you will find thousands of small villages of indigenous people.
That is why we were driving around the island. We were looking for these villages hoping that our friends who lived there could go back for follow up visits.
Hard work. Many obstacles to overcome. But someone will have to do this if the gospel is to reach them.
I grew up in the 60s and 70s when most churches ran between 100-500 in attendance. We didn’t need a lot of programs to bring us together. We just got together. To worship. To celebrate. To mourn. To live life.
You really did know everyone regardless of age or stage of life. We lived relatively close to each other. I don’t recall people driving 30-60 minutes to get to church. Why would they do that when they had a local church much closer?
In the 80s, mega-churches became the rage. The goal became to get as many people to attend one location as possible. Pastors went to conferences to learn how to attract more people to their campuses.
Churches began to run 1000-2000 or more.
In order to meet the “needs” of the attendees, pastors had to add event coordinating to their long list of responsibilities. The staff placed people into similar age or life stage groups to make programming easier.
People came from further distances creating an environment where many lived up to an hour from one another.
The intent behind a program driven church was good one.
But I think the pendulum is swinging back to local, community driven church, or at least gatherings.
As I sat listening to a speaker I began inspecting the wear and tear on my 50 plus year old hands. Fingers crooked and swollen from breaks and jams. Scars caused from various wounds. I looked closely at this 1/2 inch scar on my left thumb.
I remember clearly how I got that scar.
A group of us in our early teens went camping along with two adult sponsors. Each tent had two campers, and we were responsible for cooking our own dinner.
We got the fire going. Put on a pot of baked beans. Then I began peeling a potato with a pocket knife.
Many mornings Danielle sits at the table with our son to eat breakfast while I stand at the counter. One morning we ate each in our places. Our son had a waffle and asked Danielle for some honey on it.
If I remember correctly, the little guy demanded for the honey on his waffle. I am sure Danielle responded with, “Hey buddy, are you telling or asking? Try that again using some good words.”
After he rephrased his request asking in a proper way, Danielle happily poured sweet honey over his waffle.
Lately it’s easy to find someone bashing the church bemoaning everything that they find wrong with it. However there are many things to love about the church.
I think the disconnect lies with how we define church.
If you are referring to the multi-million dollar campuses that dot our landscape, the endless hours spent by professionals running the “machine”, or the entertainment approach so “they will stay at our church”, then you are right. I am not in love with that church.
Dr. Karyn Purvis spoke at the A Future and A Hope conference last week. AFAH is an adoption and foster care annual conference in Austin, Texas that focuses on different adoption processes, foster care, and raising foster or adopted children.
Courtesy of Matt Kouri
Dr. Purvis already commands attention because of her passion, experience and research. Her love for children from a “hard place” manifested powerfully as her friend and co-author, David Cross, helped her onto stage.
Dr. Purvis honored her commitment to speak at this conference even though she received a chemo treatment just a couple of days before. Yes, she is battling a recurrence of cancer.
Even though a chair sat on stage for her to sit in as she spoke, the conviction she carries would not allow her to sit.
I am excited to introduce you to many missionary friends from around the world. Some live right here in the U.S. with an international focus, others are in countries that are receptive to their work, and still others are in locations hostile to the gospel. I plan to share with you a recorded video interview with a missionary each month.
Danielle with Nella, director of Tamar Cener
In my work as a volunteer on the foreign mission field and as an advocate and support person here at home, I have noticed one common theme.
The Western church tends to forget over time about its missionaries it has sent around the world.
Maybe that is too harsh. It’s really human nature. When someone isn’t a part of our daily lives, we don’t think about them as often. But we can’t use that as an excuse for not supporting, staying in touch, and most of all fervently praying for our brothers and sisters serving around the world.