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The World Came to My Doorstep

Posted by Ruthie Hankins , 28 July 2011 · 1133 views

missions friends
My three daughters have had a very different upbringing than I did. I lived at the same address until my second year of grad school. The longest time my girls spent in one house is 4 years in a row (the length of a term of missionary service), and each has experienced at least 10 moves and 2-3 different countries before graduating high school. I didn't need a passport until I was 19 and went on a missions trip. My girls had passports as soon as we could get them propped up for a photo. I have a very small extended family--four grandparents, one uncle, one aunt and one cousin. My daughters have people they call "aunt" and "uncle" and friends who are like brothers and sisters literally around the globe.

But I don't feel I missed out. Through my growing-up years, the world came to my doorstep every January during Missions Conference week at my church. The missionaries told stories about people and places I never expected to visit. They showed pictures (with a slide projector!) of countrysides and cities that didn't look much like my suburban L.A. neighborhood. Some even brought along snake skins and blow guns (in the days before airport security checks). I didn't mind sitting in the hard pews every night because I was really interested in what they had to say.

When the missionaries moved on to the next church, their pictures stayed stuck to our turquoise refrigerator with a variety of colorful magnets. And some of them came to be more than just a face I saw when I went looking for a snack. My parents considered them friends. I remember various trips to the airport to send off or welcome home whole families of these friends. I remember the lady who played marbles on the floor with me while my mom fixed dinner--I still greet her warmly at Council and we laugh over that story. I remember the lady who came home from the Alliance Women's retreat with my mom, went into the bathroom with with her hair one color and emerged with hair of a different color (missionaries dye their hair?!?!?!) And my memories of the Vietnam War years are not so much of the news clips of soldiers and napalm but of shock and sorrow when we heard that Alliance workers had been kidnapped by the Viet Cong and others martyred at Banmethuot. And now as an adult, I have the privilege to count among my friends the children and grandchildren of some of those martyrs.

As I work in the Office of Ministry Partnerships, I hear a lot about people and churches who want to personalize missions in their congregations. There are many different ways to do that, but I think one of the simplest is to become the friend of an Alliance international worker. It will take some effort and creativity to do that when they are servng thousands of miles away, but today we have some great technology to help us--email, Facebook, Skype. My mom had to mail a handwitten letter to a missionary to introduce herself; all I have to do is send a Facebook message. But the principle remains the same--we share our lives and take an interest in theirs; we pray for their families and ministries through the ups and downs; we look for how to help or bless them in a practical way--in essence, we build a relationship.

For 20 years my heart and minsitry were in Latin America. Now the Lord has put a new region on my heart--the Balkans. My connection there is with a team of people I consider my friends. The funny thing is that I have only met some of them in person in the last few months! There are still some that I have not yet met face to face, but I hope to do so before too long.

As fall approaches, some 90 Alliance international workers will fan out across the country to visit and speak in local churches. What an opportunity this is to meet them face to face, introduce ourselves and to make new--and probably very interesting--FRIENDS.




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