Connecting. That's a word that we've become very familiar with over the past year. The emphasis of our assigned task within our missionary organization has become 'connecting'. The word 'connecting' has even been added to the logo of our missionary sending employer. The large cluster group of missionaries that we work with has been named 'The Connecting Cluster.' What does that mean? Why the emphasis on 'connecting'? Does it mean we've become dis-connected? Does the new emphasis imply that something is 'not' connected that needs to be?
I can't answer all of those questions for every missionary but in our hearts 'connecting' means several things:
- Connecting the lost to the One they were meant for. The ultimate purpose for us being here in South America, for taking our children away from family and friends, for living so far away from those we love IS to connect the LOST to their ONLY HOPE. Without a 'life-changing connection' to Jesus Christ, there is no hope.
- Connecting the church to its primary mission. There are missionaries who believe that 'missions' should be left to the 'professional missionaries.' I personally know some of them who hold to this view. Jesus clearly communicates to ALL of his disciples the challenge of taking the gospel to the ends of the earth. Jesus clearly set apart 'the church' as the foundation (connecting point) for the building of His kingdom.
- Connecting the church to its missionaries. The missionaries that God has called to serve Him around the world can help a church move from 'Cross-cultural ministry' to 'Cross-cultural missions.' Missions involves church-planting and leadership development. Ministry is good works done in Jesus' name. Missions is making disciples who form churches who make disciples who form churches who make disciples...(and it continues...) A well-trained missionary can help your church connect Ministry to Missions.
- Connecting the church to cross-cultural national partners. A church's cross-cultural ministry works best when a member of that culture is a PARTNER in ministry. The most effecting church planting and leadership training is done with and through partners from the culture we are trying to penetrate with the Gospel. Every mission team should look to connect to a national believer before settling on a church planting strategy. (The photo above is a national Peruvian missionary named Humberta. She doesn't call herself a missionary but she is one of the greatest missionaries on the planet.)
- Connecting the missionary to the church. Being a missionary is a wonderful, difficult life. We would not trade these past four years of our journey for anything. But, it has not been easy. A source of strength for us has been the relationships that we have with many Southern Baptist churches who have loved us in so many ways. We are so blessed in our particular missionary assignment because we are able to have so many 'connections' with churches in the USA.
Those of you who are Southern Baptist will be hearing much in the coming months about 'connecting' with the lost of the world and 'embracing' unreached people groups around the globe. Why not pray about where you will 'connect'?
Thank you so much for your prayers for our family!
Jeff, Liesa, Haylee, and Jackson