The first part of this month, it was a privilege to be with a team of folks from First Family on a mission trip to Europe. Our team consisted of Dale Sikes, Tanner Battles, Kelly Bergquist, Steve Noble, Terry Johnson, and me. The purpose for our trip was to visit our partners in France, Germany, and Sweden for both encouragement and accountability.
One thing is clear when you visit partners on the field—it is a lonely, often unappreciated life. I don’t think we realize how much our prayers and notes of encouragement mean to families who live overseas for the sake of the gospel. Our role as senders and supporters is critical to the life of our partners overseas. They are on the front line of the spiritual battlefront, and we cannot underestimate the importance of both our prayer support and notes of encouragement.
One missionary family shared with us how much they appreciated receiving Christmas gifts from First Family last year. Of their multiple supporting churches, FFC was one of a very few that actually remembered them during the Christmas season and made the effort to include them in our gift-giving tradition. Little things mean so much—a quick note of encouragement or appreciation, a small gift or some extra money to purchase something fun and personal, a Skype conversation. While these things may seem inconsequential to us, they can often mean the difference for a family that is living in a foreign culture.
What challenges do our partner families face? It’s different for each family. One missionary shared how difficult it is when your children begin to grow up and return to the US for college, eventually get married, and start having a family. As a foreign missionary, you may get to see your children and grandchildren once ever 2-4 years. Conversely, for families with small children, the cost to fly home to see family and participate in some family events like a wedding can cost upwards of $10,000. Obviously, not something that can happen more than once every few years.
Spiritually, the climate in Europe is dark. While we often view Europe as the cradle of Western Civilization and the impetus for the great missionary outreaches of the last two hundred years, today, Evangelical Christianity in most of Europe is less than 2 percent. In many countries, there is no longer a Christian foundation. Words like “sin,” “God,” “repentance,” and “salvation” are void of meaning. Most historic church buildings are either museums to the past or converted into some kind of government building or retail space. While there is not open opposition to Christianity in most European countries, there is ambivalence. For the most part, the church is marginalized.
Why is this important to us? Two reasons. First, we cannot underestimate the importance of supporting and praying for our global partners. Whether they live in North Africa, Europe, South America, Asia, or Australia, one thing is clear—they are serving out of obedience to the Lord’s command to go into all the world, and they take their calling seriously. While it is true that most of us will never move our families to a foreign field for the sake of the gospel, it is also equally true that we play a crucial role in reaching the nations for Christ.
Secondly, Europe specifically has importance to us as Americans. Of all the mission fields in the world, Europe is likely the only field that directly influences culture in America. It is clear that the political trend in America is to model ourselves after European socialism. What happens in Europe does impact America, and that makes Europe unique among the continents of the world. It is worth our investment in Europe to hopefully keep burning a very small gospel light.
Missions is more than simply sending money or families overseas. It is a worldwide movement by God to bring the gospel from every land and to every land. We all play a role. Let’s be sure that each of us take our role as seriously as the families who live and serve overseas.
This week’s R2R distinctive
Prayer (Psalm 66:16-20): I pray to God to know Him, to lay my request before Him and to find direction in my daily life.
For this week’s devotional study, download this issue of The Compass.