Help Us Be Ready, Please!

If we value excellence, we must value training to prepare for the missions field.

Doubts about serving are in the rear-view mirror.

A Letter From Two Missionaries

God is leading us to serve Him in Glypsusa, and we are both nervous and excited. Our home church is behind us, and we are trusting the Lord to provide a host of partners who will catch a vision for the needs of the Glypsusans and our Board will guide and help us on our way.

Rich has been working as a banker, and I, Donna, have experience as a pharmacy tech, but we have both been active in our churches since we were kids. We know the gospel and the Bible, and we know how the church works, so we felt ready to go until last week.

We took a survey trip to Glypsusa last month, where we met two future team members, Mike, and Kara, who can’t wait until we can raise our support and head for the field. The Lord had used the testimonies of family friends, Bill, and Tina, to open the hearts of Mike and Kara to serve the people of Glypsusa. Sadly, Bill and Tina, and a single woman who had opened the field had all become seriously ill and had to leave the field. The single woman, Elaine, had later died. Apparently, they had all been exposed to an illness spawned in the jungle, for which they had no medicine. Though Bill and Tina wanted to return to the field, their doctors felt they should not. So, Mike and Kara had been left to serve by themselves. Both went through a kind of delayed culture shock, especially after their son was born, and no one had prepared them for that.

Mike and Kara drove us around in their Jeep and we got to see the countryside. We sampled a little of the food, and even talked with a believer who has been studying English. He told us we will need to speak Glypsusanese, but he assured us that the customs should be easy to pick up – no sweat! As we watched the people from the Jeep, we observed some strange greetings and activities that we brought to the attention of Mike and Kara, but they assured us that no one has complained about their not doing them. They explained that the people are very close, and that most decisions were made by the group.

Mike and Kara have been studying Glypsusanese with a busy interpreter, and they are progress. They are attending a Pentecostal church that was started in their town about 10 years ago by a couple from Peru. They haven’t told their Board’s Area Director about that yet, but they are sure that he would trust their judgment and experience. They both have degrees in psychology from UCLA, so they are sharp. We asked some questions about the church’s doctrinal statement, but they assured us that it is very similar to the Mission’s, and that they are just waiting until they can start a church. We asked if they have had any experience in church planting. They have not.

By the time we had arrived home, after hours of discussion, we realized that we had a lot of questions to ask. But first, we had to go through a doctrinal exam. We studied hard, and did okay, but it was clear to us that if we plan to teach and disciple people in Glypsusa, we need some more Bible training and experience in the United States. Shortly afterward, we wrote letters to our Pastor and our Director. The last line of our letter was a request from our hearts, ‘Help us to be ready, PLEASE!’”

Training For Missions

When my wife, Jan, and I realized that physical problems were closing the door to continuing ministry among the people we love in Japan, the Lord surprised us with a new area of ministry. I received a call from Bob Dyer, veteran missionary in Africa and Papua New Guinea, who had been asked by our then president, Dr. Kempton, and the ABWE Board to start a training ministry for the Mission. He asked me if I would be willing to work with him and Carolyn Haskell in developing the Intercultural Training Center. We accepted the challenge and moved to the Harrisburg area.

Though it was challenging to develop and receive approval for various aspects of training, over the space of time the ministry grew. When Bob left, Dr. Wayne Haston was asked to lead the training ministry. In writing a piece on training, I had noticed that one of the corporate values of ABWE is that of excellence. So, I wrote that if we value excellence, we must value training. Wayne desired to incorporate that value into the name of the training division. The name was changed to the Center for Excellence in International Ministries. Many years later, when Dr. John Taylor was asked to lead the department, the name was changed again, this time to Training and Resources.

For me, a driving motive in the development of various training and teaching ministries of the CEIM was from my own experience. I had come to Christ while stationed for two years in Japan. My wife was a single missionary in Japan for 15 months before we were married. I had majored in East Asian Studies: Japan, at Cal State, Hayward, and had completed two and one-half years of graduate seminary work. Jan had majored in Religious Education at a Christian college in New York. Yet, despite all that education and experience, when we were involved in leadership training and church planting, we were amazed at all the things we did not know.

We had experienced several weeks of “Candidate Seminar” as new missionaries, and during that time we learned about the mission, we heard the presentations of missionaries from various fields, and we went through our grueling Board interview where we were grilled on doctrine, but we were assigned not a single book to read about the field where we were to serve, or about what ministry should look like in that part of the world.

Like Rich and Donna in the story that begins this article, we thought we knew a lot more about the Japanese people, their language, their customs, their culture, church planting, witnessing, and teaching cross-culturally, than we really knew. So much of what we learned, we learned by trial and error.

It was my desire, and that of my colleagues, through training, teaching, and encouraging them to pursue lifelong learning, to help our new missionaries to be better equipped; better prepared to serve the Lord as guests in their new host countries. Good training and courses are now available. Better tools have been prepared. The need for Biblical studies has been recognized. Yet, the need for that kind of preparation has never been greater. So, my cry to pastors, teachers, trainers, and Administrators of all those led by the Lord to serve as missionaries is “Help them to be ready, please!” And I would encourage all our new ABWE missionaries to have a similar desire: “Help us to be ready, please!”

Jim Ruff

Jim Ruff, D.Min., is a retired missionary to Japan (20 years) and a trainer and associate director of training for ABWE for over 14 years.  With his wife, he served for a term in church planting in the Chicago area. He is the author of one of the ABWE Bible courses and serves as a proctor for missionaries taking the Methods of Bible Study course. He has been an adjunct professor at Baptist Bible Seminary, Clarks Summit University, for 7 years.  He and his wife, Jan, have 3 married children and 12 grandchildren. Hear more from Jim on his website.