Our St. Louis church just finished our annual missions conference, and Jonathan and I attended as many of the activities as the school/work schedule would permit. I always find missions conferences to be exciting. Hearing what the Lord is doing around the globe reminds me (first) of the utmost and primary import of sharing the good news of the gospel and (secondly) that the bride of Christ, of which I am a small part, is so much bigger than my tiny life experience.
Growing up, my family was very missions minded. My parents personally supported missionaries not only financially, but by praying for them by name during our family devotional time, hosting them often in our home and being active participants in various missions events and activities, both within our home church and elsewhere. Some of my vivid childhood memories are of mission events. I remember wearing a burkha in our pastor’s living room, while Rod and Donna Black talked about ministering to Muslims in northern Pakistan. I remember slide shows – not PowerPoint – actual square slides that sat in round discs on the top of a whirring, hot projector. The slides shone on a portable white screen that my father stored in our basement, which screeched in protest when it was dragged from its metal casement to reflect back images from Art and Carol Clark of the steep, green, misty mountains of Irian Jaya and the startlingly exotic Yali people group. I remember sitting, spell bound, as Doug Anderson told tales of foreign mission experiences to the native people so close I didn’t even see them.
The importance of being exposed to missionaries as a child, and by extension a tiny fragment of their mission field, cannot be over stated and now that I am a parent it is so important to me that I do the same for my children. I was so delighted to see my mackerdoodle absorb the facts and images from Malawi, Ecuador, Nicaragua and South Africa that were paraded in front of her this week, and to hear her questions as she processed the implications of what she was learning. It is one of the many reasons I praise the Lord for guiding us to our St. Louis church home. The missions conference is a yearly opportunity to discuss missions, not as an abstract theory, but attached to the faces of real people. It is an opportunity for me to learn alongside my children about how God is living and active around the world.
We do it with our children, but we do it FOR ourselves. So often we can fall into the trap of believing that all of Christian history has looked as weak, bland and ineffectual as the current scope of Western Christendom. When I begin to believe the lie that the gates of Hell have clothed themselves in the robe of apathy and assaulted the entire Church, I need to see the gospel at work in the life of a foreign mission field. When I am briefly convinced that the church universal has, does, and will look like my neighborhood congregation, I need to see the gospel at work in the life of a foreign mission field. When I am tempted to make major life decisions based on comfort, perceived security and social pressure, I need to see the gospel at work in the life of a foreign mission field.
I can’t encourage you more to become actively involved in the life of a missionary and to seek out a missions conference. You will not regret it.