mission work

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My sister's family are missionaries in Africa. I know why they wanted to do that work. I'm curious as to the reason(s) your family chose to be missionaries in another country.

-- Anonymous, November 28, 2001


Jo, as your question came I was preparing an article on today being our 17th anniversary in Brazil. So it gave me a boost in writing. Hope you don't mind if I answer your question through the article. Forgive me if it's more impersonal that your question deserves. I sent the article to both Forthright and the BZeal lists.

A Special Anniversary
by Randal Matheny
28 November 2001, Sao Jose dos Campos, Brazil

Alongside birthdays and wedding anniversary, November 28 registers as an important date in our family. Seventeen years ago today, Vicki, Micah, and I stepped groggily off a plane to make our home in Brazil.

Our family has since grown, my library has expanded, and my waistline threatens to bulge. Along the way we have acquired many friends, witnessed many conversions, and assisted growth in the faith.

Hardships there have been aplenty, and efforts to thwart our work. More abundant are the ties of cooperation and joyous communion in God's misson with scores of God's servants.

By coincidence, someone today asked on the Encouragement Forum why we chose to be missionaries. Though my memory has not developed like other parts of my body, I believe I can recall the main motivations.

First, through parental encouragement, I heard the divine call to help people answer God's invitation to follow Jesus. I preached my first sermon at about age 14, preached regularly when I could drive alone at 16, and have been learning ever since how to call others to the repentance that leads to salvation. Being a missionary is merely an extension of that call.

Second, I learned through travel that God had given me the capacity to learn another language and adapt to a different culture. Through his grace I have developed those abilities until only a slight accent betrays me when I speak Portuguese. And I put them to use for the gospel. (I was headed to Scotland before I was convinced, for this and other reasons, to come to Brazil.)

Third, I saw the inequities in manpower, or to put it more biblically, that laborers were few, especially outside the U.S. At a missions seminar in Karns, Tennessee, in late 1975, I heard a missionary from Vietnam describe the disparity. "If you saw ten men carrying a log, with nine on one end and one on the other, to which end would you go to help?" he asked. With that simple illustration, he helped me see why foreign missionaries were so needed.

You won't be surprised when I say all three of those reasons keep us at our post.

Today is Brazil's Thanksgiving Day, and it reminds me to render thanks to the Creator of all men for the grace of participating in his eternal mission. I have been deeply transformed by the gospel, by perseverance at this task, and by identification with the Brazilian church and culture. I'm a very different person that I was 17 years ago, better for it, by his mercy. More importantly, I can see around me the results, still meager in my eyes, but evident nevertheless, of his power, enfolding people in his forgiveness and strengthening disciples to conform more and more to the image of his beloved Son.

-- Anonymous, November 28, 2001

Wow! I had no idea my question would be so timely! Happy Anniversary and Happy Thanksgiving to your family! I have heard a few people comment that the wonderful American missionaries should be preaching here at "home". I figure a soul for God is a soul for God no matter where they live -- that whole "there is neither Greek nor Jew" thing!

-- Anonymous, November 28, 2001

Hi Randal, do you ever post any of your sermons anywhere? I would like to read them sometime if you do.

-- Anonymous, November 29, 2001

Hi, Melissa, except for trips to the U.S., all my sermons are in Portuguese. Next year I'll be preaching even more here in Sao Jose dos Campos, since my Brazilian colleague will be moving to another state to begin a training program. As editor, I do write quite a bit for Forthright Magazine. I also have a number of articles published in Meartlight. Just do a search for Matheny there and they'll pop up.

Who knows, maybe next year with more preaching to do, I may translate some of my sermons.... No guarantees, though.

-- Anonymous, November 30, 2001

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