to Middle Eastt
by Kenneth D. MacHarg, LAM News
Miami (LAMNS)?Why would a missionary from Mexico serving in a
restricted Middle Eastern country be selling educational supplies rather
than spending full time preaching the Gospel? That question may come to the
mind of anyone who has heard about Marco and his wife Romy (not their real
names) who are operating a small business in addition to their mission work.
The misunderstanding comes when one assumes that
the secular work happens in place of evangelism and church planting. In
fact, it is an integral part of their ministry that makes their presence in
the country possible.
While many nations are open to the Gospel, welcome
missionaries and readily provide visas, others are closed, refuse residency
to anyone who would be seen as a religious worker and may even ban the
public assembly of Christians. Marco and Romy are using the distribution
enterprise as a means of obtaining visas, a venue for making contacts, a
source of income for other local and foreign workers who have joined them in
their ministry and a base out of which to function.
?It is illegal to preach or evangelize there,?
says LAM missionary Phyllis Bedwell in Mexico who, along with her husband
Ray, knows and mentors the Mexican couple. ?However, Marco has enjoyed
complete freedom and doesn?t miss an opportunity. He has announced Bible
correspondence courses in the newspaper and set up a literature table at
The Mexican couple has been in the Middle East for
over six years, but due to the difficulty of the situation where they work,
have spent a lot of time just getting established and making contacts. ?They
spent four years in the country?s largest city studying the language and
directing Bible correspondence courses,? Ray Bedwell says. ?They were
also involved in street, house and bus evangelism, discipleship training and
serving in a local church.?
Later they moved to a smaller city where Marco
continued his ministries while also pastoring a new congregation. During
their two years there, the couple began the process of setting up a private
?That took the better part of two years,
including the raising of $50,000,? Ray Bedwell recalls. ?Some $40,000
was loaned without interest by a large number of individuals and churches.
Another $10,000 was loaned to start the new business. We praise the Lord for
two U.S. churches that had the vision and were willing to take the risk of
loaning around $4,000 to partner with us in this venture.?
Describing the combination of business and
ministry as a return to the ?Pauline method of missionary support as
described in I Corinthians 9,?LAM President David R. Befus says it is the
?wave of the future for Latin missions. The North American model of ?pray
and pay? is often not relevant to the situation in Latin America where it
costs two to three times more to support a missionary than to support a
local pastor and the churches can?t afford it.? David says that LAM is
working with the Oregon-based Business Professional Network to access
funding from U.S. Christians for these types of efforts.
?We are aware that Marco and Romy have touched
the lives of a good number of professionals and students,? comments
Phyllis. ?The church they planted in the second city is under their
supervision and is prospering, doing discipleship, praying and raising up
leaders. Their beginnings (in a third town where there were no known
Christians when they arrived) are grassroots, making contacts and friends.?
How do local people respond in a society where
conversion to Christianity is often against the law? ?They have found
people to be responsive but fearful of the consequences in family and
society should they be converted,? Phyllis says. ?One of the believers
came to them after having had a vision of Jesus four years earlier in which
He told her to follow Him. She had obtained a Bible and has been reading it
since the vision, searching for Jesus, saying she knew she had to find Him
and follow Him.?
While Marco is dividing his time between
evangelism, church planting and the business, Romy is also involved in
ministry. She has led classes for children, hosted local women at afternoon
teas and home groups, given direction to discipleship groups and overseen
the development of new leaders.
?The goal of the Mexican couple?s work is ?to
plant self-propagating churches in the country,? Ray says. ?Marco has
now trained and appointed a local pastor and travels to another city each
week to oversee the ministry.?
Currently the couple has obtained resident status
in the country. They hope to apply for citizenship at a later date in order
to identify more closely with those they are serving. The business of
distributing educational supplies will continue to open doors, provide
opportunities and give them credibility in a land where traditional methods
are not allowed.
The Latin America Mission works in partnership with churches and
Christian agencies throughout Latin America and supports missionaries and
projects in many Latin countries as well as in Spain. LAM is seeking to
place new missionaries throughout the region. The U.S. headquarters can be
reached at Latin America Mission, Box 52-7900, Miami Springs, FL 33152, by
e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling 1-800-275-8410. The mission?s web
site may be found at http://www.lam.org. LAM?s Canadian office is at 3075
Ridgeway Drive, Unit 14, Missassauga, ON L5L 5M6.