Most missionaries have strengths and weaknesses. If you will be observant, you will find that some of the greatest helps to your ministry, your family, and yourself will come from other missionaries. A few of the lessons I have learned from missionaries are as follows:
Missionary Don Dryden taught me how to train married men to pastor.
In the Philippines, it is very difficult for a married man to go to Bible college. In fact all the students at Iloilo Baptist College are single. When I visited Brother Dryden in Haiti in 1990, I saw how he was training married men to become pastors in their local churches. His plan was probably the best ministry idea in our work since that day. Now many of our graduates have night-time institutes.
I also observed how Brother Dryden’s children loved the ministry and the people on the Haitian field. His children love Haiti, and his son is now serving there as a missionary.
Missionary Mel Brown taught me how to teach people in a poor country to give.
Through my contact with this missionary to the Philippines and through his writing on the subject, he has helped me much in this area. From observing him, I saw that people could give; and that even a village church could take care of its pastor.
Missionary Kevin Wynne taught me how to handle pressure.
This great missionary in Mexico City has become one of my best friends. Few missionaries have had the pressure that comes from living in a dangerous place and carrying the load of a large church and the ministry that he has. From being with him, I know that he handles pressure in two definite ways. First and foremost, he walks with God and keeps his eyes on Him. Secondly, he uses the tool of humor. The pressure of keeping his family safe is great as Mexico City is a dangerous place for foreigners to live. The financial pressure in his ministry is also great. Having a Bible college and all that ministry entails brings pressure. But when you get around him, he is very humorous. It is enjoyable being with him.
Missionary Layne Jones taught me about loyalty, friendship, and ethics.
From being around him and constantly talking to him on the phone for so many years, I have learned about loyalty and friendship. One thing I have not learned from him is how to play point guard in basketball! On the court, Brother Layne thinks he is Michael Jordan and he is not. One time I was going through a financial problem and Brother Layne sent me his entire mailing list to write his pastors. I did not use it, but what missionary would do that? Brother Layne is a true friend (except on the basketball court).
Missionary Dan Gardner and Dave Carter taught me patience, persistence, and perseverance.
These two missionaries are heroes to me because of their more than 30 years of faithfulness in Japan, a country where people are not very receptive.
Missionary Steve Heidenreich taught me how to raise money for projects.
Around 1991 we were talking one day in my house about our favorite subject, money! Brother Steve insisted, “You need to have a cause.” He was saying I needed to have projects that I believed in that were needed, ones that would be beneficial to the cause of Christ. At that time the Lord had been burdening my heart to help our graduates who were going out by faith without any monthly support, to start a church. My burden was to help these men with a good portion of the building materials needed for the shell of their first building. I took Brother Heidenreich’s advice, and since that time the Lord has enabled me to help build a large number of these buildings without ever asking anyone for any money.
Missionary Bruce Rice taught me how to be thorough and thoughtful.
On two occasions, I have visited Brother Rice’s first church that he started in Cagayan de Oro on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines. I noticed the way he paid close attention to detail. God has blessed his ministry in so many areas because he does not take short cuts. Through the years I have seen that he is very thoughtful of other people, especially older men of God.
Missionary Doug Sisson taught me how to have courage.
In the past couple of years, the city of General Santos has seen its share of violence. Two shopping centers were burned to the ground by Moslem extremists. This city has been one of the favorite hiding places of the Abu Sayyaff, the kidnappers of Missionary Martin Burnham, who later died during a rescue attempt. Brother Sisson and I talk often, and he acts like it is nothing. To me, he is a very courageous person. His children have a wonderful sense of humor. Brother Doug and his wife Becky have raised some good children.
Missionary Jon Steffey taught me the importance of having a hobby.
For about 40 years Jon’s parents have been missionaries in the Philippines. Jon was a teenager here in Iloilo when I first came as a missionary. He liked to pull pranks. One night he came over to toilet paper our yard. The next day he called to ask if anything unusual happened. I had no idea what he meant. When he told me what he had done I looked out the window. I saw some of our Bible students carefully gathering and folding all the toilet paper. They must have thought it was manna from Heaven!
After Jon went to Bible college in the United States, he returned with a wife. He has been a good friend. We call each other every couple of weeks and talk about sports, especially his beloved Cleveland Browns. He also has a flight simulator program on his computer and can fly to and from almost any airport in the world in almost any kind of plane. It does not take too much of his time, and he enjoys it. Every time I think about stopping my weekly basketball games, I see how Jon’s hobbies help keep him sane!
I could go on and on about what other missionaries have taught me. Missionary Bob Hayton in Zambia taught me about having a good attitude. Brother Bob is the perfect example of “Murphy’s Law,” what can go wrong—will go wrong. He has so many funny stories of things that happened to him but he has learned to laugh about it.
Look for the strengths in the missionaries you know. God has probably had them cross your path with the purpose of your gaining wisdom from each other.