Of the many things that pioneer missionaries must learn, one of the most valuable and important is insight. Here at AFM we talk a lot about insight into a culture and understanding heart language. These are vital to a missionary’s efficiency, but this isn’t the kind of insight I’m speaking of.
What is even more important than cultural and linguistic knowledge? The insight that comes from a solid faith in God. It’s the ability to look out on a spiritual wasteland where there is no sign of life and to imagine—to dare to believe and to work toward what can be through God’s power. Being a successful pioneer missionary demands a definite aim, a willingness to learn, a determination to show up for work every day (on good days and bad) and patience to work toward the goal of seeing souls won to Christ, a church planted and a gospel movement ignited. When a missionary puts his trust in God, obeys in faith and perseveres, he can never be a failure.
For me, this truth has been underlined by the recent growth in the Muslim Maghreb region of Africa. For six years, a single AFM missionary worked there, tirelessly doing what she could to share Jesus. She showed up to work every day. She shared the scriptures discreetly. She lived in the homes of seekers and shared Jesus with their families. She did the best she knew how and trusted in God. At the end of her term of six years, there was no apparent fruit. Five years later, the seeds she had planted still seemed to lie dormant.
Then, last year, the first national of this country joined the Seventh-day Adventist church through baptism. Not long after that, a lady friend of our colleague also joined. Now her daughter is preparing for baptism and will soon seal her decision as well.
Another interesting trend we are seeing, one that speaks to vision and determination, is that young people who made up the first generation of converts from some of our projects are now serving as missionaries around the world. Young Africans, baptized into this faith that was unknown to them just a few short years ago, are now serving as missionaries in Asia.
At our Euro-Asia missionary retreat I met a young lady, a teenage convert from an AFM project in southern Europe. That retreat was the first time she had ever encountered young people from other nations and races who shared her faith. I’ll never forget her wonder and joy at meeting just a few other young people who believed like she did. She is now preparing to enter school in another land so she can prepare to serve God as His representative to those who don’t know Him.
All of these stories and many more are testaments first to the power of God. Second, they are testaments to the insight, foresight and faith that missionaries must develop—to be able to look on a valley of dry bones and believe that they will rise to new life in the power of the Spirit of God.
Please pray with me that all our missionaries continue to develop this special insight as they pray, seek and serve. And may their faith become reality as souls are added to Christ’s kingdom and prepared for His soon return.