Our family arrived in the U.S. from Niger in mid-May and we’ve been in almost constant motion since; visiting churches, family and friends, as well as taking care of our health and personal needs. We were privileged to visit the 2010 General Synod in Orange City and I’d like to share some random thoughts with you from that gathering.
#1. The RCA continues to employ some of the best missionaries you’ll ever encounter on the mission field. Generally, an individual RCA missionary rarely meets his or her RCA colleagues who serve in other parts of world except at General Synod. I’m always impressed and inspired by the RCA missionaries I meet as they are generally more insightful, humble, knowledgeable, sincere, effective and faithful than the majority of missionaries we bump into in our respective countries of service. I’m not trying to denigrate others, but our missionaries are truly world-class.
#2. Welcome to three newly commissioned missionaries, including two men, whom are each involved in ministry in sensitive areas, as well as Mark (and Deb) Wilson, who will serve the Lord in Cambodia. These folks have compelling faith stories and have already experienced joy and suffering for the Gospel. All are still looking for support and I know your congregation would be blessed by forming a partnership with them. Mark and I go back to being in graduate school at Michigan State University in the mid-90s and we both credit University Reformed Church and the Rev. Tom Stark for our current roles. Small world.
#3. As my former RCA colleague in Niger, Barbara, would certainly have said at the time of commissioning the new missionaries Sunday night, “Where are the female missionaries?” That’s a good question and one that deserves further investigation. Once upon a time, becoming a missionary, along with being a nurse and a teacher were one of the honored (but few) career paths for a Christian woman to choose. While it’s wonderful that women have unlimited options—including that of pastor—it doesn’t look like many females in the RCA are choosing to become a full-time missionary. Why is that?
#4. Congratulations to the 68 RCA churches that give either $40,000 or 10% of their budget to RCA mission efforts. I wonder how many of these churches are producing sons and daughters that later enter full-time ministry? I credit the spiritual formation I received from one of these 68—Ebenezer Reformed in Leighton, IA—for providing me the foundation that led toward a ministry vocation. I have a hunch there’s a link between a church’s missions/outreach activities and the raising up of future generations of ministers and missionaries, as deeds often speak louder than words. Any other thoughts on this?
#5. I learned that only 57% of RCA’s congregations contribute to the denomination’s Partnership-in-Mission (PIM) share program. While that number doesn’t include churches that contribute through gifts for Mission of the Month, other Global Mission projects or Reformed Church World Services relief efforts, it would be great if almost all RCA churches would have the goal of connecting with a RCA missionary (or family) through this financial support program. Missions and the joint sharing and supporting of missionaries could be one of the “glues” that hold the denomination together. As church multiplication brings new life to the RCA, my prayer is that these new church plants will embrace the excellent missions endeavors of the RCA in that loving and serving others in Jesus' name--wherever in the world they might be--becomes one of our denomination’s hallmarks.
#6. Could a retiring missionary have delivered a better good-bye than Jack and Susannah Dabney, missionaries to Albania? Not only does Jack deserve our plaudits for highlighting his wife's impressive ministry to Albania's poor during his GS speech, but he gets my praise for leaving Albania pastors and seminary students with a dozen (or so) Reformed theology books translated from English to Albanian! Finally, Jack told the crowd that he began his "missionary career" by praying for Albania, long before it was even possible for a Westerner to visit the country (during its long, restrictive communist era). You don't always need to cross a border to partner with God in foreign ministry!
Like every family reunion, General Synod brings the scattered family together for a time of sharing and decision-making. As a RCA missionary, it is good to have a place at our common table and to catch up with our brothers and sisters in Christ.