“Tentmaking”, a strategic ministry in which we use our professional skills to enter a country that is otherwise closed to missionaries, requires a delicate balance. Enough time and attention need to be devoted to the business to make it successful and legitimate, but it can’t distract from ministry. As a veterinarian and nurse working in a Creative Access country for the last 10 years, we have felt the tug of that tension.
A Creative Access country requires just that ….creativity. So God, in His sovereign ingenuity, placed an ordinary vet in one such country. Working a regular work week with exotic animals allowed us to learn the local ways, build relationships and trust, and gain credibility. Being able to speak the language and working among the people gave us insight into their culture and time to explore ministry opportunities. The locals recognized that we were there to genuinely benefit the people, and as a result, when God opened the door for us to share the Gospel, otherwise sceptical ears were more willing to listen. It was time well spent.
After two years in the job, God opened new doors. We started our own company and spent three years training rural animal health workers. These hands-on experiences, working side-by-side among the people, brought new opportunities for ministry. Finding the balance between business, ministry and family has been a challenge, but what we have realized is that God was using all three areas for His glory.
Running an ethical and successful business in a country wracked by corruption displays to all those watching from the sidelines that biblical morals are not a hindrance to business. It honours God.
Our family too, is carefully observed. As a visible minority, we stand out. Our kids’ kindness towards each other and the respect they show to the street sweeper is noted. Openly including our handicapped son in our daily activities instead of hiding him in the house is admired, and our everyday family life attracts people and causes them to ask questions. “Why are you so happy?” “How to you cope with living here?” “Why would you move here when we all want to move to your country?” These and many other questions open the door for us to share the hope of our lives in a country where open evangelism is forbidden. In a Creative Access country, much of the ministry portion of our work needs to be more “behind the scenes”. We are able to devote about four days a week to mentoring, discipleship, and training national pastors. Working alongside our national church planters, we have seen rapid church growth. (We saw more than 20 new churches planted and 700 decisions last year!) Many of these new believers are first-generation Christians, so we spend a good portion of our time meeting with eager young disciples to encourage them in their relationship with Christ. All those new churches also require many new pastors, but most of these passionate young men and women, who are willing to lead a church, have no biblical training. We meet with them weekly to discuss challenges, equip them for ministry, and pray through difficulties.
Our job description is not clean and tidy. Our schedules are a bit of a mess, and we often feel the tug of one responsibility while working on another. However, to our heavenly Father, who creatively placed us into this country and in this work, all these things are irrelevant. The only thing that matters to Him is that in all these areas we shine His glory into a dark part of this world that He loves so much.
Name withheld due to security.