Monday, May 16, 2016

Welcoming Missionaries Home

Published in 1993 by The Christian Standard from Standard Publishing in Cincinnati, OH.

Every church can do more to reach out both at home and abroad. How we treat our missionaries can demonstrate the importance we place on those who labor, sacrificially and faithfully beyond our shores. Doug Nichols, Commission to Every Nation, told of an incident that might serve as an example for all of us:

I had already been introduced and was preparing to speak after special music number at The People's Church in Toronto, Canada. During the solo, an usher came in one of the rear doors, urgently made his way around the side, up onto the platform, and over to the pastor, Dr. Paul Smith.

The usher handed him a note. The soloist was just coming to the end of her song. Dr. Smith, after reading the note, reached over and touched my arm saying, "Wait, before you speak, I need to take care of something."

He approached the microphone and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, it is a great privilege to announce that one of our missionary families from this church has just arrived for furlough from Brazil. They arrived only an hour ago at the airport here in Toronto and were brought directly to the church. They have just now arrived at our service!"

At that time, about four ushers approached the couple and their three children, seated near the back of the church. They were escorted to the front and up the steps onto the platform. They were very shy and embarrassed. You could tell from their wrinkled clothes and haggard appearance they had been traveling for many hours.

Something then happened that I have not witnessed either before or since. As they reached the top step and began to make their way across the platform toward Dr. Smith, the 2,000 people in the auditorium rose as one and gave this shy, embarrassed little family a standing ovation!

We then witnessed the look of fear and embarrassment leave the faces of the mother, father and their three small children. It was replaced by amazement as they walked slowly across the platform to the outstretched arms of Dr. Smith.The congregation stood for several minutes as they clapped, welcoming their missionaries home!

I (and many others) stood with tears because of the beauty and family warmth of it all the elders of the church then came to the platform and circled the family as Dr. Smith led in prayer. He prayed that God would use them mightily during their furlough and return them to an effective ministry in Brazil for God's glory.

Many times, since witnessing this great event, I've wondered: why do not all churches welcome their missionaries home in this way?

Wherever we are, whatever the ethnic structure of our community, we can find lost people. As we evangelize in our "Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria," we must also reach out to the uttermost parts of the world (Acts 1:8).

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