We have a dear American missionary friend who years ago married a Bolivian man. Before they were married, he met his wife’s father and they spent a day together. Her fiancé didn’t speak English, but her father spoke Spanish. At the end of the day, she asked him how it went with her father and what he had learned. He responded with the phrase that her dad had spent the day perfecting in English with him, “There’s MORE than one way to skin a cat!”
I feel this way about missions. Especially for veteran missionaries or anyone who spends several terms on the field. Missiology is always changing along with the techniques and philosophies. People and/or churches often expect missionaries to change with the ebb and flow of the changing times. People often want to reinvent the wheel, and that’s not always a bad thing, except when they think “there’s ONLY one way to skin a cat.”
A common mantra these days is that Latin America is “reached” with the gospel. People often make this statement without investigating the facts and figures. Large parts of evangelicalism in Latin America remain theologically immature. The prosperity gospel and the Catholic traditions mixed with witchcraft are threatening the Latin American church.
Our passion and focus has always been discipleship and seeing people grow into maturity. In the last few years, James and I have invested more time in mission mobilization training. There are many benefits to mobilizing Latinos, especially in the 10/40 window. Latinos are relational and connect well with others, they are generally more flexible and resourceful than North Americans and Europeans.
During our involvement in the missionary training school, we have loved watching Vasti’s passion for India grow and flourish over the last couple of years. We have enjoyed watching her raise support and learn English, and we’re excited to see all God will do through her in India. We’re excited to see where God will lead the two other couples who feel called to evangelize in the Middle East. Helping people grow and flourish is only accomplished through discipleship, and with the prayers and support of our incredible support team.
We recently met a Latino family who went to the Middle East where they quickly integrated into the culture, and were invited into local homes within six months of their arrival. Several North American couples, who had been there several years, were still struggling to be integrated. Part of their success was their relational qualities, and their ability to blend in.
So, it seems short-sighted to pull resources out of Latin America when some missions tasks may be better accomplished through Latinos equipped with sound doctrine and skills. It doesn’t mean that North Americans can’t be called to that region; it just means, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat!”