This past weekend I spent three days with 87 missionaries and mission-minded saints from the world over. In a few days, we’ll link to more news of the event, but for now, I’d like to reflect on my impressions of that missionary retreat.
In a period in which the church is awash in doubts and questionings, the global perspective of this group provided an identity and certainty which were refreshing and encouraging.
Instead of the diet of negativity in many brotherhood newspapers and journals, I got a shot of faith with a permanent effect.
Rather than the navel-gazing and endless analyses of our problems and differences, the retreat brought together like-minded disciples focused on doing the will of God and carrying out his mission.
At a time when growth in American churches has stalled, I was thrilled to hear of wonderful progress in many parts of the world. The church of God goes forward powerfully in many countries. If American Christians have lost the vision of God’s mission, disciples in many nations are carrying it forward.
I saw old friends from across the globe and made new ones, both American and Asian.
Jon Galloway, long-term missionary in Glasgow, Scotland, says he remembers me from college, since I was an upperclassman. (He implied I was older than he.) But we never really had contact before, until last year through email. I told him about the retreat and since he was arriving in the U.S. two days ahead of it, was able to drop in for a couple days. From the time we met last week, we never lacked for conversation.
I caught up on the news with Glover and Margie Shipp, who are some of my favorite people and a great influence in my life. This year the original Belo Horizonte mission team, of which the Shipps were a part, will celebrate 40 years of their arrival on the field. My family worked in that city for 10 years. In September, we hope to meet up there again to celebrate the moment.
As I got to know John Reese, director of World Bible School, I was cheered by that ministry’s continued faithfulness to the truth, at the same time that John is fine-tuning the WBS outreach.
It was also a great time to touch base with friends such as J.C. and Betty Choate, Barbara Oliver, Michal Swain, Mike and Brenda Brooks.
National workers from India, Myanmar, and Bangladesh enriched the event even more.
Conversations during breaks and meals were pleasant and often humorous; the rapport was easy, the bonding instant. Even though many cultures and languages were represented, the commitment to preaching the gospel around the world and the experiences of culture and faith bonded us together.
Otavio Carvalho, my Brazilian brother in the Lord and co-worker in Sao Jose dos Campos, often observes that, were it not for Christ, we would have nothing in common and would probably never have met.
This missionary retreat underlined just how true his words are.
And I came away convinced, more than ever, that solutions for the body of Christ lie in doing the whole will of God and taking up anew our total commitment to fulfilling his mission in the world of preaching the gospel. As a body, and individually.
If you missed the retreat this year, word has it you can come next year.
Catch the vision. Hear the call. I saw it and heard it at a retreat where saints, rather than retreat, go courageously forward throughout the world.
This missionary retreat gave me a glimpse of encouraging forward progress.