I am really excited - and not just because I got a week away in Phoenix with LeAnn last week. I'm excited to get to introduce to you, the Riverwood family, our new missionary families! I have longed for a few years now for Riverwood to partner with some overseas missionaries who have the same heart as Riverwood... and this longing is finally fulfilled!
But before I introduce to you our two new overseas partners over the next couple of weeks, I want to take this week to briefly explain why we support overseas missions, going as far as including the monies in our budget.
As Jesus stood on a mountain top shortly before ascending to heaven, He told His followers to "Go & make disciples of all nations." (Matthew 28:19) We hear this echoed in Acts 1:8, where Jesus's followers were commanded to go to "Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth."
But as the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 10:13-15...
"For 'everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.' How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!'" (Romans 10:13-15, ESV)
Overseas missionaries are simply those individuals who have felt compelled by God's Spirit to be sent to the ends of the earth, to a particular people group, in order to preach the gospel to those who haven't heard it, so the people will have every opportunity to believe in God's love as shown through Christ and become disciples (followers) of Jesus.
In other words, overseas missionaries are simply doing what we are seeking to do right here at home.
If you grew up in a church that financially supported overseas missionaries, it is possible your church took a large offering each year, all of which went to support those missionaries. Or perhaps your church did "pledge cards" where your family pledged a certain amount to support the overseas partners of the church.
I have zero problems with those approaches, but it is important to me that Riverwood includes "ends-of-the-earth giving" in its budget. Your budget is your financial plan. So having our overseas financial support in our budget forces us to prioritize our missionaries.
To be completely transparent, we put $300/mo in our budget, which allows us to support each of our missionary partners at $150/mo. But in the minds of the Missions Decisions Team, this is only a beginning! We hope to increase that amount over the years because we believe deeply in what our two missionary families are doing.
This coming Sunday, we will introduce you via video to Azlyn McCarthy, then share more about her ministry in next week's News & Notes. We will then introduce you via video on April 3 to Josh & Hillary Smith, with more info in the April 7 edition of the News & Notes.
But how did our Missions Decisions Team select these two missionaries out of the dozen we considered?
As we considered who Riverwood is as a church, we settled on four "criteria" that would help us decide who fit best with our approach to ministry. Those four "criteria" are:
#1: Gospel-driven Discipleship/Evangelism
We looked for missionaries who saw the gospel as the heartbeat of their ministry.
#2: Overlooked populations/countries
We felt compelled to reach those who tended to be ignored.
#3: Creating Sustainable Ministry to kids & their families
We believe kids are the church of the future AND the present so wanted to support missionaries who believed the same.
#4: Long-term Relationships
Lastly, we wanted to partner with missionaries who were in it for the long haul (not just a few months) and wanted a "relationship" with Riverwood (not just our money).
Over the course of the next two weeks, you will hopefully see why we are excited to partner with Azlyn and the Smiths, who fit all four of these criteria.
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