Missionaries: A thing of the past?

by Juan Sarmiento

During our youth, many of us heard stories of remarkable Christians that risked their lives to witness to Christ often in difficult and remote places. People from Scotland, England, and the United States that responded to God’s call to serve in a culture different than their own. For others, the term “missionary” is too closely related to ethnocentric colonialism to have any positive connotation in today’s world. Although a significant number of churches in “traditionally sending countries” continue to commission missionaries, recent statistics place countries like Brazil and South Korea among those that are growing the most in the number of missionary vocations. During my recent visit with the Presbyterian Church of Mexico, I had the opportunity to interact with delightful people that are courageously crossing geographical and cultural borders motivated by God’s boundless love. Here are some of them:

Rev. Cuauhtemoc Angulo Pineda. Born in Mexico City, since the 80’s Cuauhtemoc has been organizing short term trips to expose young people to God’s work in indigenous communities. His passion for mission took him to pursue master and doctoral level studies at Reformed Theological Seminary and to plant a Hispanic congregation of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Mississippi. He has written three mission-related books and is one of the co-founders of The Mexican Presbyterian Mission Society. I will be sharing about this new mission organization in my next blog post.

Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church. Around 12 years ago a group of Presbyterians moved from Chiapas which is the most economically challenged state of the Mexican republic to seize the economic opportunities that tourism created in the Cabo area. The congregation is now starting three additional congregations. Not surprisingly, the term that they use for the leaders pioneering the new congregations is “missionary.”

Dr. Salvador Garcia de la Torre. After graduating from a prestigious medical school in Mexico City, he decided to move to the highlands of Chiapas where he met his wife Irma, a nurse who had been serving in Haiti. They both received God’s call to serve as medical missionaries in Haiti under the Mission Board of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS). They went on to serve in Zambia and Kenya. Having officially retired after four decades of mission service. When we met, he was on his way to conducting an assessment at a hospital in Malawi.

Chiapas Missionary Agency: Born out of the conviction that the Gospel is worth sharing with others, lay leaders of the Ch’ol ethnic group in Chiapas challenged their own Presbytery and then three others in the region to form an organization dedicated to sending missionaries to unreached people groups. They sent a missionary to work among the Kurds in Turkey and are currently supporting two families serving in a village with no churches in the state of Oaxaca. The missionaries living there have to travel 8 hours to reach the nearest grocery store. The agency is currently exploring the possibility of sending missionaries to serve alongside Presbyterians in Bolivia.

Sureste Presbyterian Theological Seminary. This long-standing partner of The Outreach Foundation sees that a very important part of its work is to promote the mission vision. Not only is the seminary the venue for the First Conference of The Mexican Presbyterian Mission Society but it is also emphasizing mission-related courses as part of its curriculum. Several of the volumes in its growing library have to do with ministering cross-culturally and in the next few months, they will host a youth mission mobilization event and a regional gathering of COMIMEX, an interdenominational movement that groups all the major missionary initiatives driven by Mexicans.

Are missionaries a thing of the past? If you asked most Presbyterians in places like Mexico, Brazil, and South Korea, they would tell you that nothing is farther from the truth! The Outreach Foundation is committed to working alongside the global church not only with people that we can help, but with people that can help us carry on Christ’s calling to proclaim the Gospel: True partners in God’s harvest field with whom we have the privilege of serving; in Mexico and around the world.