What a blessing it was to have a representative of Gospel for Asia with us at the Chapel a few Sundays ago!
Our relationship with Gospel for Asia began forty years ago when I was the Senior (only) Pastor at the Chapel. The Missions Committee Immediately saw the value of indigenous missionaries and began “adopting” natives from India who had been saved through Gospel for Asia’s ministry and had graduated from their Bible College. More about this later, as I need to go back in time to before Alva and I came to the Chapel in order to explain this strange topic, “Equivalence.”
I professed to receive Christ at the First Baptist Church of Glendale, California, while I was courting Alva (a parental condition for my continuing to do so). We got married on January 29, 1943. Years later, after World War II, we were living in Twain Harte, where my partner and I had a lumber business. We started going to a Bible study conducted by Will J. Callahan, pastor of the Standard Community Church. Under his ministry, I got truly saved and started to live and grow like a Christian should. A little over a year went by during which I reveled in serving Jesus, but our business failed, and we moved back to southern California and I returned to my original profession as an aeronautical engineer at North American Aviation.
After we left, the people at the Bible study asked Pastor Callahan to start a church for them in Twain Harte and be their Pastor. It was incorporated as the Twain Harte Community Church, aka The Chapel in the Pines.
We worshiped and served for three years at Tenth Avenue Baptist Church in Inglewood, CA. We then moved to Hawthorne, CA, and worshiped and served for three years at the Del Aire Baptist Church just two blocks from our house. During these years I was devouring the Bible, maturing in worship, (mainly as I got to know the hymns of the church and exulted in singing them). While at Del Aire, the God who gave me a great hunger for the Bible and worship gave me a great love for missions and missionaries, though I don’t remember just how.
The church that Alva was raised in, and the ones just mentioned belonged to the American Baptist Convention, a denomination which, (I would find) was not very serious about missions. As my interest in missions grew, I wanted to know what we were doing for missions in Del Aire Baptist Church. Pastor Marvin Anderson never mentioned missions, so I asked him about it. He explained that the church gave to missions through what the denomination called the Benevolence Fund, and suggested that if I wanted more details I should write to the denomination and ask them to send me information on the Benevolence Fund, which I did. They sent a brochure explaining the denomination’s position with pie charts etc. I was amazed at the lack of any personal involvement between the individual members of a local church and the missionaries that the denomination supported. In all the Baptist churches I had attended, none of them had a list of missionaries to pray for or otherwise support.
The Benevolence Fund was just an item on a church’s annual budget. The denomination suggested that all their churches give a certain percentage (very low) of their total budget to the Fund. Pastor Anderson said that Del Aire and all the churches he knew about automatically followed the denomination’s recommendation. They didn’t know who received what or how much they received. I found out from the brochure that benevolence included three things:
- Subsidizing the American Baptist Publication Society (mainly Sunday School Curriculum);
- Baptist City Mission Societies (not field work missions, but promotion of Baptist churches in the city);
- In last place, Foreign Missions.
Foreign Missions worked like this:
- A young man or young woman would be “called” to be a missionary by God;
- If they decided to accept the call, they would go to a four year college and get a Bachelor of Arts degree;
- They would then attend an American Baptist Theological Seminary for three years and get a Bachelor of Missions degree;
- They would apply to the American Baptist Missionary Board to become a Baptist missionary;
- They would be examined by an admissions committee, and if approved;
- They would be assigned to whatever field was in need of more personnel;
- They would be paid a salary by the Board which was sufficient for their needs on the field they were assigned to;
- They would have no personal connection with anyone at home other than their families unless they sought it themselves.
This seemed so sterile and artificial, but I pressed on. I found out from Del Aire’s Treasurer how much we gave to the Benevolence Fund. From the brochure I found out how much of that went to Foreign Missions, and divided that amount by the number of adults in the church membership. It turned out to be five cents a week. Each adult in Del Alire was giving five cents a week to Foreign Missions-just the price of a package of gum. I was horrified.
By this time I was a Deacon, (we would call this position Elder). I went to Pastor Anderson and showed him what I found out. I think he was also shocked. I asked him if he could find out how much it would take to support a missionary family. Then we could present to the Deacons the possibility of us adopting a missionary family as a church and pledge their salary in each year’s budget.
He didn’t think the denomination would do it, but said he would try. In due time he got an answer. They (reluctantly) agreed to let us sponsor a newly appointed couple they were sending to Japan. Their salary was $2500 a year. Pastor agreed to let me present the whole thing to the Deacons, and let me have his preaching time at a morning service to pave the way –Wow! After the morning service, many people came and shared that they had never thought of these things and were really touched with the need. The Deacons approved the arrangement without a ripple. I was overjoyed. The people began praying for and writing our missionary family.
Alva and I didn’t get in on that, however, since right after the missionary event occurred, we were called to pastor the Chapel in Twain Harte, and lost track of what was going on at Del Aire. More bout that later.
Our first day as Pastor at the Chapel was on the first Sunday of October, 1955. Though we were very busy getting settled, we soon found out that the Chapel was helping support Amy Bauernschmidt, a Bible translator/missionary with Wycliffe Bible Translators in Mexico-the Chapel’s first missionary! Amy and her partner, Marge Buck, lived in a dirt-floored house with no electricity or running water, and very primitive toilet facilities. It was located in Xochistlahuaca, the main village of the Amuzgo Indians. Sixty years later she is still one of our missionaries!
My interest in and passion for missions kept growing, and before long became a problem. At last we have come to our topic, equivalence. Our salary at the Chapel was very modest, a tithe of which went back to the church. But I began to look at every disposable dollar in the light of what needed item it would buy for some missionary. A contemplated fifty dollar purchase would buy a bicycle for a missionary evangelist to reach more people, a ten dollar purchase would buy five new testaments for new converts, a thirty dollar purchase was a suggested share on drilling a well in Africa, etc. etc. This equivalence of money spent on us with what it could do for missions didn’t always get acted out, but a pressure was there. One day it apparently went too far. Whatever I was suggesting, I was interrupted by an obviously unhappy wife. I’m not sure exactly what she said, but I don’t think it started with “Honey.” Probably something like this, “Look, I don’t mind doing without things, but our kids are under enough of an onus as preacher’s kids without being unable to have at least some of the niceties of life that the other kids have. The missionaries and their kids are living in Africa or India, but our kids peers are Americans-enough already!”
I got the point, and confessed that I had been guilty of tunnel vision, and that I would try to be more reasonable. Funny thing, with the new approach we seemed to still be able to do missions as much as before. I think there is a spiritual principle here-perhaps that our children are our most important mission field? And if we tend to that priority, God blesses us so we can still give generously to foreign missions.
Well, our children grew up, went away to college and/or marriage, and there were just the two of us. Our home became a haven for many missionaries, some because they were supported by the Chapel, but many because we were just privileged to meet and interact with them. Alva was just as enthusiastic as I was. We supported missionaries, prayed for missionaries, wrote to missionaries, hosted missionaries, took a son of a missionary family in Africa into our family for six years.
Now that Alva has been promoted to heaven, I am drifting back towards equivalence.
as here a few weeks ago, I bought three books by K. P. Yohannan, Gospel for Asia’s founder, to get up-to-date on their activities. KP made a statement in one of them, saying that the average amount today’s Christian adult gives to missions is fifty cents per week! At Del Aire it was five cents over 60 years ago and would buy a package of gum. I asked my great granddaughter how much a pack of gum costs today and she thought it was around eighty-nine cents. Today’s average gift is ten times as much, but will only buy a bit over half of a pack of gum. That is plumb discouraging!
Thankfully the Chapel didn’t perform that way. We had some times of hilarious giving to Gospel for Asia, (just one of a number of missions we have given to). One year Gospel for Asia put on a drive to buy bicycles for their missionaries. The Chapel kept that drive before the congregation for months, and if my memory is correct we sent money for ninety-one bikes, (over and above supporting numerous missionaries). During other years they had drives to purchase vans to transport the teams and equipment for showing the Jesus Film. These vans cost $9000, and we were able to pay for a van on two different drives. Yippee! Giving to missions is such a blessing!
Table of Equivalence
Amount Could buy Or for Missions
$3 Latte 2 New Testaments
$4 Big Latte 1 Bible
$30/mo Dinner for 2 1/7 share of Missionary in India
$35/mo Movie/popcorn for two Send child to School in India
$110 Pay TV/mo Bicycle for Missionary in India
$210/mo ? Full support for Missionary in India
$700 ? Move Jewish couple to Israel from Russia
You get the drift. Equivalence is especially appropriate to Christian couples whose children are grown and out of the house and for those who are retired.
PS-Alva and I attended a reunion at the Del Aire church ten years or so ago. Pastor Marvin Anderson was there, and I asked him about the missionaries to Japan. He said that they came back after the first term because the language and culture barrier were such that no visible results had occurred. I was sad, but had done what I could, and it just made plain the need for the indigenous approach.