As I traveled in South America in 1998, I met a young Brazilian named Paulo, who had an ambitious vision to restore the lives of the hundreds of thousands of street children. But he was struggling to fund his compassionate enterprise.
I sensed an undeniable call to help this discouraged but promising servant. I rallied our church to pay for Paulo and his wife to visit the United States.
For 18 months he shared his vision all across the country. Paulo returned to Brazil with enough money to purchase a three-story ministry center in the middle of the São Paulo slums. His ministry acquired a 100-acre camp as a haven of recreation and evangelism for the slum children. All told, multiplied hundreds of lives have been reached, redeemed and reclaimed.
A few months ago, hot tears streamed down my face as a Brazilian orchestra performed for our missions conference. The 20-piece ensemble of brass, percussion, strings, and woodwinds, comprised entirely of street children from the slums of São Paulo, brought a blessing beyond words.
In the last two years over 120 of our own people have ministered in São Paulo on short-term missions excursions and many are now preparing for a full-time missions career.
This amazing story illustrates the rewards I've known because of my investment in world missions. I am convinced that pastors are the most powerful human element in shaping a missions-motivated congregation. As a pastor, I am working to fulfill that vision of church-wide involvement in global outreach.
Take me as your leader
Though I do not remember much about my first mission trip to Mexico during junior high, I do recall returning home with a keen awareness of the spiritual need, physical poverty, and incredible receptivity of people there. During my freshman year in college, I traveled with a college music team throughout several Pacific Rim countries. Flying home from Taipei, I yielded my life to God for his service—anyway, anytime, anywhere.
While I am still living in the U.S. and serving as a pastor, I've resolved that my only justification for staying in America is to give extreme leadership to a church to implement a dynamic missions vision. Otherwise I need to lessen the stockpile of Christian workers in America and get on the cutting edge in a country where the need is so great and the resources so few.
My best efforts should contribute to a passionate pursuit of the global task. Even though we have committees and administrative staff committed to our mission strategy, I want to accept the indispensable responsibility for leading the charge and fueling our congregation's interest. This is the first step. But I am learning that forceful leadership requires five additional commitments.
Missions can easily be reduced to a vague collection of maps and statistics. The only way to lead with passion in global outreach is first-hand experience of the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and emotions of the countries we're trying to reach. As one Brazilian proverb states, "The heart cannot taste what the eyes have not seen."
When I came to Arcade Church ten years ago, I asked to be allowed to travel internationally for strategic mission purposes every 12 to 18 months. This has been the secret to speaking with fervor about our missionaries and the fields in which they serve.
I'm the first to admit that I seldom feel "ready" for one of these trips. My life is packed with church and family obligations. I am always too busy. The travel is not easy on the mind or body. Over the years I have lost my luggage, my passport, several exotic meals, and my sanity (almost).