As we approach our 20th year as missionaries here in Guayaquil, one of the questions that "disturbs us" is, how long do we continue to stay?
Our IMB regional leadership suggests the following items as indicators when the missionary should begin to trasition out of their assigned people group/population segment:
- 2-5% status of evangelization in a people group or population segment
- 1:1000 church-to-people-group or population segment ration
- widespread 2nd and 3rd generation churches being planted
- 50% of church leaders receiving leadership training
While information is difficult to come by, I am fairly confident that we have surpassed the 2-5% evangelization threshold. But does that by itself signal our need to transition out? When only 5 out of every 100 people who die will go to heaven, have we completed the task? Is it time to move on? This is a tough question for missionaries to deal with. There are no easy answers.
Another related question: if we stay, are we being more of a hindrance than a help? Most missionaries realize (whether they admit it or not) that as long as we are on the scene people tend to rely upon us. We are looked to for answers, for help, for support, for training, for money...the list is long. As long as we are here the brethren will continue to lean upon us. It is a good feeling to be needed. Missionaries have a lot to offer emerging churches. But our presence can also be a limitation. Often our presence hinders local leadership from truly coming into their own. Ownership of the work is not really theirs as long as we continue to be present.
Is it right that we remain where God has placed us when daily unreached people groups--like those featured in the right-hand side bar from the Joshua Project--reveal that 0.00% of these peoples are reached? I don't know about you, but everyday when a new UPG is featured showing anywhere from tens of thousands to MILLIONS with less than 1% reached, my heart is crushed. It is just not right. Where are the laborers? Does anyone care that virtually 100% of those dying within these UPGs will spend a Christless eternity?
Ringma continues..."there is nothing as significant as the power of the question...questions ruffle the smooth front of what we already know and open us up to new possibilities...but so often we close off the power of the question..." He concludes, "We many often think that God is only with us in the answer. He is, however, equally present in the question."
So, how long do we stay? We continue to struggle with the question. Will you pray with us and for us?