I began writing this article while sitting in London’s Heathrow Airport waiting for a flight to Budapest, Hungary. I was going to Eastern Europe to visit three missionary families sent out of Cleveland Baptist Church. Our church has sent some of our finest members to various places around the world. Right now we have one family in Bolivia, one family in the Ivory Coast of Africa, another family in Kenya, two families in Albania, two families in Hungary, one family in Slovakia, one family in Ireland, one family that plants churches all over the world, a single lady missionary in Mexico, and a single man missionary in Russia.
It has been my privilege, as the sending pastor, to visit a number of these families on the field and see firsthand the job they are doing. It is my desire to visit each missionary family sent by Cleveland Baptist Church as they serve the Lord on the mission field. I highly recommend that a pastor visit the mission field every year or at least every couple of years. Let me share with you some of the benefits that come out of visits to the field.
1. The missionaries sent from your church will be greatly encouraged.
Visiting shows you truly love them and are interested in them and the work that God has called them to do. It shows that the church cares enough to spend the resources to send the pastor (and if possible his wife) to visit. Rather than just talking about the folks from the church on the mission field, you have the opportunity to say that you have seen the work first hand. There are moments of discouragement in every ministry, and I am sure that mission work has more than a few; however, it is a highlight for a missionary to have his pastor and wife visit.
2. It will help you pray more intelligently.
When you know the living conditions and some of the issues that are a part of their daily lives, you are able to pray to the Lord and ask Him to help them. One of the things the Lord helped me see during a mission trip to Africa was the daily aspects of driving in such a place. There are times when I recollect my visit, and I am reminded to pray for safety and the particular things that must be dealt with on a daily basis. In Africa there are real health issues that can affect a family. The Mach and Mickey families sent by our church to the Ivory Coast and Kenya respectively have both had bouts with malaria. When an adult gets this disease, he is leveled and has no strength to be able to function properly. When a child or a teen contracts this sickness, it can be deadly. Prayer is a key for health and safety.
3. These trips will increase your burden for getting the Gospel to the world.
You cannot go into the world and see the multitudes and not be burdened for missions. When we arrived in Hungary, Brother Jim Pranger and his wife, Laura, missionaries sent out of CBC, shared with the team that their church is the only independent Baptist church in the city of Budapest. There are other independent Baptist missionaries in the country, but none of them are laboring in this great city and trying to establish an independent Baptist church.
4. You have the opportunity to take members from your church to the field.
On this particular trip, my wife and six other people went with me. These people paid their own way and were excited to experience the mission field first hand. I always try to take others with me when I go on these trips. When they come back home from trips like this, they are fired up for missions and their influence on the congregation is huge. Testimonies that they share with the church family and their personal one-on-one conversations about the mission work of the church are very important.
5. You will come home from a mission trip more compassionate and fired up for God.
I find that traveling the world makes me appreciate my own country, my own church, and my own calling even more.
I would challenge you to designate part of your mission’s budget for travel. It will make it easier for the church to afford the trip if the money is set aside and designated for that purpose. In most cases, you will be able to stay with the missionary from your church. Spending quality time with the missionary and his family is a joy and delight because you can do things for them and interact with them on a personal level.
Let me encourage you to take a mission trip this year. Plan to do so whether or not you have any missionaries sent out of your church. Encourage others to go with you. It will be a tremendous blessing to the missionaries, but you will receive the bigger blessing.