Global missionaries offer insight, testimony at Conference

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 17, 2005

Ask any minister, Demopolis First Presbyterian pastor Tommy Carr included, and they’ll tell you that not every Christian can be called into missionary work. But this weekend at First Presbyterian, Demopolis Christians will be able to learn from those who are.

They can do so by attending the 19th Annual World Missions Conference, hosted by First Presbyterian of Demopolis and running from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon. The conference will feature a number of missionaries sharing their experiences and testimony, each of which have served in foreign countries from Iraq to Chile to Japan.

“We all want to have a part in the Great Commission,” said Carr. “Everyone can’t go around the world, but by supporting these missionaries we can all take part in the spreading of the Gospel.”

The assistance that the missionaries would take with them from the conference would be threefold, according to Carr.

“Missionaries in the field need three kinds of support,” Carr said. “They need prayer support, financial support, and personal support. They have to leave behind their families and their culture for a new culture, with a new language. Because they leave a great deal behind, they need all of this support.”

According to Carr, the conference is one way to help provide them with it. Churchgoers can volunteer to offer regular daily prayer support for the missionaries, as well as receive contact information so they can correspond with the missionaries either through letters or e-mail. The conference is also an opportunity for the church to take up special offerings for the 19 different missionaries and ministries it supports financially.

For those in attendance, it’s a chance to hear first-hand accounts of how their support is helping missionaries serving around the world. The keynote speaker for the conference is a missionary referred to publicly only as Jonah of Nineveh, since his ministry takes place in a country where he could be persecuted for his beliefs.

“I think the conference is a great opportunity to come and share our friendship and love of missions,” said Jonah, briefly residing in the States and reached by phone for an interview. “We are all spreading hope and peace not only in Demopolis, but around the world. Since ’91 [when First Presbyterian began supporting Jonah] we have really appreciated the prayers and support.”

Although the specific country Jonah ministers in cannot be released for safety concerns, he acknowledges that it is in Asia and it can be dangerous. But it’s not something Jonah is concerned with.

“We do not even consider it,” he said. “There would be more danger in not doing what I’m doing. God has called me to do his work. There is personal danger, deeper danger, if you don’t follow his plan. It is so exciting to be able to truly represent His work and bring to people the Bread of Life.”

Jonah will be speaking during the conference three times, on both Friday and Saturday evenings and on Sunday morning. Other missionaries scheduled to speak include Chris Faria, a U.S. Army Chaplain who has spent time in Iraq; Earl and Rosie Adams, long-time missionaries in Peru who are preparing to minister to the Katchewa people, according to Carr, “the largest unreached group in the Americas;” Charlene Hatmaker, the first missionary First Presbyterian supported, who has served in Japan; and Johan von der Westhuizen, who has spent time in Chile.

Carr said that he hoped the testimony from those who have already lived the life of a missionary would help inspire the younger people in attendance to become more involved in mission work.

“We want to pique the interest of our young people in missions,” he said, “and then help them take the Gospel to the world.”