What a privilege it was to gather with other faithful prayer partners of the World Mission Prayer League (WMPL) at our “Annual Celebration and Prayer for the Nations” on February 18, in Minneapolis. Now, just a few days later, I’m with another fine group of Jesus followers in Rosario, Sinaloa, Mexico, where the Alianza Apostólica Luterana Mexicana (AALM) is celebrating its 75th Anniversary. Different language, different food, different people, and a strikingly different setting, but the same God and the same Good News! Above all else, including our long history of mission engagement in Mexico, this is what must define the relationship of our two organizations (see Ephesians 4:4-6). There are, however, two other important considerations that I’m beginning to think should mark the relationship between WMPL and AALM. I want to invite you to think and pray about them, too. As we listen for the “new story” that the Lord of the Harvest is writing in the life of the Prayer League, we may want to prioritize these two thoughts as we relate to all of our fields of service, but especially to our partners in Latin America.
At our Annual Celebration we heard from the book of Isaiah how the Lord planned to send his people to proclaim his glory in distant nations, and how they would return to him with “foreigners” who had become their brothers (66:19,20). Furthermore, he promised to “select some of them also to be priests and Levites” (66:21). We understand this to mean that it was and is God’s plan to call and empower spiritual leaders within every people group wherein the Gospel is received. They are to hold the same responsibilities and authority given to the leaders of those who were sent as missionaries. I suspect the Israelites might have struggled with this wildly anti-paternalistic concept, but sometimes we have, too.
I’m appreciating getting to know some of the pastors and leaders God has called from among our brothers and sisters in Mexico. They aren’t many in number (only 13 congregations in AALM), but I have found them remarkable. I can tell you that through a mix of great joys and considerable challenges, these men and women are leading well! By God’s design and calling, they are the ones to serve, disciple and equip God’s people in this place. As WMPL, it is not ours to lead them. But it certainly can be ours to partner with them! We must know well what God has called WMPL to do in the world; AALM must do the same – and where these callings complement one another, we can enthusiastically commit ourselves to partnering with them. Such Complementary Partnership is one of the dynamics we will do well to keep in mind as we consider what role the Lord wants us to have in Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America.
What might “complementary partnership” look like in Mexico? For many years now we have imagined a “Latin American WMPL,” an organization born in Latin America that does things that WMPL does. Much of the focus has been on the hope of our partner churches sending their own missionaries. To date, two have been sent by our friends in Ecuador: Gaby served in Pakistan, and Isabel is currently serving in East Asia. This is exciting! At the same time, we’ve wondered what it will take for more of it to happen. Interestingly, I’ve found that some of our fellow Lutherans in Mexico have been wondering the same thing! “Do you think we’d be able to send a missionary?” two of them asked me. “How would we get started?”
I know of only one way, really, to get started on such an outrageous endeavor. Pray. Before Jesus said “go” (Mt. 28:18), he said “pray” (Luke 10:2). That’s the way things started for WMPL. That’s still the way we do things, isn’t it? I began to wonder if we have been sufficiently committed to inviting our Latin American partners to join us in praying for the nations. Honestly, I’m not sure we have. I’ve become convinced that there is much more we could do. When I spoke to them of praying for unreached people groups who have never heard about Jesus, some of them asked me eagerly: “Where are these people? Why do they not know?” With some of them I was looking over a banner with photos of current WMPL workers. They wanted to know about each one of them and their work. “Would you want to pray for these missionaries?” I asked. Their eager reply: “Yes, please!”
After that conversation I began to speak with Juan Fernández, our Associate Director for Latin America, about the ways we could better help our Latin American partners pray for the unreached people of the world, and for the global efforts of WMPL workers. Ideas are already brewing about how we might commit ourselves to greater Collaborative Prayer with those who are now members of the churches that the Lord permitted us to help establish in Latin America.
Complementary Partnerships and Collaborative Prayer in Latin America. I’ll be praying about these two ideas long after I return from Mexico. I invite you to do the same. The Lord of the Harvest will hear us and guide us, that more might know him and that more might make him known.