I spent last Friday and Saturday at Camp Galilee, one of our AMF camps, with our missionaries who serve in the Southeast Region. What a diverse collection of ministers! What a unique way that God has brought people together under the banner of American Missionary Fellowship!
There are the Lowders. They live in a little rural town in Kentucky, where they present the Gospel to public-school children.
Then there’s Betty Glover. She’s retired, but for forty years she worked in the “hollers.” She talks like she worked in the hollers. For someone from southern California, I found it kind of refreshing.
There are Joey and Darlena Ferguson, who live in West Virginia. They led the singing. We sang songs in a way that I’d never sung them before, but God was just as much there as in our worship services in California.
There was also Bob Carvajal from New Orleans, whose house was flooded out in Katrina. He has a call-in radio program where he answers questions about the Gospel. He loves children, and he wants to take kids from the inner city of New Orleans on foreign missions trips. He works in a different culture from the Lowders and Fergusons, but he fits there.
There was Brian Efferding. He and his wife, Lucia, live near Boca Raton, Florida. Their son, Jeremy, just got invited to play on the Junior Davis Cup team. The Efferdings work with inner-city kids, and at the same time they use Jeremy’s incredible talent and ability in tennis to reach a very wealthy group of people in Boca Raton, Florida.
All of these missionaries and their area fellowship are led by Mike and Mary Pinkerton. They just love everyone. Culture doesn’t matter to them.
With all this diversity and almost contradictory cultural baggage, we’re all about Jesus. Jesus is the common denominator. Whether it’s playing tennis, or broadcasting a radio program, or working in a public school, or pastoring a church, or running Camp Galilee (an oasis!), AMF embraces different cultures as part of what we do.
I spent an hour and a half answering questions on Saturday morning. Then I asked the missionaries, “What do you want to tell me? What do I need to know to be a good leader for you in AMF?” Almost in unison, they said, “Embrace our diversity. Don’t make us into something we’re not. We’re doing what God has called us to do with our giftedness, with our culture, and with who we are.”
You bet that’s what I want to do! I believe that AMF is one of the few missions that embraces people’s individual giftedness and allows them to express it in a way that’s powerful.