Posted on February 17, 2023 THE GIFT TO GO

Rev. Dr. Ivan E. Greuter and his daughter, Jessamine responded with joyful hearts to an IM partner’s call for theological education and assisting in the Library and English department. Here are Dr. Greuter’s reflections:

“Jesus said, “Go!” American Baptists know the message and command of the great commission: And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20, NRSV).

Mission is part of the DNA of ABCUSA – we’re called to be missional at home, locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. Thankfully, American Baptists take seriously God’s call to Go!

But when, where, and how are we to Go!? Partnering with the Lord in God’s global mission is more than spontaneously pulling up stakes and moving our families to a foreign country on a feeling or urge without an invitation. Mission is always initiated with an invitation from the Spirit of the Lord! We join God’s mission in Christ to evangelize and serve the nations (Gen. 10-11).

Our invitation to Go! arrived on Wednesday, October 26, 2022. The Spirit of God prompted the Rev. Charles Jones, Senior Area Director at International Ministries, to contact me about a teaching need at the Liberia Baptist Theological Seminary in Monrovia, West Africa. The school needed someone to teach graduate students New Testament Theology during a two-week intensive in January 2023. My immediate response was, “Yes! Here am I, send me!” (Isaiah 6:8). I had prayerfully asked God to guide me to a short-term mission experience. Of course, I would need to ask my family and church’s permission, which they joyfully and unanimously approved. We were ready to say “yes” because the Lord had prepared our hearts, minds, and bodies for a short mission trip, thanks to prayer. Next, I needed to find a traveling companion. Jesus sent his disciples two by two into the mission field (Luke 10). To be faithful to God’s mission in the Bible, I felt compelled to find someone to travel with me. God invites us to partner in mission with family, friends, churches, agencies, international networks, etc. I do not believe God calls us to work in God’s mission field alone! After asking a couple of people to consider joining me prayerfully, God revealed my missionary partner would be our adult daughter, Jessamine. She is a senior and ABWMCR scholar at Ottawa University. Jessa was finishing her final semester in Secondary Education: English. The trip fit perfectly into her schedule before she needed to start student teaching. She served in the seminary library and the English department while I taught theology.

There were hundreds of details to address before the trip, including passports, visas, flight plans, securing supplies, multiple vaccinations, and documents. The biggest challenge was raising $7,000.00 for our travel and expenses in less than six weeks. We trusted the Lord! If God called us to Go! the Lord would provide the funding. God was faithful! God was “able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20). The Lord provided us closer to $11,000.00 for this trip. We realized the Lord had bigger plans than just teaching and working in the library. The Lord showed us several mission projects God planned to accomplish as we listened to the Spirit and our new friends in Liberia:

IM also invited us to visit the project sites funded by the One Great Hour of Sharing Offering (World Relief Committee) at the Antioch Baptist School and Church, which happens to be the special project for the American Baptist Women’s Ministry of the ABCCR.

Our primary goal for this short mission trip was to “ Go!” Be good guests.”

We were invited as honorary guests of Dr. Momolu A. Massaquoi, seminary president, and the LBTS community through our national partner, International Ministries (American Baptist Foreign Mission Society). We planned to be exceptional guests who were open, honest, humble, reliable, and obedient, just as Jesus instructed his disciples in Luke 10. The Liberians did not invite us to be rigid, demanding, bossy persons from a privileged world; shortcomings of North Americans we heard about on our previous mission trips to Albania, Costa Rica, Oklahoma, and Mexico. They needed us to be guests who quickly joined the community, submitted to their leadership, and accepted our tasks freely by asking them what to do, how to do it, when, and why. Yes, we honestly shared our limitations and needs, which they joyfully accommodated, like reducing the spiciness of the food. The trip was a success because we made countless new friends, and LBTS graciously gave us Liberian clothes and African names (yes, we have new names), and they often said, “You’re not like other north Americans. You didn’t hide out in the guest house but assimilated right away. You were flexible, humble, and didn’t tell us what to do.” The greatest joy was being asked to come again, “next time for a year or more.”

The three weeks went by quickly! There are innumerable lessons learned on this trip. We were the objects and subjects of mission; God was working on and in us as much as through us. The biggest lesson I learned was the trip was altogether gift! God invited us to “Go!” IM and LBTS invited us to “Go!” by partnering with IM’s Office of Short-Term Missions. My wife and family said, “Go!” West Side Baptist Church in Topeka said, “Go!” by giving me paid time off without using vacation. Friends and family said, “Go!” with their prayers and financial partnerships. The ABCCR Mission & Evangelism Vision Team said, “Go!” with their financial support and encouragement. Central Seminary said, “Go!” with their donation of academic journals for the seminary library. We will truly be eternally thankful for the gift to go!”