Missionaries hail from many countries

By July 17, 2009

International (MNN) — Missionaries
have been doing the work of spreading the Gospel in many countries for hundreds
of years.  Now, many of those countries
are sending their own missionaries to the ends of the earth, through their own
mission agencies, said Steve Strauss of SIM International

"This is something that is off
the radar screen of many North Americans," he explained.  "But when we think of the typical missionary
right now, the typical missionary is not an American, and there are more
missionaries from other countries than from the United States.  We are still the single largest sending
country, but Korea for example now is sending out half the number of
missionaries that we in the United States are sending, and continuing to grow
rapidly." 

Strauss and his wife recently
toured some South Asian countries where SIM is partnering with mission agencies
from other countries.  One team of
missionaries came from an array of Latin American countries like Mexico,
Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Peru. 

"In this case, most of them were
working in Muslim communities, Strauss said.  "And they were both…building relationships and
seeing Muslim folks come to Christ [and working] as hosts for short-term teams.
 Many of [the short-term teams also came] from Latin America – teams that were able to, in a very short time, make an
impact by building some relationships and sharing the Gospel with people on the
ground."

Strauss believes North American
missionaries can be as effective as these missionaries are.  However, this particular group of
missionaries has a couple advantages. 
First, they actually look like the people to whom they are
ministering. 

"It wasn't till they opened their
mouth and spoke the local language with an accent that people knew that they
were not actually from that country," Strauss said. 

The Latin Americans also had "a
willingness to plunge in, to live at the level of the people that they are
around, an eager desire to go to great lengths to share the Gospel and go to
places that North Americans might feel a little uncomfortable in," Strauss
explained.  "Just because the culture is
so different, and – what has become in our country now – a fear of Islam, makes
us afraid to go to some places.  These
folks are not afraid."

While these missionaries may be
less expensive in some ways than North American missionaries, Strauss said that
sending them to the field is still costly. 
Things like transportation to the mission field and education for missionaries'
children still cost a lot of money.  Strauss
believes it's important to have the missionaries' sending churches involved in
contributing to their support. 

‘I think it's…a good idea when
there's partnership around the world, and North American churches can help send
missionaries from some of those other countries, but only when it's combined
with a true partnership and their own church is also participating," he
said. 

African countries are also
sending more and more missionaries. 
Strauss and his wife met one East African couple working in South
Asia. 

"They were ministering…very
effectively, because they had seen many of the same religious dynamics in their
own country," Strauss said.  "And their
passion for evangelism, their passion for planting the church, and their
sensitivity to the religious dynamics that were going on made them just very,
very effective missionaries." 

Strauss does not believe the
United States should step back and play only a support role for other
missionaries. 

"If the United States slips into
missions by proxy only – that is that we're only paying for missionaries from
other countries and maybe sending out some short-term missionaries ourselves – we
are going to miss out on the cutting edge of God's blessing in what He's doing
around the world," he said. 

He requested prayer as it works
through the logistics of supporting missionaries from many different
countries. 

"The process of being truly an
international mission with missionaries from…over 50 different countries is a
challenging one," he said.  "Helping us
take care of the schooling needs for all of the children of all these various
missionaries, leading well when people come from countries with different
leadership styles – it's just very challenging to not only be going
cross-culturally to your mission field that you're going to, but having the
very missionary team that's working together be a multi-cultural team. 

"So pray for us that God would
help us bridge these barriers, because a multi-cultural team can be very, very
effective in sharing the Gospel." 

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