Beth is a TEAM missionary serving in South Africa with her husband, Ben, and their three young children.
Lianna: Share with us how what you are involved with helps the lost hear the proclamation of good news.
Beth: Our family is involved in theological education and discipleship in South Africa. The faithful work of church planters for many decades has resulted in a robust passion for Jesus, but there is a lack of biblical understanding and theological competence, and as a result, much syncretism. We are so excited about the potential of Africa for the spreading of gospel and are thankful to be a part in preparing South Africans for faithful gospel witness in their own contexts. It is our privilege and passion to teach God's Word and come alongside national students in their pursuit of deeper faith. We see this ministry as one of multiplication, that as students are transformed by a deeper knowledge of God's Word and faithfully take it out into their contexts, as a result, their families, their communities, and their nation will also be transformed by God.
A story might help to illustrate: few weeks ago, my husband and I were asked by fellow colleagues to tag along a few afternoons one week as the Children's Ministries class was putting a five-day club at a local school. They needed extra people to assess how the students led the children in memorizing verses, in Bible stories, and games. We loved being a part, seeing the children reciting Bible verses, and the students sharing about the power God has to change hearts. My husband and I both felt this was a great example of our vision for this ministry: seeing these students, personally impacted by God's Word, sharing the gospel with 150 children - praise God!
L: In addition to the very significant area of financial support, what are some of the most helpful ways you have been supported by the church?
B: From early on in our process to pursue working internationally, we understood that the Great Commission is for the whole church, and it is essential that any effective ministry be rooted in and flowing out of the body of Christ. To that end, we don't see people who are committed to financially supporting us or praying for us as doing us a favor, but rather, fully participating in the Great Commission, and an extension of this ministry in which we are involved. We are all in this together—the spreading of the Gospel, the making of disciples, the teaching and discipling—and while our part is to go, we could not do it without those who have sent us.
We have the best partners. It is an amazing encouragement to us to see who the Lord has brought forward to participate in this ministry with us, and we are constantly aware of and thankful for the privilege of working together in the gospel with so many faithful brothers and sisters in Christ. A few of the other ways that we have been helpfully supported by the church are regular Skype meetings with our pastor, personal emails and notes of encouragement, packages with Christmas and birthday gifts for our kids, and reminders from those who are faithfully praying. It is hard to articulate just how much these extra measures of support mean to us, how they strengthen, encourage, and equip us for the work in which we are involved.
We literally could not do this work without the body.
L: What have you learned about the power of prayer?
B: Since being here, I've been realizing just how anemic my own prayer life has been, and it's been a good challenge to be more committed in prayer. I truly desire to "continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving" (Colossians 4:2). There is a tangible spiritual darkness here, and forces of evil at work that are unfamiliar to us.
A couple of months ago, an African friend confided in me about some issues she was having with her preteen daughter. One day, she even ran away from home and wasn't found for a long while. This friend indicated that her family believed it was her deceased father's spirit which was the cause of these issues and was planning to take my friend's daughter to a local sangoma (witch doctor). In that moment, I asked God what I was to say in response to this—my years of theological training hadn't exactly prepped me for this type of situation. He simply told me to pray for her, so I told my friend that I would pray for her daughter. The next week, when I saw my friend again, she said, "you won't believe it, but my daughter's issues have gone away, and I think it's because you said you would pray!"
It's fair to say that I was personally amazed as well, and challenged that in my simple act of faithfulness to pray, God is faithful and powerful to answer, to overcome all sorts of evil. Which, as we know, he will do completely in the end.
L: For those who sense a calling to be missionaries, what wisdom would you share about how to prepare?
B: From a biblical perspective, our calling is simply to love and follow Jesus, whatever our current station in life. Beyond that, if God has burdened your heart for involvement in a particular ministry, here are a few thoughts from our experience.
- Talk to your church. it is important that they see you as suited for the ministry in which you are interested. Does the church validate your gifting, your desire to serve?
- Get proper training. If you were to be involved in supportive medical missions, you'd need some sort of appropriate training. Likewise, consider the ministry and invest the time and resources to be well-trained.
- Consider the practical elements. Be informed—take a vision trip if you discern that to be wise, evaluate schooling options for kids, consider how you would respond to the culture/weather/location you are thinking of committing to.
- Pray. God, in his power and sovereignty, can open and close any door. Align your heart to his Word.
- Be obedient. There are times when I have felt like I didn't want to be overseas, but I was willing to go. And to give this willingness as my sacrifice to God, and let him take me wherever in the world he intended, for his glory, whatever the cost—this is a sweet treasure.
But ultimately, we recognize that God will provide for all of our needs, and may often lead us to situations where life is not particularly comfortable, safe, or glorious. He does not need us to accomplish his kingdom purposes, but graciously allows us to be involved. As we simply seek to be faithful day in and day out, he will be glorified. And that's all that ultimately matters. Soli deo gloria.