It’s the assumed imperative of Jesus’ commission of His disciples in Matthew 28:19. Go! Go across the street, go around the world, wherever, just go.
Any time I discuss missions I try to be careful not to imply that it’s just an “over there” activity. “Over there” meaning anywhere you have to fly to. Somewhere with a language change involved and an inoculation needed. For most youth groups “over there” means Mexico but as you get older “over there” tends to drift to places much farther away. Regardless, as long as you’re leaving “here” and going “there” then dog gone it, you’re doing missions in most people’s eyes. But that just ain’t right. It’s not necessarily wrong, it’s just an incomplete view of missions.
All followers of Jesus are called to missions all the time. Your mission field may be a shared cubicle at work or on the shores of Lake Tanganyika but wherever you find yourself, that’s your mission’s field. Go and “be my witnesses” Jesus instructs in Acts 1:8, “in Jerusalem, in Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth.”
If you don’t know exactly what Jesus means in Acts 1:8 you may find the N.F.S.I.A.A.V. (Norm Funk Somewhat Irreverent And Amplified Version) helpful. In this text Jesus is calling us to “go and tell people about me and begin with people who live across the street or down the hall. And don’t forget about the people you bump into at the gym or the night market. Tell people from your hometown of Kelowna or Regina too. Tell people you may even not like that much. Tell those who turn you off and come from icky places like Agassiz and Merritt. And if God calls you to leave here and go somewhere like China or India or Africa, then go and tell people there—just get your shots first!!! Then after telling whoever you meet wherever you meet them, if someone ends up wanting to walk with me too then dunk them in the water, journey with them and train them up. Challenge them to do what you did too.”
Speaking of Africa, that’s where I travelled with my family this past October. We journeyed to Kigoma, Tanzania, where Westside has partnered with a mission’s agency called Hope of the Nations. HOTN was started by Harold and Connie Knepper, rock star parents of Westside’s own Josh Knepper, the world’s second most interesting man. (Second only to that old and creepy bearded dude on TV who drinks too much Mexican beer and hangs out with girls his niece’s age who don’t exactly exude, how would you say it, brains and taste). But I digress.
Harold and Connie launched HOTN 10 years ago and have seen explosive ministry expansion since, by God’s grace. Space doesn’t allow me to explain in great detail all that HOTN has going on so let me assume some of your questions:
Does HOTN have a primary school that is in process of building a brand new school that will hold up to 300 students?
That’s a very specific question, but yes.
Does HOTN train men and women at Hope Bible College—a college it started that allows converted witch-doctors and many other Tanzanians, to learn about God’s Word so they can go back into the their tribes and tell them about Jesus?
Yes again and isn’t that fantastic?!
Has HOTN planted a church with some of the students who have gone through the Bible College? Do they have a desire to plant more churches?
Bang on, it’s called multiplication.
Does HOTN take groups (like the ones Westside has sent) up and down Lake Tanganyika by boat, because no roads exist, to drop in on indigenous tribes and tell them about Jesus as they put on camps for kids and youth?
One more time: Yes!
Does HOTN have a significant ministry to women, many of whom have been shunned and ostracized by their husbands because of barrenness, age, and/or diminishing physical attributes (a common thing for men to do in a country that allows for multiple wives)?
Sadly, I think you know the answer.
Does HOTN provide most of its training and opportunities free of charge, and do they rely on donations to do so?
I could go on assuming your questions, you ask great ones! But this is a blog post and not meant to draw on endlessly like one of my sermons.
My family and I had a great time away but more than that, we had a faith-enriching experience. As I laid out in an earlier City post from Tanzania, I did much teaching, preaching and training there. My wife, Nicole and two sons, Matthew and Micah, worked even harder than I did. Nicole taught, led and trained, with my sons helping and lending assistance wherever and whenever it was needed. It was a huge privilege for us to take our sons along and we pray that it has impacted them as much as it impacted us. The difference between talking about missions with your kids and doing missions with them is hard to quantify.
I realize that not everyone is given the opportunity to take their kids on a trip like this. However, if you are ever given the chance I can’t encourage you enough to seize it. But even if you’re never able to go to an “over there” place like Africa, don’t allow the “over here” opportunities slip by–whether you have kids or not. We can so often make the mistake of being so laser focused on “the ends of the earth” that we miss the opportunities in “Jerusalem and Judea”, can’t we? Missions is wherever God has placed us, after all.
Although this is a post highlighting HOTN, I would be amiss in not noting my continued excitement for what’s going on in India with Child of Mine and I do look forward, by God’s grace, to visiting Kenya one day and seeing the great work going on in the ministry we have partnered with there. I also want to give a shout-out to all of our local vocational missionaries who proclaim the gospel in and around Vancouver. We pray for you often. But most of all, to all you local lay missionaries living your lives here and going into the marketplace day after day with Jesus on your lips…big props to you. Picture me holding my “knucks” out – bang them. I love you lots!
Much grace to you and Merry Christmas, by the way.
P.S. Thanks again to all of you for your encouragement, prayers, notes and financial support for our trip to Tanzania. Without all of these, the trip couldn’t have happened. So thank you again.
Norm Funk is the Lead Pastor at Westside Church and has a heart for the city of Vancouver. He is married to Nicole and they have two fantastic boys.