Published Nov 29, 2022
In 2012 my wife, daughter, and I were sent out by our church in Los Angeles to serve as missionaries with the International Mission Board (IMB). We served as Church Planting Strategists in East Asia. This simply means we started churches and partnered with existing churches to start churches where there were no churches.
For the next eight years, we saw people come to faith and started churches to help those and others become followers of Jesus. People like Winnie, a single mother of a teenage son. When we first met Winnie, she had a lot of questions. Her friend from California had introduced her to us. He is a part of our church in L.A. She had heard his story of how he came to faith, and that story began to ignite curiosity in her to discover what was so important to him. It took her several months, but she gave her life to Christ. Soon after, she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Treatment was not an option, and her health quickly declined. Winnie passed away within a month of her initial diagnosis. The last time we were able to be with her, she had a smile on her face and assured us that she would be okay. She is now in the presence of our Savior.
There are other stories like Winnie’s, Granny B, Yeh Yeh, and others. Some like these have passed on to Glory. Others continue to live out their faith here.
Other than their faith in Christ, the church has made the biggest difference in their lives. Through the church, they were able to grow in their faith, to learn about Christ, study the Bible, and grow. For them, “Church” was not a location; it was family. It was the body of Christ.
We shared the Gospel with lots of people. Many believed, but not as many became followers of Christ. In our discipleship on the field, we stress that we are not called to be believers but followers – disciples who follow and do what the Master tells us to do. Believers are born when we share the Gospel, and they choose to accept the message of the Gospel. Disciples are made when they choose to follow. The church is God’s way of helping us follow.
You may ask, “How does that relate to me?” I would say the “church” is us. During the pandemic, the world changed. Church has changed. Very few churches understood “live-feeds,” “Zoom,” and the ins-and-outs of online church. But today, for many, that has become the norm. Yet in the end, even though the moderator or host may cut the feed and the meeting ends, the church still needs to be the church -a living, breathing community of faith that follows the commands of the Master together.
We left the mission field in March 2020. That was almost three years ago. For many missionaries like us, because of travel restrictions and government restrictions related both to the pandemic and missionary work in general, we will not return to the country we called home for so many years. I am sure you may ask, what about the work?
My response is the same. The church. The churches that we started continue. Although those same government restrictions that caused us to leave also place restrictions on how they “do” church. Nevertheless, the church is still the church – the body of Christ doing life together.