More Missionary Interviews

I want to thank Kevin While and Stephen Underwood for taking the time to answer some questions. The hope is that you will learn and be motivated by hearing from them.

I know that God wants to use you. I know He has a plan for your life. You can make a difference. Will you at least consider the possibility that God wants to use you somewhere around the world.

You might hear someone say crazy things like 60% of Africa is saved or that South American has heard the gospel but that is clearly so not true.

Did you know that only 35% of the world even calls themselves Christian. The truth is that far less than 10% of the world is truly born again. The really isn’t any where in the world that doesn’t need more preaching.

It seems to be the thing, today, for everyone to make excuses for you to not go to the mission field. You are not needed. The internet is all the lost need, they say. There are enough churches! It is time to send money to the field and not missionaries.

The only problem with that is that Jesus said “go ye” not “send ye money!” I prefer to obey God rather than fall for what men might say to salve their conscience!

Kevin White, missionary to Bolivia answered the following questions:

If you could start over what would you do differently about your preparation and all that has brought you to where you are right now?

Looking back I can really see the Lord’s hand in the preparation that I have received with how every step, even though I didn’t know it then, was taking me to where I am. The one thing that I would do different would be to get more hands on training. I know we are always excited and rushing to get to the mission field or start our work but if we would take a little time to work with another missionary and learn we would probably save a lot of time learning the hard way once we get to the field.

What misconceptions have you had to overcome?

Before coming to the mission field I had the idea that it would be easy or quick planting a church and training a pastor. I have been very surprised at how long is really needed to take someone from zero to a mature Christian and from there to a leader ready for the ministry. In many countries it is not like the US where people have grown up in church or around church. Many of these people have little to no knowledge of the Bible and along with that many bad habits from their culture.

What was the hardest thing for you so far?

The hardest thing for me so far on the mission field has been keeping a schedule and being disciplined. When you are your own boss, so to speak and you have to make you own schedule it can be difficult to not let things slip through the cracks. It is easy to be very busy doing a lot of things, yet you don’t get done what you need. It is good to plan you day the night before and even have someone to keep you accountable if possible.

What part of being a missionary do you enjoy the most?

The greatest joy that I have in the ministry is seeing God work in people and change lives. I love to sit down with someone and answer their questions from the Bible or teach them something that can help them be the Christian that they should.

Have you had any cross cultural mishaps that might be fun to hear?

I think living in two different cultures can be difficult. In our culture here in Bolivia it is common for ladies to touch cheeks and make a kissing noise. This is also common between men and women that you know. When we first travel to the US it is hard because my first reaction is to kiss the ladies on the cheek which would not be looked on to favorably.

What advice would you give to those headed to cross cultural ministry?

If you are going to be working in cross cultural ministry the biggest thing will be your attitude. You have to go with the attitude that you are going to love the people, their food and customs. You also must be a learner if you are going to be able to adapt. You have to be very attentive to see how they do things and copy them. For example here when you are at the table you always serve others their drink before pouring yours. The interesting thing is that the things that at first you have to remember to do become part of you and you get to the point that you don’t even realize that you are doing it.

Stephen Underwood, missionary to South Africa answered the following question:

How did your family react?

When I first told my dad that I believed God wanted me to be a preacher, he told me; “you’ll never make a living doing that!” He didn’t mean it the way it sounded at the time, but I was a bit discouraged any way. What he meant was, that I would not ever make as much money as someone who worked a career in a specialized trade or skill.

It was not out of the dislike of my decision, but out of concern for my financial future that he felt this way. HOWEVER, there is one thing that I have never doubted of my dad…he always supported whatever I chose to do. (Many times to our fault!)

He always tried to give me room to be involved, learn, and be around influences in my life for the ministry. When I told him that I believed God wanted me to be a missionary, and that my family and I would be moving in that direction, he was very concerned. Questions he asked me were; “how will you support your family?” “How will you protect them?” “When will we be able to see our grandchildren?” Many of which are the same questions others have faced.

I tried to answer them as best as I could, but it was dad that really surprised me with the answer: He said, “I’ve watched you grow, travel the world, live in Peru, deploy to Iraq, and take these steps your entire life. It doesn’t surprise me that God wants you to be a missionary.” Then he told me, “I wished I had taken some of the opportunities that you have taken.

My dad passed away in November of 2014 very suddenly. From October 2013 until the day he died, mom and dad were financially supporting my family as missionaries for $100 per month. He used to tell me,” if I can support you for that, surely a church can!” 🙂

Though my dad had, and my mom still has concerns about us moving to South Africa; they have always and will always be my biggest supporter! For that, I am truly blessed.

About the author

Austin Gardner is pastor of Vision Baptist Church in Alpharetta, GA. Previously he was church planting missionary in Peru for 20 years.

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