A Risky Proposition

By Scott Armstrong

I’ve been thinking about the parable of the talents recently.  And it’s making me uneasy.

You know the story, right? Matthew 25 tells us that a man gives one servant five talents, another servant two, and a final servant one.  After a long time away, the master comes back to find that the first two servants had doubled the money (a talent was worth more than a thousand dollars back then; that’s some good investing!). The third worker was cautious. He didn’t waste the money, per se, but he also didn’t invest it.  He buried it, making sure the master got his talent back when he returned; no big deal.

Except it was a big deal!  Judgment came down hard on that guy, including “darkness,” as well as “weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

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I have often heard (and even preached) from this passage that we should be good stewards with our money, taking care of it, and using it wisely for the Kingdom. Those are good principles to adhere to, but that’s not exactly what’s going on in the story.

The parable of the talents is less about “using our talents wisely” than it is about risking it all for the Master and his Kingdom.  I mean, what if the investment strategies of the first two workers had tanked? At least the final servant didn’t lose the thousand bucks! We can explain away the gamble in hindsight, but that was truly a radical decision by those two!

The massive increase of talents for those servants who risked everything isn’t a lesson in wise money management.  It is a call to step out beyond the safe and the conventional in order to live by faith. Putting everything in the hands of God is the best investment we can make, but it will also be a white-knuckling thrill ride in the meantime.

When was the last time you took a jaw-dropping, stomach-churning risk? When was the last time you stepped out in faith to such a degree that you knew it would fail if God was not in it?

There is an amazing moment in the book of Exodus, when the nation of Israel finds itself on the banks of the Red Sea.  Pharaoh’s chariots are fast-approaching, and Moses and his people start begging God to rescue them.  God’s answer is pretty blunt: “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to go forward” (Ex. 14:15).  Forward, God? You mean, into the Red Sea?! Do you see any problem with this?

To put it more bluntly, God was saying, “Stop praying and get moving!”

That’s a message I believe a lot of us need to hear…and obey.  Nevertheless, many Christians are some of the most risk averse people I know.  We’re more concerned with our own safety than with changing the world.  We’d rather be comfortable and go to heaven than share with others so they don’t go to hell.

That’s not the gospel Jesus preaches.  Leonard Sweet says in his book, The Well-Played Life, “Jesus does not want his followers, of whatever age, to hunker down and duck their heads.  Disciples are not called to avoid high-stakes risks and genuine challenges.  A disciple of Jesus operates in the world of risk.  Jesus placed himself in the firing line of history.  Sometimes he calls us to place ourselves in the firing line of history as well” (p. 169).

Signing up to go before firing lines goes against basic sanity and all human instinct to preserve ourselves.  But it seems to fit perfectly in the Kingdom: “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it” (Mt. 16:25).

Are you with me? Then let’s stop burying our talents and start daringly investing them. Let’s stop complaining about the army behind us and step into the Red Sea in front of us.  Firing lines and a transformed world await.

3 Common Misconceptions about Missionaries

*The following article was originally published by Ardeo Global:

https://www.ardeo.org/blog/2019/8/21/3-common-misconceptions-about-missionaries

We believe that to help you gain some clarity in your next steps as it comes to mission work, you should know what misconceptions exist about missionary living. The following are three things our culture tends to get wrong about what it’s like being a missionary.

1.) BEING A MISSIONARY IS A POSITION, NOT A CALLING.

There is a big difference between having a vocation and a calling. One’s vocation is centered on what you do. It’s the job description. It’s the ten thousand foot view of your purpose. But calling is the deep issue, calling is the gift that only you can bring into the world. One’s call is how one dresses their vocation.

For example, one’s vocation might be a teacher. Their calling might be completely different from their vocation, though! They may be drawn to teaching, but their God-given purpose is not just to teach; it’s to give children a safe space where they can grow into who they are meant to be. The calling goes far beyond the position we hold.

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In the same way, a person serving in missions on the foreign field may hold the title “missionary”, but their purpose is rooted and grounded in something far deeper. Maybe it’s giving local battered women their time so they know they are worthy of love. Maybe it’s praying healing over the sick on the streets, looking them in the eyes and communicating that they are known. Or maybe it’s helping others connect to God through worship. Whatever it is, the reality stands that you have something only you can give the world. Being a missionary isn’t necessarily living out your purpose. Digging down deeper into who you were created to be is how you live driven by purpose.

This doesn’t negate that God “calls” us to the mission field. But, it’s important to recognize that simply being a missionary doesn’t fulfill your call. Abba has something much deeper for you to discover. Are you excited to find out what it is?!

2.) YOU WON’T SEE MIRACLES EVERY DAY.

When people think of what life must be like for a missionary they think of the biggest, grandest, evangelical movement they could imagine. They envision missionaries constantly praying for people, constantly seeing people healed, and watching people accept Jesus as their Savior non-stop. They see tent revivals traveling city to city, demons being cast out left and right. They imagine the book of Acts spelled out in real-time.

Truth be told, being a missionary can feel rather disappointing at times. A lot of people go to the mission field with this high expectation they are going to see people run to Jesus in droves. However, the way it usually turns out is as a battle to simply get people to show up to the coffee dates you’ve set up with them to talk about the Bible.

Don’t get me wrong! Miracles do happen on the mission field. But, why is there a higher expectation to see miracles on the foreign mission field than in your own life where you’re at right now? Let’s just leave that question for you to ponder on your own.

Miracles do happen on the mission field, and they usually happen after a lot of praying and spending time with Abba. Usually after a dry season in their ministry, a missionary really learns the lesson of utter dependence on God. All of the work that we hope to see in people’s lives has been done by Him on the cross all those years ago. It’s up to Him to work his incredible mystery through us on the mission field. The only way we can see Him do what He longs to do is through intimacy with Him.

Which brings us to point 3.

3.) MISSIONARIES ARE, LIKE, REALLY SPECIAL AND HOLY.

This is probably one of the worst lies that we believe about any of the positions in ministry. You might be thinking, “I don’t think missionaries are any more holy than me.” But, it’d be worth the wager to say deep down inside there is something that fears the idea of being a missionary because you don’t feel like you measure up. Why wouldn’t you measure up if we’re all on the same plane before God.

“Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.” Col 3:11

The same spirit that is in you was in Nate Saint, Mother Teresa, and Paul! Good news, the pressure is off. You have no one to live up to. You have only to live into yourself. No other shoes to fill. Just wear your shoes!

Making the choice to do missions long-term is a big decision. Knowing that there is a deeper calling than simply being a missionary, miracles aren’t a daily occurrence, and that missionaries are not that special can help you see that you really can do this!

 

Paraguay Missionary Sacrifices Dream to Follow God

The following article was originally published at: Nazarene.org.

Yoan and Astrid Camacaro recently accepted the call to be missionaries for the Church of the Nazarene in Paraguay after serving as pastors in Ecuador for more than five years.

Both Yohan and Astrid are humble and willing to follow God’s lead wherever it might take them; however, their call to missions didn’t happen overnight. 

Yoan grew up in Venezuela in the underprivileged community of Andres Bellos. He started attending the Church of the Nazarene in his early teens and became very involved in church activities.

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Ever since he was a child, Yoan’s dream was to be a professional baseball player and rescue his family from poverty. His grandmother gave him a baseball glove as a gift when he was young, and his family quickly realized he was very talented. 

As he got older, he got better and was noticed by professional scouts. One day, he received a telephone call from the Atlanta Braves, who offered him a contract to go to America to play baseball. That same day, he received a call from his local district superintendent who believed Yoan had a gift for ministry and suggested that Yoan attend the Nazarene Seminary in Quito, Ecuador. 

Lost, Yoan went to his Bible and found the verse in Matthew 6:33: “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

At that moment, Yoan knew what he had to do. He declined the offer to play professional baseball, and he went to the seminary. 

During his time at seminary, Yoan met his wife, Astrid, who was born into a Christian home in Ecuador and felt called to ministry at 15 years old. 

Growing up, Astrid served as a youth leader and Sunday School teacher. She has always a strong passion for discipling, mentoring and involving young people in ministry and missions.

After graduating from seminary, the two were married in 2011. They lived in Venezuela for a while where their son, Yared, was born. Yoan is currently pursuing a master’s degree in cross-cultural missions with Nazarene Seminary of the Americas in Costa Rica.

In 2013, the Camacaros planted a church in Ibarra, Ecuador, where they have pastored until their recent call to missions. 

“We are excited to start this new adventure and serve God with love and passion,” the Camacaros said. “We know that great things are coming for the country of Paraguay, and we are ready to develop strategies for growth.”

Now, Yoan hopes that God will use his son to carry out his dream of becoming a professional baseball player. 

Children’s Missionary Retreat – 2019

In the midst of the reality our world lives in, where for various reasons people are increasingly moving away from God and his calling, the Church has been concerned with creating an opportunity where children can learn about the importance of love, serving others, and being part of God’s mission.

On July 16 and 17, a “Children’s Missionary Retreat (“COMi” in Spanish) was held for the first time in the Dominican Republic. The country’s five districts were represented, accompanied by national and district leaders of NMI (Nazarene International Missions), SDMI (Sunday School and Discipleship Ministries International), NCM (Nazarene Compassionate Ministries) and Global Missions volunteers. Similarly, leaders from Guatemala and Puerto Rico attended, with the special participation of Ana M. Crocker, Regional Coordinator of NMI. They all came together to bless the lives of 47 children who attended this event.

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The COMI was created with the purpose of cultivating in children the responsibility of responding to God’s call to make disciples in all nations. Through games and activities, the young participants learned the true meaning of missions and how they can be part of God’s mission. They received lessons on holistic mission, cross-cultural missions, local missions, and much more.

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Children toured the past, present and future to meet the missionaries of each era and understand their lives, their calls, and their ministries. The children also meditated on the importance of prayer through a time when they interceded for their communities, families, and missionaries. They also enjoyed songs, a theatrical presentation, and several awards.

To conclude this event, participants reflected on the life and calling of Samuel, followed by a time of prayer and thanksgiving for the life of each of the children. As we concluded the event, we were convinced: if we invest more time in teaching our children to hear the voice of God, they will not only dream of being missionaries, but they will BE our future missionaries. 

 –Elba Duson, Global Missions East District, Dominican Republic.

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Tear Down Every Barrier!

By Luz Jimenez Avendaño

“In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul.  When they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.” Acts 13:1-3 

The Christian church was mature enough to make the biggest of decisions.  They agreed, after deliberation, to take the message of the gospel to the entire world. It was a decision they made under the direction of the Holy Spirit. The men of the early church did not follow their own will, but rather the will of God.

In Acts 13:1-3, the scripture talks about prophets and teachers. These two groups served different functions. The prophets did not belong to a single congregation.  They were itinerant preachers who gave their lives to hear the Word of God and share it with their brothers in the faith. The teachers belonged to an individual local church and their job was to instruct those who had accepted the Christian faith.

This list of prophets symbolizes the universal call of the gospel. Barnabus was a Jew from Cyprus, and Lucius was from Cyrene in North Africa. Simeon was also a Jew, but the passage gives a second name: Niger. Niger is a Roman name meaning black, which indicates that he would have moved in Roman circles. Manean was a man with connections to the aristocracy and at court. Paul himself was a Jewish rabbi from Tarsus in Cilicia. This group is an example of the unifying influence of Christianity.  Men from different lands and with different backgrounds had all discovered the secret of serving together. They discovered unity in Christ.

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God calls all believers to proclaim his word around the world. We are all called to share the good news of salvation. There is much to tell. Nevertheless, our prejudice towards a culture different than our own, along with customs, traditions, legalism and vain excuses, creates a problem.  Anything that inhibits the call of the Lord serves as a barrier to us obeying His command to “go.”

The truth is that we are believers, and in response to a heavenly call, we must share the marvelous love of God so that others can know him. These men accepted the call of the Lord. They were from different cultures, but they joined together in a single team to accomplish a single goal: to preach the message to those who were dead in their sins and needed to be saved.

Now is the time to break down every barrier and preach the good news!

*Luz Jimenez has served for five years as a volunteer missionary.  She is currently serving as the Global Missions and Genesis Coordinator in the Mesoamerica North Central Field, which includes Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua.

Kierkegaard’s Parable of the Geese

Serving God in cross-cultural settings always provokes interesting conversations with those from our passport countries.  Some find our forays into missions far away as fascinating and exotic.  Nowadays, with globalization and the ability to interact with friends and colleagues all over the world, many people are somewhat nonchalant: “Ah, they are spreading the gospel just like us; they just happen to live in another country.” But still others never cease to amaze us with wide-eyed questions based in disbelief:

“How do your kids go to school there? Is there good education?”

“We know it’s dangerous there.  Do you ever go out?”

Increasingly I have come in contact with more and more Christians who are living their lives based on comfort and fear.  God is a God who always wants us safe after all, right?

Recently I came across a parable that I had read many years ago, written by the Danish thinker, Sören Kierkegaard.  It has me examining my own penchant to talk a good talk while failing to “spread my wings and fly.”  Will I – will we – embrace the adventure God has for us? Or will we continue to enjoy our comfy brand of Western Christianity?

Kierkegaard’s Parable of the Geese

“A certain flock of geese lived together in a barnyard with high walls around it. Because the corn was good and the barnyard was secure, these geese would never take a risk.

One day a philosopher goose came among them. He was a very good philosopher and every week they listened quietly and attentively to his learned discourses. ‘My fellow travelers on the way of life,’ he would say, ‘can you seriously imagine that this barnyard, with great high walls around it, is all there is to existence? I tell you, there is another and a greater world outside, a world of which we are only dimly aware. Our forefathers knew of this outside world. For did they not stretch their wings and fly across the trackless wastes of desert and ocean, of green valley and wooded hill? But alas, here we remain in this barnyard, our wings folded and tucked into our sides, as we are content to puddle in the mud, never lifting our eyes to the heavens which should be our home.’

The geese thought this was very fine lecturing. ‘How poetical,’ they thought. ‘How profoundly existential. What a flawless summary of the mystery of existence.’ Often the philosopher spoke of the advantages of flight, calling on the geese to be what they were. After all, they had wings, he pointed out. What were wings for, but to fly with? Often, he reflected on the beauty and the wonder of life outside the barnyard, and the freedom of the skies.

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And every week the geese were uplifted, inspired, moved by the philosopher’s message. They hung on his every word. They devoted hours, weeks, months to a thoroughgoing analysis and critical evaluation of his doctrines. They produced learned treatises on the ethical and spiritual implications of flight. All this they did. But one thing they never did. They did not fly! For the corn was good, and the barnyard was secure!”  

Teachers and Church Planters

By Scott Armstrong

On several occasions I’ve had the privilege of speaking with someone interested in Genesis, our ministry designed to make an impact in large cities within our region.  Sometimes these candidates have studied to be elementary or high school teachers.  “How can God use my career to plant churches in an urban context?” they ask me.

Recently I published an article that I wrote for the NYI Online Magazine that highlighted how God has used volunteer missionaries from all kinds of “secular” careers for his glory in the Genesis Initiative. In a previous entry, I shared a few more stories that didn’t fit in the limited space of the original article. Today I want to share the stories of three young teachers who are incredibly grateful for their “secular” careers, because they have opened the doors of ministry in surprising ways.

“One of the most important decisions a young person makes is what they will study when they go to college.  It will define them for the rest of their lives.  When I was 18, I had questions about what I should study, and I prayed that God would direct my decision.  I chose to be a teacher.

27797589_1799412403426391_3124110093619712361_o.jpgMy mother told me since I was six years old that I said I wanted to be a teacher, but I had forgotten.  I think that to be a teacher was in God’s plan for me.  It was through my profession that God prepared me for the mission field when I was sent to work far from home.  Now that I am serving in missions, God has used my education, work with children and teaching to open doors.  I know that we cannot separate the secular from ministry; everything that we know and everything we do should honor God.  Only through our work will God open new paths to expand his kingdom.” – Marleidy Sanchez (sent from Mexico to Panama)

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“I am a teacher, and I believe it is one of the careers that can get you most involved in the community.  A teacher knows different techniques to help with kids’ homework.  Through that contact, you can meet with parents and share the message of salvation.”
– Ingrid Jochola (sent from Guatemala to Panama)

 

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“My career as a high school social studies teacher goes beyond simply teaching in a classroom.  I believe that within this ministry I have had the chance to develop, plan, improve, and involve people in a different kind of environment, especially children.  Now I am working with the material we use in our Kids’ Club, but I am also available to share what I know with everyone involved in this new stage of service and love in order to share God with our neighbors.” – Maria de los Angeles Romero (sent from Peten, Guatemala to Queretaro, Mexico)

*For more information about Genesis, visit our website and let us know by leaving a comment in the space below.