I just got back from a trip to GOI’s Mission Field of Mexico City. The highlight of the trip was getting to know GOI missionaries Rev. John and Karen Loh. Over my four day visit, I had lots of opportunities to observe them in action, and we had lots of time to interact. As a result I have developed a real appreciation for them and their ministry.
Karen and John solidified my understanding about what it means to be a pioneer missionary. I was reminded of the Apostle Paul’s self-understanding in Romans 15:20 and 2 Corinthians 10.
“It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation.” Romans 15:20
“Neither do we go beyond our limits by boasting of work done by others. Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our sphere of activity among you will greatly expand, 16 so that we can preach the gospel in the regions beyond you. For we do not want to boast about work already done in someone else’s territory. 17 But, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.” 2 Corinthians 10:15-17
John and Karen exemplify that same pioneer missionary spirit. Throughout their missionary career they always sought to go where there wasn’t a church, where the gospel hadn’t been preached. Once the church gets planted and is established and thriving then they feel it’s time to discern where God is leading them next. This is their shared identity as a missionary couple. They also raised a family on the field, and all the children are thriving and have accepted the faith of the parents, as God gave the Loh’s wisdom to handle their children’s education and upbringing despite moving several times .
In fact God has equipped them in remarkable ways to handle the challenges of moving into new cultures, identifying with the people, proclaim the Gospel in culturally sensitive, contextualized way, build a church from scratch and expand the ministry to reach out to the locals by forming healthy partnerships, and by thriving in a bi even tri-cultural environment.
I was amazed as John translated for us during a staff prayer meeting as he deftly switched from Spanish, to English, to Cantonese and into Mandarin. Its not just fluency with the language, he is able to be himself but interact successfully with people from diverse backgrounds. I was amazed by their people skills as they moved around the neighborhood, interacting withtheir Mexican neighbors, the immigrant Chinese, both church members and those who have yet to believe, Mexican pastors, and the multi-national staff members of a para-church ministry. The Loh’s friendliness, natural warmth, and seemingly natural, instinctive cultural sensitivity set for me a new standard of what it means to be a pioneer missionary.
I was most amazed by the ease with which John drove around Mexico City. Mexico City is a sprawling megaopolis with notoriously difficult traffic. John filled the schedule with visits all around the city. I was amazed at the calm, and the ease with which John managed to get us from place to place. I asked him how long it took to attain his level of skill. He just chuckled. Fairly soon afterwards we arrived at a traffic circle where it seemed like five different streets intersected. We needed to get to one off to our right. While other cars were trying to get to their turn offs. John deftly squeezed into the flow of traffic and then shifted lanes several times and then squirted out into the desired street. He laughed at my amazement at what just happened. He said that’s how you learn how to handle Mexico City traffic. “Just drive around a traffic circle twenty times and if you survive you got what it takes to drive in Mexico!”
It takes a special person to be thrive as a pioneer missionary. May their tribe increase! There are thousands of unreached people groups who have never heard the Gospel. So there is a great need for pioneer missionaries. God is hard at work raising up pioneer missionaries, equipping them and shaping them and calling them and sending them and helping them to be successful. Maybe you are one?