Updated: Feb 1
Written by Jerin Thomas + Nick Kadun
My (Jerin) first exposure to cross-cultural missions was at the age of 10. It was then that my church invited a missionary named Moses Paulose to speak at one of our mission conferences. I vividly remember the thrilling experiences and testimonies he shared to this very day. Having been from my home state of Kerala, India, Moses had responded to the missionary call of God call at the age of 19. This call included taking the gospel to Rameswaram, a town on Pamban Island in the southeast Indian state of Tamil Nadu, and a known, sacred pilgrimage site for Hindus. This mission conference opened the door for personal interactions between my family and Moses, a relational connection that would profoundly impact my own life and ministry, one that included years spent as a missionary.
In their recent report titled The Future of Missions, Barna’s research shines a light on the significant impact personally knowing a missionary, or international worker (IW) as they are called in many circles, is to one’s own engagement with missions. For many, this relational tie has positively impacted their personal attitudes and behaviors toward global mission engagement. Of young Christians surveyed, those with personal connections to an international worker were far more likely to say that, in the next five years, they will financially give to missions (58% vs. 46% who don’t know a missionary), pray for missionaries (54% vs. 45%) and go on a short-term (40% vs. 30%) or long-term (22% vs. 9%) missions trip. In a world that is increasingly questioning the efficacy and ethical nature of Christian missions, these numbers are significant. For more on this, check out our blog on reKindle.tv titled Evangelism: An Ethical Dilemma?
So, who are international workers (IWs), and what do they do?
International workers are women, men and families who intentionally insert themselves into cultures, countries and contexts drastically different from their own with the goal of loving, serving, building relationships with, and bringing the gospel to specific people groups, particularly those who are ‘least’ or ‘unreached.’ They are oftentimes frontline workers to poverty, slavery, injustice and pandemic, sacrificially spending themselves for the sake of others. They are bringers of peace, hope, reconciliation and good news, seeking to rebuild, restore and renew in the name of Jesus. In sum, international workers are missions with skin on! They are followers of Christ who have dedicated the entirety of their lives to the great mission of God, to sharing the gospel with those who have not yet heard nor believed in the name of Jesus. And their work matters.
And yet, this is where the issue lies for many. Far too many Christians and churches do not have personal relationships with IW's. Without a personal relationship with our IW's, the International mission might look like some abstract project or somebody else's mission. When we connect with an IW personally, we partner with them in God's mission. Though we may not be physically present with them on the mission field, we own-up the ministry with our IW's.
A close relationship and regular interactions with them will do more to awaken your church for global ministry than just about anything else could. This is possible because relationships matter. International workers matter. Relationships with international workers matter. The influence of personal relationships on our opinions is called “contact effect,” It is a proven sociological phenomenon. Personal relationship awakens care, compassion, commitment to the cause…
The ministry of Pastor Paulose has grown from one church in Rameswaram to hundreds in India and Asia through the preaching of the gospel with miracles, signs and wonders. Pastor Paulose has impacted my (Jerin) life and lives around the world by his godly character and powerful ministry.
Here are some practical steps to take:
1. Pray regularly for our IWs in your churches.
They need our prayers more than anything else. Pray for strength & perseverance, encouragement, provision, protection & safety, joy in trials, breakthrough & deliverance, divine opportunities and open hearts.
2. Invite IWs to speak in your churches, small groups or online meetings.
International workers on home assignment are looking forward to coming and minister in your churches. God will use them to stir many hearts and leave a lasting impact on many lives. And celebrate what they’re doing!
3. Introduce IWs to the young people in your church.
Create an opportunity for the young people in your church to know our International workers. It will transform their lives like it transformed mine.
4. Partner with IWs in the ministry.
Establish a partnership with our international workers to reach the unreached people groups around the world including financial support through the Global Advance Fund.
5. Get to know an IW personally.
Have them in your home. Share meals with them. Have Zoom chats with them. Hear their stories. Pray for them.
Mission matters and it matters to us.
Jesus said in Matthew 28:18-20, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”