Disciples that Stick

A Missionary's Relationship with His Coworkers—Part 1

The Philippine Islands are a main source for expensive pearls including “The Pearl of Allah,” which was proclaimed to be the world’s largest pearl at the time it was discovered. The Muslims in the Sulu Archipelago have made their living as pearl divers for centuries. The life of a pearl diver is exciting. Very early in the morning, long before day break, boats make their way out to sea. When the sun comes up, the teams of divers go down to the bottom of the ocean to pick out the oysters containing pearls.

The men tie a rope to their waist and fasten a bucket full of rocks to the rope to help them reach the bottom quickly which is important since they don’t use oxygen tanks. The best divers are said to be able to stay under water for six minutes. I did not think that was possible until I read in the Guinness Book of Records that in 1959 a man named Robert Foster from San Rafael, California, stayed under water for 13 minutes and 42 seconds! (Of course he was dead when they pulled him out but he did get his name in the Guinness Book! Just joking about being dead.)

A missionary’s faithful coworkers are like those priceless pearls. Their ministry will depend much on the way they relate to each other.

Dr. Lee Roberson’s famous saying, “Everything rises and falls on leadership,” is never truer than on the mission field. The leaders you train to be your close coworkers on the field will most likely make or break your ministry. That is why Jesus spent most of His ministry training a few men who would carry on what He started.

First Samuel 18:1 says, “And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” The Bible says that Jonathan loved David as his own soul. These two were probably closer than most of their own family members. Missionaries need to be as close to their coworkers as Jonathan and David were to each other.

I am using the term “coworker” although I am referring only to those coworkers whom you are training and leading. I am not speaking about other missionaries with whom you work, but converts and others from the field in which you serve. This series deals with how to work with those you have already chosen to train.

Help Your Coworkers See the Value of Staying in the Same Place for a Long Time

Surround yourself with some good men who will stay with you for a lifetime if that be the Lord’s will. If you think of the men of God who have influenced you greatly you will most likely discover two things: (1) that they have stayed in one place for a long time, and (2) they have trained some good men who have stayed with them for a long time.

When a team makes long-term commitments in their hearts, the whole becomes much greater than the individual parts combined. Long-term commitments help the entire team.

Dr. Lee Roberson was a great man, but he needed a J.R. Faulkner and others who stood by his side for decades. If J.R. Faulkner had stayed in Chattanooga only a few years, Dr. Roberson would probably not have been able to accomplish as much as he did.

Just as Dr. Roberson and J.R. Faulkner did more, the missionary will also do more if he can train some men to be trusted coworkers. This means that the missionary must be trustworthy himself. The ministry the Lord has entrusted to me would be very different without the coworkers who have committed to a long-term partnership. Six of our staff have been with us as coworkers for twenty years or longer. Nineteen have been here for fourteen years or longer.

David Livingstone had Susi and Choma. William Carey had Krisna Pal. Hudson Taylor had Neng-Kuei, Wang Laedjun, and Mr. Nyi. Jonathan Goforth had Wang Feng-ao. Charles Cowman had Juji Nakada. Adoniram Judson had Maung Nau, Maung Byaay, and Maung Ing. Bob Hughes had Armie Jesalva. Jack Baskin had Daniel Kim. Don Sisk had Sogoro Ogawa.

I believe that in each of the above mentioned teams, both the missionary and the coworker were used of God, working together for a long time.

If the Lord gives you a team of coworkers who will assist you for many years, not only will you help each other, but you will also make a great impact on the people the Lord has called you to serve.

This is part one of this article. Please click here to read part two.

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