Last week, I had the wonderful privilege of attending the Our Generation camp at Sand Mountain Bible Camp in Trenton, Georgia. 20 missionary families and 86 middle-school-, high-school-, and college-aged students gathered together to be challenged for the cause of world evangelism. Throughout the week, campers were encouraged to give their lives to Jesus and be surrendered to His will for their lives. Many students signed a pledge which stated that they had changed their “default setting from ‘stay’ to ‘go.” In other words, their plans were to go to the mission field unless God blocks their way.
Sitting around with fellow missionaries one evening, we speculated about the percentage of pledgees that honor their commitments and follow on to be missionaries. Of course, it has only been ten years, so results are just beginning to be seen, but a trend had been noticed that many that have made this commitment have not followed the path toward the mission field (many never even starting on it).
I began to wonder about the missionaries in attendance that signed a similar pledge at the first Our Generation Camp 10 years ago: Ben Johnson (China), Anna Sparks (Chile), and my husband, Paul Taube (India). What made the difference for them? Why did they “make it” when others didn’t? Well, inquiring minds want to know, so I asked them! Their answers varied but some recurring themes could be seen throughout.
- The grace of God
All three attributed the majority of their success in staying on the path to the “good ol’ grace of God,” as I like to say. While there were many important things that contributed to their follow-through, all agreed they would not have made it had it not been for God’s amazing grace!
- Family support
They also emphasized the importance of family support. Ben, whose parents have two children who are missionaries, encouraged him to do what God wanted him to do and said, “We will stay out of the way, even if we would rather you not go to the other side of the world.”
- Church support
These three missionaries were blessed to have the support of their pastor and church family. In a missions-loving and -supporting church, this may seem like it would come naturally, but often, the shock of “losing one of their own” causes a road-block for missionaries dreaming of filling a void on the mission field. Aspiring missionaries can be supported in various ways: prayer, giving towards missions trips, involving them in ministries within the church, providing emotional and spiritual support, and simply encouraging them along their way.
- Missions focused events
Missions-focused events like the Summit and the Our Generation Camp helped them maintain a missions focus throughout the years following their commitments. Preaching and teaching by experienced missionaries served as a much-needed source of help and encouragement to these surrendered hearts. Each also noted that one of the most vital things an aspiring missionary must do is to go on a foreign missions trip. My husband always says, “From the time I surrendered to missions until now I was either on a missions trip or planning my next one.” Each trip serves as a great learning and burdening experience for a hopeful missionary. They will leave with a renewed hunger to serve God and an all-new perspective on the need for the gospel around the world.
Godly mentorship played a major role for all three missionaries. Two of these specifically mentioned the mentorship they received from more experienced missionaries. Paul had the distinct privilege of having an older brother in the ministry while Ben had the opportunity of spending time with the missionaries of Vision Baptist Missions. These immeasurably valuable relationships provided growth through discipleship, accountability, and practical learning opportunities.
Training received from experienced missionaries proved to be absolutely invaluable for Ben and Paul. They have spent the last several years with Vision Baptist Missions and at the Our Generation Training Center learning from experienced missionaries and men of the ministry about missions, deputation, language learning, ministry philosophy, and general Bible knowledge. Anna’s family, just beginning deputation, is spending more and more time connecting with the team in order to benefit from this practical source of training.
- Personal resolve
“When I signed it, I meant it.” I honestly think my husband never looked back after he signed that pledge as a fourteen year old boy. He didn’t take the commitment lightly, and apparently, neither did Ben or Anna! Ben reminded me that the pledge said, “I will set aside my aspirations for other employment and keep absolutely free from every engagement, which after prayerful attention and after consultation with the brethren shall be deemed incompatible with the object of this pledge.” He stuck to that, filtering all future decisions through the words of that commitment. Anna, also, refused to marry a man who was not committed to the same calling that she was. My husband made the same decision in terms of dating. He was going to the mission-field with or without me! Thankfully, he’s going with me!
I hope you enjoyed reading that as much as I enjoyed writing it! My prayer for this post is two-fold: 1) That those who have made commitments to serve God with their lives on the mission-field will be better educated on how to remain “on the path;” 2) That those who wish to support those who have made such commitments will be better equipped to assist them and encourage them to stay “on the path.”
I promise you: There’s no better place to be!