Why We Need More Veteran Missionaries

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Yesterday after enjoying a morning of texting with parents, listening to Christmas music, and watching sports I walked over to the house of Alan and Beverly Berry for a thanksgiving meal.  The Berry’s if my count is correct have served on the Island of St. Vincent for over twenty-eight years, and that doesn’t include their years of service on other islands.

Even in a “retired stage of ministry” (I put this in quotations because retirement for a missionary isn’t the way we think of retirement) they continue serving the Lord faithfully.  Honestly the Berry’s somedays put me to shame with their level of work-ethic and energy though I’m thirty-years younger!

In between bites of turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, casserole, homemade rolls, and other amazing food we talked about life on the mission field and home. While walking back with leftovers (conveniently kept in a black plastic bag so the kids didn’t notice the food) I thanked the Lord for Mr. and Mrs. Berry, and truly felt sorry for missionaries who don’t have mentors like them.

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In the past almost every new missionary coming onto the field would have an experienced missionary couple to help them.  Initially this includes things like adapting to the culture, developing relationships, learning how ministry is done one the field, and developing a long-term view of work.  The Berry’s have done all this for me, but the greatest thing they do for me is share wisdom.

yesterday with the excitement of thanksgiving and the AMAZING FOOD I did a lot of talking (can get carried away sometimes) but usually in situations like that I try to listen to the Berrys and learn from them as much as I can.  Pastor Berry happens to be a storyteller (I am too) who loves to share stories that teach incredibly important ministry truths, and I’ve spent hours on his front porch listening to them.  At the same time Mrs. Berry has taught me countless lessons that have proved invaluable in ministering to children.

In the beginning being younger and more spastic (activity centered) there were times sitting on their front porch listening to Pastor Berry’s stories and Mrs. Berry’s insight that part of me thought “man I’ve got better things to do than sit on this porch and listen to them talk!”  But as the Lord has helped me realize their wisdom (and my lack of experience in SVG) I’m slowly learning the most important thing I can do is sit in that plastic chair and listen.  

Sadly many missionaries coming onto the field are either on their own, separated from co-workers, or all the veteran missionaries are gone.  There is no plastic chair on the porch for listening so all they can do is “try this and see if it works.”  Sometimes it does (amazingly) but often all they end up with is a big mess.

As a missionary it honestly scares me that some people may look on me as a “veteran” because I’ve been in missions for almost ten-years.  While the previous generation continues to serve faithfully in their “retired” stage, there eventually comes a day they cannot continue, and then we must ask, who will take their place?

There will come a day when God calls pastor and Mrs. Berry back to America but I hope it isn’t soon.  Because I’ll miss listening to their stories in the cool night evenings, and the wisdom they have poured into me.

Besides my stories aren’t half as good

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