Ministry to Ministries shares a Camino Global ministry update from John and Sheila Tarwater. Recently, my wife and I entertained a local Guatemalan family in our home, sharing a meal and an important time of conversation. After the meal, one of the visitors asked not only about what I do in Guatemala, but also why I chose to come here and not somewhere else. The question is so important, that I decided to share part of that conversation and reasoning with you.
The question actually has two parts. First, “Why did our family leave the United States to live on the mission field? And secondly, “Why did we choose Guatemala and not some other field of service? For the first question, I could offer a myriad of reasons ranging from the “call” to ministry to the great number of lost people that exist in the world. While these answers are true, I ground my particular decision to go in Christ’s command to “Go and make disciples” (Mt. 28:19 – 20). To be sure, this command of Christ to go and make disciples is true for every Christian—missionary and non-missionary alike. In fact, this command greatly influenced my response to the second question: “Why did I choose Guatemala and not some other place?”
Often implicit in this question is the recognition that there are places in the world where there seems to be a greater need of evangelism than in Guatemala. That is, some countries—especially among those that have traditionally been closed to the Gospel—have far more non-Christians than Guatemala. Why not go where the need is greater? This is an incredibly important question. Indeed, some individuals and churches chose not to support our ministry in Guatemala primarily because of this truth—there are places where these individuals believe that the need is greater.
I am convinced that part of the confusion to this answer rests in one’s understanding of the command of Christ to “go and make disciples.” If one understands this charge solely in terms of bringing people to Christ, then one will surely focus his efforts on going only to those countries where there is a greater concentration of lostness. However, I understand the command to “make disciples” to mean more than sharing the truth that Jesus saves, although this is certainly part of it. To be sure, I believe that making disciples involves a commitment to multiplying disciple-makers and not just adding Christians to the Kingdom.
That is, I could go to a country like Spain which is less than one percent evangelized and spend the greater part of my ministry sharing the life-changing message of Jesus Christ with the lost in order to see them saved. And certainly, this would be valuable.
However, I chose instead to go to Guatemala where I have the opportunity to train people from twenty-seven different countries, including Spain, so that they can share the life-changing message of Jesus Christ in their country of origin.
In this way, I have the ability to effect far more people through multiplying my ministry. Indeed, Eduardo, a gentleman from Spain with whom I had the privilege of working for a brief period, exemplifies this truth beautifully.
After our time together, Eduardo returned to Spain in order to plant a church. I spoke with him last week and he shared some of the details of his on-going ministry there. He is working in a city of more than 10,000 people, but it has only about twenty Christians. Yes, 20 out of 10,000! He now has thirty new people in his church and the prospects for growth are incredible. I truly believe that I played a significant part in those people who came to faith through his ministry in Spain, as well as those who will continue to come to Christ through his work. More importantly, through your faithfulness to support our ministry financially and prayerfully, I believe that you too played a significant role in those decisions.
Thus, we moved our family to the mission field in part because of our understanding and commitment to the Great Commission—“Go and make disciples.” We chose Guatemala because of our belief that we could best multiply our efforts through other disciple-makers here. For example, last November, my work in Guatemala opened the door for me to go to Cuba and influence disciple makers in that country. During the first ten weeks of 2014, I have twenty-five students from seven different countries through whom I can multiply the disciple-making process. Last week, I was invited to Bolivia for two weeks where again I can multiply disciple-makers. Thank you for your role in this life-changing process.