Your Mission Field in your Back Yard
By: Dr. Marc Garcia
When we mention the word missions or the missionary field immediately we gravitate towards thoughts and pictures of Africa, South America or even Central America. We imagine photos of what we have seen on TV depicting the poverty and the lack in many of these nations. Our hearts are touched at the moment as we begin to understand our purpose to help those who are less fortunate. We feel a sense of compassion for the people we are shown via pictures and are moved into action with often times a tenacious attitude to help by all means. These great experiences and thoughts are heart felt and nothing less than a standard from the scriptures so many of us claim to adhere to.
My first missionary trip was to Rwanda Africa 2 years after the genocides occurred, where we see the movie “Hotel Rwanda”. My wife and I actually sat and watched that movie before my trip. Not too sure if that was a good idea or not; however it did allow me to understand the climate of the culture. It allowed me to see through the eyes of the people and not bring my Hispanic-American culture to them but to allow Christ’s culture infuse their hurting hearts.
Yet all of these trips and reaching out to help many people, we often forget that there is a mission field in our own backyard. For some, it may seem like an influx of immigrants which then leads to each forming their own opinions, yet to others they realize no matter what the opinion, they need Christ just as much as each of us need Christ in our lives.
God in His Scripture speaks clearly and harshly concerning how we are supposed to treat the sojourner (immigrant). A forewarning – it does not agree with many of the beliefs in society today, but isn’t that usually the case with His Word and our culture or society? In Leviticus 19:33-34 (ESV) we find this being said, “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God”. In Exodus 22:21 “You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.” In Malachi 3:5, “Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts”. Deuteronomy 27:19 continues with probably one the harshest tones when it says, “Cursed be anyone who perverts the justice due to the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’”. Matthew speaking to the Jewish people says these words, (chapter 5:46-47), “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” In the book of Hebrews we read, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares”.
In reflection the question I would ask is, “have I ever entertained angels not be aware of it?”, if so then, how did I do? It is this very thought which has helped birth the passion to church plant in this community. If we can reach out to the “strangers” in our community and not entertain them but give them the tools necessary to understand their purpose and destiny. Then allow this understanding to be the propulsion they need to see it through fruition we can call that success and spiritual fruit..
Showing hospitality to strangers is an act of a missionary. After all read what is written on the stone which the statute of liberty reads (click here).If you have ever taken a missionary trip more than likely you were treated with the utmost care. You essentially where treated, for lack of a better phrase, like a king. Ever wonder why you were treated like a king? Could it be that they understand these very principles shown in the Word of God? Yet for some reason we in this great nation which I love and served defending it, have forgotten this principle.
Is it not the very reason we celebrate Thanksgiving every November historically, an act of remembrance how strangers where treated by others?
In the county of Greenville (per the 2010 census) there were 36,010 Latinos living in the county. This represented 8.3 % of the population of Greenville County. Spartanburg County speaks for 6.1% of its population who are Latino in this same census data. The numbers increase significantly as more and more looking for work, better living, and entrepreneurial opportunities relocate themselves and their family to this wonderful city.
This should be of no surprise if you reside in Greer as you drive down Wade Hampton Blvd and find the numerous Hispanic businesses. The byproduct now being those who are relocating here with a great call from God to church plant and be the “domestic missionary” in the community. Iglesia Dominio (DominioSC.org) is one of these. Located in Highway 14 of Greer and launching in October the primary goal is to help the Latino community discover their individual purpose and destiny in the overall Plan of God.
There are many people whom seem to find themselves in a cultural or societal conundrum where they struggle with what scripture says and what the law of the land says. Be it all as it may be, there is a large mission field in our community and is not our mandate to, go into all the world making disciples and baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost? Was there a condition made to this mandate? Was there a condition stating that only do this in your immediate circle and only with those of your own kind? Was there a mandate stipulated that we are only to do this when we travel to another nation we do not live in? Was there a condition on this mandate stating that we are only to exercise this mandate with US citizens? Is there a stipulation which tells us to verify their immigration status before this is done? In my years up to my doctorate studies and through today, I have not seen any of these conditions.
The society and culture we live in with its successes and failures are our direct responsibility. We have ignored the mission field in our own back yard to the comfort of exclusivity. As believers we have become many times unintentional Pharisees, who believe we are better than others. What if we as believers take responsibility for our community and truly allow the Word of God speak to us concerning the mission field in our back yard? Imagine what we can do in that spirit of unity. What could our neighborhoods look like? The thought of this for me is astonishing.
Serving in the US Navy has allowed me to see many different cultures. Serving as a minister has allowed me to see the heart of many different cultures. The hearts of these cultures are often in conflict with the culture that surrounds it. I believe in the people of Greer. I believe in the community as a whole to arise and awaken to the missionary field in their own back yard. I believe in the people of this great community to embrace others in the Love of Christ.
In our backyard you have the ability to reach out to our Mexican brothers and sisters who with their rich culture and wonderful food can be a blessing to this community. In our backyard you have the pleasure of meeting the people of Columbia, who with their tenacity and business savvy can be a blessing to our community. Meeting people from Puerto Rico in our back yard can be a wonderful experience as they share not only their culture but music and entertainment. And of course there are so many other nationalities in this community.
I was told during a meeting with a person of great influence in the Greer community these words and it rung true as he shared it with me. This local leader said to me, “Greer is progressing forward but not at the expense of its tradition”. If our tradition in Greer is based on scripture and what the Bible instructs then should not our views be governed by it, not by what many others claim should be the way? If our tradition is southern hospitality can we practice this tradition with those who are “strangers” and treat them as natives as scripture has told us?
How long will we operate in fear? Immigration at the level it has reached today is a result of one single item - 9/11. Have we not learned from the words of Job - the thing I feared has come upon me. What you fear you will attract.
My dear readers, this comes to you as a heartfelt calling to all to be a missionary in our own backyard. Reach out to those whom you would not usually. Reach out because of the love you have for your creator, reach out because you love this community, reach out because you love this state, reach out because you love this nation. How? Partner with a ministry like Iglesia Dominio who is focused on this mission field. Partner with them in time, finances, talent, in any way possible, I can personally guarantee that it will be a wonderful missions trip that can last a lifetime. Then just watch and see what God can do with our mission field in our backyard.COMPARTE