My grandfather, Lawrence Saint, made quite a few of the stained glass windows in the National Cathedral in Washington DC. On our way home from living in Mali, West Africa, Ginny and I took Shaun, Jaime, Jesse and Stephenie there for a short family history tour.
At the cathedral, I remember reading a pamphlet that read something like this. “A man asked a stone cutter what he was doing. ‘I’m chipping stone,’ the man replied glibly. The visitor asked another man doing the same thing what he was doing. His reply was enthusiastic, ‘I’m building a cathedral.’”
… And Where Are You a Missionary?
When I was in the lime rock mining business in Florida, a long time ago, a man went to one of our open-pit mines looking for me. He asked me if Nate Saint was really my father. I confirmed that he was. Then the man asked, “… and where are you a missionary?”
I had been operating a big machine and was wet and covered with lime rock. I replied, “I’m in the lime rock mining business.” He got a pained expression on his face and said, “Oh, I’m so sorry.”
Ginny and I were raising our four children to be Christ-followers. We led a growing youth group in weekly meetings showing them how the Bible related to everyday events in their lives. We were living below our means so that we could support the church where we were members. We also financially supported various mission efforts. We were sure this was what God wanted us to be doing. Yet, because we weren’t “missionaries,” I was a disappointment to this man.
Several years later, Ginny and I sold our interest in the mining business and then went back to Ecuador. We lived with the Waodani at the invitation of those members of the tribe who were closest to my aunt Rachel, whom we had just buried. I could not imagine what we needed to do for the Waodani that many other missionaries had not already been trying to do for them. But, Ginny and I were sure this was our next assignment, the next chapter God wanted to write in our lives.
The Next Chapter
A long year-and-a-half later we realized that to stay longer would make us part of the “dependency” problem that had been debilitating the Waodani church.
Now what? I was in my mid-forties, exhausted. I couldn’t imagine going back into business nor going to another far off part of the world to be a missionary again.
I just kept remembering what the Waodani elders had asked me. “Aren’t all God-followers supposed to teach other people to follow God’s Trail?” “Yes,” I’d replied. “Then why do foreigners keep coming to do and do for us, but never teach us to do?”
The preposterously complicated, but Biblically sound, idea of teaching frontier Christ-followers to meet the physical and spiritual needs of their own people as a door opener to share the Gospel has been my assignment for the last twenty-five years.
Everyone Has a Role to Play
Steve Buer, who grew up on a farm and followed his dad and two brothers in farming gave a talk on missions once. A man of few words, he ended by saying, “I guess what I’m trying to say is, missions is for everyone.” I am sure he had no idea he would one day lease his farmland and become a key leader of ITEC (11 years and counting).
Steve, Keith, Craig, Julie, James, Mike, and Frank just landed in Orlando. They are returning from a training trip to East Africa.
Romans chapter 10 says, “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved… But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent?” (NLT)
Every Christ-follower has a role in missions. Please don’t be disappointed in the role God has given you. The ITEC team to East Africa included a farmer, an ex-farmer, businessmen, dentists, a dental assistant, a retired military service member, and an engineer. And a lot of you ‘senders’ were on the trip, too. Numerous roles. One objective! To evangelize, disciple, and start or empower a self-sustaining indigenous church.