BY JACK CRABTREE
What were the obstacles or hindrances, if any, that tempted you not to choose missions as a viable career option?
How about a “bad” obstacle and a “good” obstacle?
Bad obstacle. Initially, I was just scared, because the idea of learning an unwritten language and then translating the Bible into said language and seeing a mature church established there just sounded crazy. But God was patient with me. We visited NTM’s training center and saw the kind of thorough training we’d receive before leaving. That helped. Then we talked to those who God had used to do this same work, and we were much more encouraged, because we saw how God had been faithful in their lives. After gaining a correct Biblical perspective on world missions, I saw that my fear wasn’t a valid reason for shrinking away from the task. I realized that if I actually trusted everything God said in His Word about offering me eternal life, I needed to trust Him…with my temporal life. So, we started the 4-year process of training and getting to the field.
“Good” obstacle. No matter where we were during training, we tried to get involved in a local church. If you’re trying to live the Christian life, and you’re passionate about missions, you’re probably also the kind of person local churches would like to see stick around and help out on the home-front.
We had multiple instances as we were going through pre-field training where mission organizations offered stateside ministry positions to us. Two in particular were like dream jobs that combined my degree in writing and video with missions among the unreached. These would all have been good ministry options for us. I could have called them “strategic” too. It’s not that they were “wrong” options, but we were convinced that God wanted us to live among the least reached.
With all of the ministry opportunities, I could look around and think of someone else who could do that job, if I left and went to a tribe somewhere. I wouldn’t be leaving a giant void, if I left. However, I didn’t see many others lining up to go live in the jungle...and the trail to the jungle was still wide open. I knew that if God truly wanted to change our direction, He was plenty big enough to do it. I have friends who either didn’t make it to the field or left the field, because God changed their direction. God does do that. So in short, if you plan to minister among the least reached, run in that direction and keep running. Don’t stop unless God tackles you and sends you somewhere else.
My friends on The Traveling Team always said, “No one needs a special call to go; Christ already gave that to every believer. What you really need is a special call to stay.” I believe that what God is looking for is a genuine willingness to follow Him anywhere…whether it’s across the street to our neighbor we’ve never met or across the world to a language group we’ve never met. If we aren’t offering our lives to God with open hands, we aren’t exactly trusting that He knows best. Being willing to do anything for Christ doesn’t mean He’ll send you to the remotest corner of the planet…it means being filled with His peace and joy wherever He sends you.
What are your day-to-day responsibilities?
That’s an easy answer right now. Learning Wantakian language and culture and building relationships are my main responsibilities (aside from being a husband, father, and teammate). I’m trying to live out the Christian life in front of those who have never heard the gospel clearly. I’m trying to earn the right to one day speak this Gospel to them. Later there will be literacy development, Bible translation, lesson writing, etc., but for now there is just culture and language learning…all day every day.
Could you give me two principles that you live by that I could apply to my life?
Never tire of asking the Lord for wisdom. When I’m not asking Him for wisdom, it usually means I’m getting a little too cocky. Admitting you don’t have all the answers is healthy. It’s amazing how differently my days go, when I start off by asking Him for His advice.
The other principle I’d pass along is resting in the fact that because of Christ and His work, you are completely accepted by God. You aren’t living this life to try and make God happy with you or love you more. He already loves you as much as He’ll ever love you, because of Christ. He accepts you because of Christ. He adopted you into His family because of Christ. I think some people get into missions to try and please God, but that’s just a twisted way of thinking. God is already pleased with you, because he is pleased with Christ (who is in you). So no matter what you end up doing in this life, remember that you’re obeying God out of gratitude and love for who He is. You should not be obeying/serving Him out of fear or guilt.
What major personal quality would you be looking for in a co-worker or missionary candidate?
Humility. Teachability. These two traits are essential for a healthy team and continued personal growth in your relationships with God and others. During our four years of pre-field training, we learned so much from those who had gone before us. After getting to the field we did the same, and we’re still learning from everyone who’s a step ahead of us. So you have to be teachable, or you’ll just be frustrated.
The first years of this ministry are all about taking a learner’s role with the people you’re working among. We’re trying to learn an unwritten language and an unfamiliar culture. If we fail to model humility and teachability among our people, will they be teachable and humble when we become the teachers later. It’s also about preferring others over yourself and functioning as a team, and humility is a huge deal if you want to have a well-functioning team.
When everyone is humble and teachable, everyone continues to learn from the people, from each other and from the Lord and his Word. Like I said in the first question, we can easily try and do this ministry on our own apart from the Lord, but things aren’t going to turn out very well if we do. Humility means I correctly see my role in this ministry. God first. Others second. Myself last. Sometimes I get the order mixed up, and He has to remind me…good thing He’s always faithful!