People have asked me many times, what my perspective is on missions. Having been a missionary for approximately 15 years I may have a few insights on the subject, none of which are earth shattering but none the less probably are not known or understood by those who have never been a missionary or contemplated participating on a mission’s trip.
When I was 12 years old, God called me to Ecuador to be a missionary in a Sunday night church service. I had a vision. In that vision I saw myself being paddled up a river in a wooden canoe by one a man who was behind me. We came up on a sandbar/beach area along the river. I climbed out of the canoe and the man who was paddling the canoe came and stood beside me. It was when I turned to see the man that I knew that this was the Lord. He stood head and shoulders above me, because I was still just a kid. I did not see his face but I looked straight into the white robe he had on. I had never seen a place like where we were, the trees were not the variety I was accustomed to seeing, nor the underbrush. Then I noticed people, men and women coming out of the underbrush to where we were standing. I was amazed because these full grown men were my height, that of a short 12 year old boy. I asked the Lord, “Lord, where are we and who are these people?” He answered, “We are in Ecuador and these are my people. I want you to come and tell them about me.” I had never heard of Ecuador, and didn’t know where it was or anything about it. The vision ended there.
When we arrived home after church, I told my parents about the vision. I asked my dad what, or where was Ecuador? He took the World Book Encyclopedia off the shelf and we looked it up together. After that I read everything I could about Ecuador. I was only 12 years old so I knew I couldn’t go as a missionary then. I continued with my schooling and when I graduated high school I sent my only college application off to South Eastern Bible College in Lakeland, Florida. All of my friends had sent applications off to several colleges, but I knew I had to go to Bible College and that was what I did. When God calls you, you do what you know to do then, in preparation for when you can go. It may be for a few weeks or months or years. Just do what you know to do in preparation of going.
When I met Cherryl, the mother of our daughters, and felt she was the one for me to marry, I told her about my vision and calling to be a missionary to Ecuador. She smiled and said, “I was called to be a missionary too in my younger teens, but God never told me where he wanted me to go. I am willing to go with you to Ecuador.” We took our two small children with us, Stephanne Marsh, and Keely. Stephanne graduated High School there and then our youngest Courtnee was born there. Our whole family is invested in Ecuador with our lives. And now Stephanne continues the work begun almost 40 years ago by her parents. She has the language, the heart, and she knows the pastors. Most of all she knows she is serving the Lord in doing what He has called her to do.
We finished Bible College and pastored for several years until we felt it was time to apply to the mission’s board and become missionaries. During the time after our approval, we were traveling for a year to churches raising our support as missionaries to Ecuador. I walked into a church in Grenville, SC where I was almost knocked off of my feet by what I saw. The pastor of the church was there and I asked him about the drawing. He said, if I remember correctly 40 years later who the artist was, that “it had been drawn in nightly services by Nate Saint’s brother who had been preaching a revival at the church.” There was a 4 by 8 foot chalk drawing the evangelist had drawn. What the drawing consisted of was the exact place where I had stood on the riverbank with the Lord in my vision as a 12 year old. It depicted the place where the five missionaries had been slain by the jungle Indians in 1955, when I was only 4 years old. I knew the story, but had never seen a picture of it. God reconfirmed our calling to Ecuador.
Being a missionary or to do missions work short term involves a calling. Not all receive a vision, not all are told where to go as I was. It may be a gentle voice in your heart that God wants you to be a missionary as he did with my wife. When the time and the place to go shows up on the scene of your life, you will know and God will confirm it in your spirit. Then, just go.
My wife and I did go to Ecuador and I felt called to plant churches and teach a national pastor to be the pastor and then I would move on to begin another church. My wife was called to work with the children in the community of the new church and train children’s workers. We had been in Ecuador for some 10 years before God led us to the Amazon jungle area of the country to begin working with the Shuar Indians. The only way in was by a small airplane. One thing I had done while pastoring was to get my pilot’s license. It came in handy many times there in Ecuador.
My wife and I trained pastors, and children’s workers, we also taught courses to these respective individuals in the Bible school and Seminary there in Ecuador. The churches we started all ministered to the Ecuadorian people where they were. The first church I helped start in Guayaquil is now one of the largest churches in Ecuador, The last church I started in the heart of colonial Quito is a large church, but more than that in the ensuing 38 years or so it has planted 49 other churches in the mountains of Ecuador and placed pastors in each one. It has used short term missions teams of a week or two maximum to come down for a new church plant to build a church building, or have a ministry team to the children and the area, or even a medical ministry team, and all the people that are touched for those couple of weeks or so are drawn into that new church. Then there are many small churches scattered in the country that God helped me to begin.
So you see there are no truly short term missions trips, because the results that touch those Ecuadorian lives for those few weeks, last those people through eternity. As missionaries we were privileged in Ecuador to help bring in, work with and oversee dozens of short term mission’s teams, whose ministry results kept us missionaries busy helping to teach and get those converts involved in churches and ministry. Thank you to every mission team that came to Ecuador while we were there and everyone that has come since we left the country as missionaries. God’s Kingdom continues on in His strength and guidance, without end.
As missionaries we found out and then lived by a very simple dictum: “Go where you are sent, give what you’ve got, and stay where you are put.” God will do the rest. We did our part and God did His.
God bless all who go to Ecuador on a mission’s trip to continue the work that God began even before we went in the early 80’s.