God continues to hear the prayers that God will send people to help reap the harvest of souls around the globe. Part of God’s plan involves the movement of the Gospel from one nation to another via missionaries. We can assume that will continue until the second coming. We have come full circle in some countries and are witnessing a new phenomenon in terms of missionary deployment. Nations that were originally the senders, like the United States, are now the recipients of missionaries. The strength of a Christian presence can easily shrink in one or two generations as North Americans and Europeans have witnessed.
Those that hear and respond to the call to work in another culture are the fortunate ones. It is hard to express the honor of such a calling. I can’t say that missionaries are special, but they are privileged. They get to board the ships or airplanes to lands not so different from those the apostle Paul visited. It is their joy to carry the gospel to the ends of the earth. Globalization has changed so much of the mystic of traveling to a new culture, but the reality of learning and serving in a new culture remains the same. It actually like living two lives.
The missionary life has its ups and downs, its joys and its sorrows. They have the privilege of sharing in a much larger worldview than knowing only one culture. Just learning one new language opens the doors to more people to whom to witness and form friendships.
Throughout history missionaries have received so much credit for what has happened in taking the Gospel around the world. No doubt they have contributed significantly to the growth of the Kingdom of God. But this is only part of the story. Obviously it is God that elevates preaching and witnessing to the event of salvation.
More than 250 people have now returned from a very significant week in Colombia, South America. It is the second time that General Assembly has met outside the United States. This visit commemorated the 90th anniversary of Cumberland Presbyterian ministry in one of the beautiful countries of the world. Those people fortunate enough to visit Colombia witnessed a diversity of successful evangelical efforts. They sat beside cute impoverished children receiving a hot meal in a hot lunch program. They visited a host of Colombians in the Cumberland Presbyterian senior living center—a nursing home funded by our denomination. They worshiped in one or another of our denominational churches spread over the length and breadth of western Colombia. No doubt they were blessed by what they saw and felt.
One evening was set aside for the missionaries that have served during the 90-year history of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Colombia to be recognized. It was a joy to remember the joys of the past.
The laity and ministers of the two Colombian presbyteries, Cauca Valley and Andes, reach more than 1,200 people for Christ every year. No one can number the thousands of people that Colombian nationals have led to Jesus; their converts are like the sands of the sea. Their disciples are now living on every continent and nearly every country of the world. So in this way we can say that our denomination has carried the message of Jesus to the ends of the earth. We only lack a Cumberland Presbyterian astronaut for the next step into the vast creation of God.
Those of us fortunate enough to have served as missionaries want to express our deepest thanks for everything that pastors and laity have done for each of us. We do not take it lightly that while missionaries often lived in larger houses with more things, drove cars while nationals rode buses or walked, and always worked for a significantly higher salary, our international colleagues loved us as their equal. These brothers and sisters taught us much more than we taught them. We could not have achieved much without their love and hard work. They have walked side-by-side with us as we have shared the Good News and expressed the compassion and love of Christ. What a joy to return to see so many of the people that have enriched our lives.
Missionaries thank God for the privilege to live in countries other than our own. And quite often, we bow in prayer to applaud the courage, love, service, faith, and success of our Colombian brothers and sisters.