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Article and Graphics Credit: Bethany Global University

Written by Lillian Hunsberger

The first of anything always seems to get the most attention. We know who built the first light bulb, or who was the first one to successfully determine energy through lightning.

 

 

Some of us might also know who made the first toaster, or the first car. We know a lot of the “first” milestones that occurred in the world. But if I were to ask if who the first missionary was, what would you say? Even if we stick to the New Testament, the answer is slightly unclear.

Some people would say Jesus, because well… the Sunday school answer could never be wrong. Others say, Peter, because he was given the first big sermon that is recorded after Jesus’ death. Still, others say that it would be Stephen because he was the first person seized and martyred for His faith. And even still there are those who believe it’s Philip when he travels to Samaria to preach.

So which answer is correct? They all are, depending on your definition of a missionary; interesting enough the word “missionary” isn’t even in the Bible.  However, it’s interesting to search through the first couple chapters of Acts and see who may actually fit the definition of “first missionary.”

Was Peter the First Missionary?

Peter was a missionary, no doubt. But the question comes to whether or not he was the first missionary. People look at the time when he preached a sermon during the Pentecost (Acts 2:14-41). This sermon was given to the onlookers that saw the effects of the Holy Spirit coming onto the believers. This was a sermon of love, but also of conviction.  Peter was trying to get the people to see the urgency in accepting the truth of Jesus, the reality of the Gospel.

“Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” —Acts 2:38-39

Explaining the gospel is a really big part of being a missionary, and is so important for an individual to take hold of. But that’s not the only thing that is important to take on the title “missionary”, let alone “the first missionary.”

 

 

In my opinion, Peter was being more of an evangelist in this situation. He was speaking to a group of lost, however, this was home to him. The Holy Spirit had just dwelled within them, and now He wanted to show those around Him the love and power that Christ instilled in him.

Was Philip the First Missionary?

The first story that comes up when thinking of Philip in my mind is Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch. And this was a time when Philip really encapsulated “missionary”. But that is not the first time that Philip spoke the Gospel. Only a couple verses before the story of Philip and the Eunuch we see that Philip goes and proclaims Christ in Samaria (Acts 8:4-8).

In this situation, Philip did end up getting up and going. Which could help his case in being seen as the first missionary, but Samaria was considered to be “homeland” for the disciples.

Yes, he was sent off but it wasn’t uncharted territory, it wasn’t new for him. He had followed Christ to Samaria before and even in Acts 1:8, we see the words of Christ telling them that they will be going to all of Judea and Samaria.

 

 

We see that Christ had gone ahead and already went through Samaria in John 4, it was as if to prepare them for the Holy Spirit that would sweep through the land in time. There is a peace that must come from going to familiar places, smiling at old friends, working in the same place as you had in the past.

What’s the difference between missionary and evangelist?

So Peter and Philip were defined as an “evangelists” instead of missionaries, and you may be wondering what the difference really is.

It’s not an outrageous difference. But part of it is having a willing heart in order to “go”. This is part of the command that we see in the great commission. There is an aspect of leaving the comfort and finding courage in Christ that forces you beyond being an evangelist.

 

 

“So evangelism is speaking the gospel to everyone, especially those in your culture. Missions is realizing there are cultures and linguistic groups that don’t have anybody in them to do that.

And therefore we must make a special effort to learn languages, learn cultures, do all of the anthropological, methodological thought that is necessary in order to be effective culture-crossers to plant a church there who would then do evangelism.” —John Piper

Both are going to be used by God, and both have a major impact on the society. The only difference is one is in their society and the other is on a society across the globe.

Was Paul the First Missionary?

Some also believe that Paul was the first missionary. Personally, I take this stance in the sense that Saul (known as Paul) and Barnabas, who were sent off, to Cyprus (Acts 13:1-13).

After some research, I’ve come to the realization that Christ hadn’t been recorded going to Cyprus. This is “uncharted territory”. Paul wasn’t heading off to a place he had been before, but instead going off to where He felt God was calling him. There wasn’t hesitation or questioning of God. There was simple obedience to “go.”

 

 

“To stay here and disobey God — I can’t afford to take the consequence. I would rather go and obey God than to stay here and know that I disobeyed.” —Amanda Berry Smith

Fear is something that stops so many Christians from going, from doing the things that we think God is calling us to. However, looking at Paul, we see that those willing to go, willing to do the will of the Lord, are those that God used in amazing ways.

Was Jesus the First Missionary?

Oh the sweet name that you hear time and time again when you are in a children’s Sunday School Class, or even on a small campus like BGU.

 

 

People like Dave DeVries believe that Christ is the best missionary that there ever was. And rightfully so, but you can read more of his beliefs on his blog: The Greatest Missionary Ever. I don’t disagree that Jesus was the first missionary, in some ways. But there is also the idea of considering Christ a missionary at all that doesn’t sit right with me. A missionary is going out and telling people the good news, but the Jesus is the good news.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.   John 1:1, 14

I feel like giving Jesus the title of “first missionary” is limiting Him. It’s as if we are taking some of the glory and power of what He actually did for humanity. He created a path in which we can now become Christians and walk out our faith. God is the only reason why we can actually be a missionary, He is the reason behind it and the reason for it. But He, himself, is not a missionary.

So who was the first missionary?

To be honest, I don’t think it matters who the first missionary was.  It comes down to definitions and different ideas. On Bethany campus, I asked four different people and got four different answers.

What matters is that we have more missionaries to follow in their footprints. We need people who are willing to go and “take the gospel to where it’s not”. No, it’s not going to look exactly like the testimony of Philip, or the story of Paul, or the journey of Peter. But it’s going to be a leading from God according to His will.

We need missionaries, we are always going to need missionaries. Until every person has heard the Good News, until every tribe has the chance to praise His holy name, we will need missionaries.

 

Don’t get me wrong, the simple act of going isn’t the only qualification to becoming a missionary. Being a missionary is about devoting your life to God and essentially others. It’s about allowing God to work in the midst of the discomfort of being in a new place, and dedicating your future to an eternal mindset.

Being a missionary is so much more than just a job, it’s a calling. Though explaining and understanding that in complete detail would take a lifetime; thinking through the importance of a missionary and the job title is an important first step.

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Despite being without power since Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico September 20 (over 5 months ago), Camp Caribe is functioning using several back-up generators. The Gospel continues to be shared, impacting lives for His glory. This past weekend at a retreat put on by the staff of Camp Caribe several high school students came to faith in Christ. Praise God for the transforming power of the Gospel and the hope it brings to an island that is fighting for survival. A big thank you to the mission teams that have gone down to Puerto Rico and helped get Camp Caribe up and running again.

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Eric and Mercy Mango, GMI missionaries in Malawi, traveled to Mvera in the central part of Malawi October 20-22 to help strengthen the women’s and youth ministries in the church as well as reaching out to the nearby villages with the gospel. They were accompanied by Yamikani, the National Secretary; Ephraim, the National Youth Director; three young men; and three pastors’ wives.

They were warmly welcomed by the people who had gathered waiting for their arrival. Adults and children alike were excited to see them! Some came from the mountain top where the church is located to meet them partway down the mountain because their car failed to make it to the top due to the bad road. They left the car behind and everyone had to hike with their little ones on their backs and carrying their luggage. Even the youngest ones helped as you can see in the photo on the left. The children who always enjoy an adventure enjoyed the hike up the mountain. When they finally arrived at the mountain top a wonderful meal awaited them — Nsima served with small fish called Bonya.

On the first day Eric, Ephraim, Yamikani, and three other young men from Lilongwe, accompanied by the host, Pastor Dziwiseni and other leaders in the church, went to a nearby village to show the “Jesus Film” and share the gospel. Because everyone lives so far apart, they wondered where people would come from, but the turnout was amazing. After showing the first half of the film people still wanted to see the second half that night. On the second day they had even more people. Over 400 people made public commitments to follow Christ!

While the men and boys were out doing evangelism, Mercy, along with some pastors’ wives, taught the ladies Bible lessons and some basics of baking.

They had a wonderful weekend in Mvera! If you would like to hear more about Eric and Mercy’s ministries and receive their prayer letters, email us at gmi@gracem.org and we will put you on their mailing list.

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As many of you know the BREAKTHROUGH Taikwondo Team traveled to Paraguay August 2-14, 2017, to work with GMI missionaries Alex and Deltha Gulart as well as Jerry and Sandy Bomers. The team has been able to positively impact hundreds of lives through their powerful testimony of ministry. Below they share their personal testimony of what being on the BREAKTHROUGH Taikwondo Team has meant for them.

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Paraguay was an amazing experience. Being part of BreakThrough allows me to share the Gospel in a different way. We were able to reach people across the spectrum from the poorest of communities to the wealthiest. Seeing the diversity opened my eyes and allowed me to see that the ones who have less are willing to give more. I loved seeing the children’s faces light up when they saw the performances, and seeing their ears perk up when we shared the Gospel. I could tell they were listening and I hope they took away enough to have the idea in their minds to learn more about Jesus Christ. The number of people we reached was incredible: over 3,500 people heard the Gospel. This was more than I ever thought we would reach in the short time we were in Paraguay. I shared my testimony for the first time during church and I believe it was the right time in my life to share. Though I have gone on a mission trip in the past with BreakThrough, the Paraguay trip was great in its own way because we reached so many more people, and I was stronger in my faith during this time.

After most presentations the students would surround us asking for autographs on our broken boards. One day, we went to a school and after the demo the students gathered around us and one girl came up to me and we talked for a long time about her faith and experience and how she was thrilled what we as a team were doing. I was able to connect with her on a personal level with where we were in our walk with Christ. During a lot of the trip it was hard to communicate but I was able to grow in my Spanish language skills and have meaningful conversations with others.

~Morgan Ebright

 

It was the Christmas season of 2004.  I was home on Long Island visiting my family during my two weeks of leave from Operation Enduring Freedom in Ar Ramadi, Iraq as part of the Global War on Terrorism. That Sunday evening, Grammy Powell, a congregational matriarch and a personal prayer warrior, approached me and said in her gentle, sweet, and sincere voice, “Jon, it is my prayer that someday you won’t be at war against the Muslim people, but that you’ll be able to minister to them.”

After miraculously surviving the war and having the privilege of returning home alive I made a quick visit to Grace Bible College in the fall of 2005. While visiting previous classmates and professors in the cafeteria, Dr. Sam Vinton sat down at my table. He inquired of my guerilla Army experience and listened intently to my responses. At the end of the meal before standing up and leaving he made one statement as he put his hand on my shoulder, “Jon, I pray that someday you will fight the Muslims with a Bible in your hand instead of a rifle.”

This past summer I had the unique honor to travel with the Grace Ministries International affiliated martial arts team, BreakThrough, to Ciudad del Este, Paraguay. The team performed 13 forty-five minute demonstrations of intense martial art sequences during the 11 days of ministry. Over 3,500 individuals would hear the Gospel message during these presentations – many of whom had never heard this message before. In fact, Ciudad del Este is an international city on the borders of Brazil and Argentina and has significant populations of Hindu and Muslim believers.

As BreakThrough was warming up for one of the demonstrations, Alex Gulart, GMI Missionary to Paraguay, told me to look at the crowd of 800 students that was assembling. With a huge sparkle in his eye and a smile that was horizons wide he asked, “Jon, do you see all the Muslim individuals in the crowd?” (This was evidenced by their headgear.) “Today, they will hear the Gospel for the very first time!”

BreakThrough members performed spectacular martial arts skills which included forms, self defense, and acrobatic aerial kicks.  They also break wooden boards & ceramic roofing tiles with their hands, elbows, feet, and heads. Throughout the demonstration I would present the Gospel message in three to four minute segments. That day, as I held a Bible in my hand and spoke the bad news of sin and the Good News of Jesus, I could not help but think of Grammy Powell’s and Dr. Sam Vinton’s prayers for my life. Grammy Powell has since gone on to be with our Lord and Savior in Heaven – but her prayer has been answered. Twelve years after that conversation around the cafeteria table Dr. Sam’s prayer was lived out.

Yes, the BreakThrough team and I went to Paraguay to minister, serve, and bless the people and ministry there. However, I was ministered to, served, and blessed through the experience of seeing first hand God answering tangibly the prayers of people I know personally. Thank you to all who have supported the martial arts team, BreakThrough. It is such a joy and privilege to share the Gospel by utilizing the martial arts. Paraguay was an absolutely amazing place to experience the Hand of God at work.

~Jon Young

“But God has surely listened and has heard my prayer. Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!” – Psalm 66:19-20.

 

Never in my life did I think I would be able to share the gospel with thousands, most of whom were Catholics, Buddhists, and Muslims. But thankfully, Taekwondo has given me that opportunity. During the week and a half I spent in Paraguay alongside the Breakthrough martial arts team I learned and experienced many new things.

Nearly every day during our trip we conducted at least two demonstrations at schools, parks, or other public places. We performed in front of anywhere between 30 to more than 1000 people each day. The gospel was clearly shared during each demonstration. After each presentation some adults and youth would come up to the Breakthrough team and thank us for presenting the message of Jesus Christ to them, their families, and friends. It was truly amazing to see so many people hear and be exposed to the gospel for the first time. It was also very encouraging for fellow Christians to attend our demonstrations and support our cause.

When we had no demonstrations planned for a time, we would usually go sightseeing. Three places we visited that really stood out to me were the Iguaçu Falls, a Buddhist Temple, and a Mosque. We were able to take some very neat team photos at the falls. As we were taking pictures several people would stop to see us in our taekwondo uniforms and ask us who we were and why we were dressed the way we were. We would gladly explain our purpose which would eventually open up a window for us to share the message of Christ. Even on our days off we did not stop spreading the name of Jesus.

The two other places the team visited were a Buddhist Temple and a Mosque. It was quite sad to see that people waist their time praying to Buddha or bowing down to Allah. It made me realize all the more why it was so important for people to hear the gospel. It made me see why more mission teams, such as Breakthrough, and individuals need to leave their comfort zone and share the good news with people who have never heard the name of Jesus Christ.

This year’s Breakthrough mission trip to Paraguay was truly amazing for me.  I learned and experienced so much in such a short amount of time. It was amazing to see so many Catholics, Buddhists, and Muslims hear the gospel for what might have been for some their first time.

~Berea Clark

 

During the first two weeks of August, I had the privilege of serving with BreakThrough Martial Arts to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ to over 3,000 people in Paraguay. Over the course of the two weeks, the team and I broke over 250 boards and 200 tejas using our hands, feet, elbows, and even our heads [see photo at the top]. The experience from this trip is something I will always remember. More importantly, this trip sparked a fire in my heart to serve Jesus Christ.

While on this trip, my favorite memory was when BreakThrough did a demonstration for children in one of the poorest areas of Ciudad del Este. While in the barrio of San Rafael, children and parents watched as BreakThrough presented the Gospel of Jesus Christ, with open ears. For me this was a surreal experience for two reasons. First, as a team, we showed ourselves what happens when we submit to God and allow Him to work through us. The entire time, the team put forth wonderful energy and enthusiasm for the Gospel and performance, both teaching and entertaining the spectators. Second, it made me realize how impactful this mission organization could be. Working with a local missionary, Christopher, we were able to preach to many who had never heard the Gospel before, as well as opening doors for Christopher’s mission.

This trip also taught me the value this organization holds when it comes to helping missionaries. Not only did BreakThrough reach 3,000 plus people, it opened the doors for the Gularts’ and Bomers’ mission field. Throughout our two weeks there, we performed at many local schools and other venues. These performances set a precedent for the Gularts’ and Bomers’ mission, furthering the reach of the Gospel, through their work.

By the end of the trip, I was excited for our next adventure. I hope and pray that next year’s Nicaragua trip will be more successful than Paraguay and that we may reach even more people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

We thank all of you for your prayers and support and ask that you continue to pray both for the members of BreakThrough and for BreakThrough as an organization. God bless.

~Christian Mohrhardt

 

Image credit: Artie Bowman

 

 

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Take a look at THIS VIDEO about “Breakthrough”—the GMI-affiliated taekwondo ministry team heading to our newest field, Paraguay, this summer. Through their ministry, they are hoping to reach hundreds of Paraguayans with the gospel of the grace of God. To date they have raised nearly half of the $12,000 this six-person team needs to serve in Paraguay this August. The timing for this trip could not be better as GMI missionaries Alex and Deltha Gulart and Jerry and Sandi Bomers will begin having church meetings soon in the building on which they have just recently signed a lease. Click on the link www.gracem.org in order to give your tax-deductible gift through GMI. Also, for more information about this team you can read their team letter. http://gracem.us/…/Paraguay-2017-Fundraising-letter-email.pdf

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The Bomers, Jerry and Sandi, and the Gularts, Alex and Deltha, GMI missionaries serving in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, have just announced they have signed a lease on a building where they can hold church services and other church-related activities. Prior to this they were meeting in the home of Alex and Deltha.

The building is located near two high schools, a university, a business district, and a neighborhood of homes. There is also a park with a lake nearby so it is easily accessible to everybody. To see a movie of Jerry Bomers and Alex Gulart walking through the neighborhood in Ciudad del Este showing where the new church building is located, click HERE.

Having this new building will allow for growth of the church and increases the ability to have children’s ministries separate from the main church services.

Please pray for the Bomers and Gularts as they continue in the ministries in Ciudad del Este and as they meet new people everyday when they are out in the neighborhood sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

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