Keeping mission vision alive and growing A quarterly publication of Mission Data International

Archive for the ‘Missions and relationships’ Category

Obstacles to Serving in Missions

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

“I have traveled the country speaking and meeting with college students from 150 colleges, teaching God’s heart for the world and challenging people to live missionally,” says Josh Cooper, author of the 2013 book Hold Fast: The Mission of God and the Obstacles of Man.

“Everyone has at least one good excuse why they shouldn’t live their life for the mission of God. Therefore, most people who live for God’s purpose won’t end up doing so accidentally. Out of the hundreds of thousands challenged to be missional Christians, only a small handful make it.”

Cooper recognizes nine obstacles which hold back today’s students and keep them from considering full-time missionary service as a reasonable option for their lives:

  1. A lack of awareness of God’s mission purposes
  2. A focus on needs closer to home
  3. Materialism
  4. Romantic relationships
  5. Family opposition
  6. Theological issues (e.g., pluralism)
  7. Uncertainty about their calling
  8. The burden of debt
  9. Concerns about raising support

Cooper shares stories of those who have overcome each struggle and provides encouragement to keep the reader moving forward.

» Know students or others who could use this book? Get copies for them and one for yourself, then read and discuss it together.

Interview with John McVay: Mentoring for Missions

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

by Paul Nielsen

M-DAT has been good friends with mission mobilizer John McVay for ten years now. His projects have included mission conferences and websites along with his service with In His Image, which trains medical professionals for Christian service. In this interview he talks specifically about mentoring the next generation of missionaries.

Propel: When and how did you become involved and interested in missions as a mobilizer?

John McVay: I read an illustration by Ralph Winter who said, “If you see a roaring fire you can grab your bucket, run to the stream, then run to the fire and pour water on it—and you can do that repeatedly. Or you could wake 100 sleeping firemen.” Missions mobilization is waking the 100 sleeping firemen. In my current season of life God is guiding me to wake the 100 sleeping firemen.

Propel: What is the importance of mentoring in the context of missions?

John McVay: Most aspiring missionaries struggle with feelings of inadequacy. They need mentors to encourage them to abide in Christ and trust in His strength. (more…)

A lifetime of mission involvement

Tuesday, August 7th, 2007

I’ve known David Armstrong for five years now. We’ve shared office space for more than three years.

David served with OC International for 20 years, most of that time overseas in Latin America. After three or so years back in OC’s home office he co-founded Mission Data International (proprietor of this publication) with his son and eventually moved to Arkansas to work in the M-DAT office full-time. In this interview I tried to draw on his lifetime of knowledge on mission involvement.

Propel: What events or interests led up to your decision to pursue missions?

David: Mary and I have always been interested in missions, and supported missionaries since we were age 12, but I never thought about being a missionary. It wasn’t until after two years of college, four years of electronics in the Air Force, and I was in Seattle working that I wrestled with what I what going to do with my life. I’m not the kind of person who can work eight to five and then sit and watch TV or spend my weekends fishing. I needed something worth putting my life into. After a couple years of thinking during which we had our first child and bought our first house, I thought “anything I do in electronics or home remodeling (both interests for me) is going to be gone in 50 to 100 years. The only things that are going to stay around forever are people and God and His Word. If I want to be involved in something that is going to last, that where it needs to be.

That was in essence a decision to be involved full time in ministry. The decision to be involved in missions was almost simultaneous as we asked “where is the greatest need?” Having grown up in a good Bible teaching church, that answer was obvious – overseas. And since we had always been interested in missions, it was a fit. With that we sold our home after only a year and headed to Multnomah Bible College in Portland.

Propel: What did you and your wife do to prepare for long-term, cross-cultural mission service?

David: Looking back, the best preparation for missions was being involved in a good church as we grew up. We learned the Word, we worked with people, we taught kids and worked with youth, we experienced church life and we learned to walk with God.

Bible School was a good review of what I believed and rounded me out well. Seminary exposed me to the breadth of “Christian” thought, and prepared me for the many heresies that abound.

The life experience of having and raising three kids while working my way though Bible School and Seminary while also being involved in a church kept my feet on the ground, rooted in reality.

Ralph Winter brown bag luncheon
David is on the left — the one without the nametag.

Propel: How important are college level Bible classes to a cross-cultural missionary? Can certain kinds of mission-workers get away with little or no formal training?

David: The type of missionary activity largely determines the amount of formal Bible training one needs. If you are going to do evangelism and church planting, you need to be a life long learner of the Word. Bible School and/or Seminary will give you an overview and organize your thinking. But they are only a beginning. If you are flying a plane or doing relief work, a consistent growing walk with the Lord is essential, so that you are ready to respond to questions and situations. You will still be walking by faith – so your relationship with God has to be growing.

Propel: What would you have done differently in hindsight?

David: Spend more time hanging out and talking about life as I grew up. I am more task oriented – but ministry is about people.

Propel: How did you decide on a sending organization to serve with?

David: We heard dozens of missionaries speak in our church as we grew up so we had a couple organizations in mind due to the kinds of ministries and types of people they were. In Bible School and Seminary we met many more at the annual missions conferences.

We came up with a short list of three or four that we kept tabs with and checked out. We had decided on one before we finished school.

Propel: What obstacles did you have to overcome as you planned and prepared to go overseas?

David: Getting through school with a family. God was very faithful in providing as needed. We learned live with a lot of stress.

Propel: What were the biggest struggles for you and your family in the first year of living overseas? What were the greatest joys of the first year?

David: The first year was great! It was language school and we had no other responsibilities. We got up at the same time, had three meals a day together and watched Dukes of Hazard in Spanish in the evening. We memorized verses in English and Spanish and enjoyed life. And we all learned Spanish. It was a wonderful relaxing year after all the stress of school!

We were over 30 with kids aged 8 to 13 by the time we moved to Latin America.

Propel: How has preparing to be a missionary changed in the last twenty years? What’s more difficult than it used to be? What’s easier?

David: If you are going to do church planting, Bible translation or evangelism, it hasn’t. If you are going to a part of the world where you can’t get a missionary visa, you have to think creative! You still need a solid Bible base and a growing relationship with the Lord, without an “I’m a missionary stamp” on your transcripts. You will need a legitimate reason for living in the country to which you are going, i.e. a reason understandable to the common person there. A reason which you intend to live out.

Propel: What can people do to prepare for career missions even if they are four or five years from actually being in ministry?

David: Talk and talk and talk. And read and read and read. The more stories of Godly lives you hear and see the better prepared you will be for life in whatever setting you end up. My varied experiences in jobs and education, and my varied interests have all helped me connect with people everywhere I go.

Get to know God! That is what it is all about. It is his show that you are getting involved in. The better you know him and the more clearly you hear his “voice and leading”, the better.

And learn to appreciate people and the differing ways they see life. Learn about different styles of personalities, hear their values and view of life. You will have to live and work with every kind in the ministry. Learn to communicate; to hear others, to resolve conflicts, to encourage others, to live with differences, yet live with boundaries. Most everyone loves the culture and nationals they go to. It is their fellow missionaries they will have trouble getting along with.

Getting off at the same exit

Thursday, March 9th, 2006

by David Armstrong

What do you do when you are called to China as a missionary, but your wife isn’t so sure about that?

To put it another way, how can a couple looking at missions mesh who they are? We long to see those drives and passions flow in the same direction rather than straining or crashing the relationship.

The answer: It takes “talkin’ and travellin’”! In part we know who we are, where we dream to go and our preferred methods for getting there. But actual over-the-road travel is what reveals, and even refines or proves what God has placed and developed within each of us. Over-the-road travels show you each others’ preferred speed, preferred and maximum stress levels, preferred relaxation and celebration points (and styles), and preferred types of work and ministry. Practice in sensing differences and then adjusting to one another can only occur in these real life road trips. Get involved in some ministry and mission activities together now to learn the skills you will need for then.

Each of us is unique in gifts, desires, energy levels, and the sense of God’s calling. According to the gifts and passions that burn within us, we see and feel life differently. It takes time to see through someone else’s eyes, and even longer to truly value that “other” perspective, but that is what it takes to blend the two of you into one!

A key issue is one’s perspective on husband/wife roles. Some wives clearly sense a calling to a man over the calling to ministry. Wherever he goes, she goes. On the other side of the spectrum are wives who feel the calling and the driving purpose the strongest, and they must be about it! Whichever “coupling” you share, it takes “talkin’ and travellin’” to learn the fine art of meshing two passions and visions into one. Yes, doing things together takes longer, but it is far more balanced and able to serve a broader spectrum of need with far less wear and tear on the relationship than going it alone.

Mature interaction requires the discussion of topics for the purpose of understanding another’s ideas, feelings and reasons, and to communicate one’s own, without feeling forced to agree or disagree. I often wonder if, in practice, we actually think it is our job to call others to missions, as though the Holy Spirit has forgotten how, or at the very least, is not capable of doing the job without our concerned help. Trust Him and trust your spouse to hear God’s voice. The individualism of our culture will fight you on this point! The push for speed, visible results accomplishments and goals in our culture will also fight you on this. Solid growth in partnering requires time! Discuss and understand. Pray and seek advice. Interact with friends. Consider the reasons, skills, gifts and personality of each other. Talk and travel, together!

God doesn’t lead spouses in opposite directions, but it can take a good while to understand each other’s passions, gifts and callings – and figure out how God intends to blend the two together!

Marriage with missions in mind

Thursday, March 9th, 2006

by Paul Nielsen

I met Geinene Carson and her husband Mat at Missions Fest Northwest in 2005. She has served with Operation Mobilisation since graduating college in 1999. Her first three and a half years were spent serving with a team in Vienna, Austria.


She moved back to the US in 2002 to join OM’s recruiting team. And, for the past year, Geinene has been actively pursuing the development and promotion of a pioneering new Visual Arts Ministry, OM Artslink. Presently, her position is Missions Mobilizer and Artslink Director.

Propel: When you and Mat were dating, did you both feel as though God was taking you in the same direction towards or into missions?

Geinene: Good question. We both had developed an obvious passion for missions and were coming to terms individually that our short term mission experiences with OM could very likely become life-long careers. Missions then, in a sense, was seen as a reality for our lives whether dating or not.

The catch was that we had very different mission experiences and ideas for what our future mission involvement would look like. Matthew had served his first three years in the Muslim world. I, on the other hand, had been serving in secular Europe, gaining a great passion for sharing Christ among Europeans while also developing avenues for using visual art in ministry. We knew God was calling us into missions, but we questioned if we were called to the same type and region of ministry. I love Muslims but didn’t hold the same passion and urgency that Matthew had for them. He had never really experienced Europe nor held the same passion that I had for using the arts. It was an interesting dilemma, one that concerned us both for some time. Our question was “How would God marry our passions and missions experiences?” We wondered if it would end up in one of us sacrificing our passion and ministry and adopt the other’s.

In those early dating days, I remember being somewhat concerned that if I pursued marriage with Matthew, I would have no choice but to go to the darkest parts of the Muslim world, having to sacrifice my independence as well as my artistic talents. Noticing my uncertainty on the matter, a mentor of mine shared a great piece of advice with me, which changed the way I looked at the matter. She said, “Geinene, before you try to figure out if you are called to this ministry . . . you first need to answer if you are called to this particular man.” She further explained to me how once I know of God’s leading in our relationship, then the rest would fall into place as God would have it. She talked about how God could change my heart for ministry, or Matthew’s. God could even change both our ministry paths entirely. This advice really simplified things in my mind. Instead of worrying about all the “ifs,” I just had to simply focus on my relationship with Matthew and find out if he was someone God had placed in my life for a reason.

Propel: Are you and Mat both headed in the same direction in your mission service today?

Geinene: I can now say yes without a doubt. We are headed in the same direction, married in our purpose and cause, complementing each other with differing gifts and talents. As our relationship has developed and we find ourselves married almost two years, we have learned to celebrate our differences instead of being threatened by them. We are discovering a “team” mentality, seeking the Lord’s will together instead of separately. Our differing backgrounds in ministry are beginning to make sense as our lives become uniquely ours.

God recently led us into a most exciting ministry. Like I said before, our question had always been how God would marry our different visions: his for Muslims and mine for the Arts. We share a love for cities and an interest in learning more about urban church-planting through creative means. God opened the door for us to move into the city of Atlanta to help with a dying church. Here we find ourselves surrounded by a most dynamic community. Two blocks away is the biggest Mosque in the Southeast, and in the other direction a most secular art community.

I am gaining a new understanding and experience with the Muslim community while he is most interested in immersing himself in the art community and helping me lead art teams to Europe a couple of times a year. If you ask me, this is really a God designed location for us and a great training ground for where He will be sending us next.

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