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AGWM commissions 233 for world missions

By Rick Johnson

“The Foreign Missions Committee shall define proper standards for the training and testing of candidates as to their call and qualifications for foreign service, as the needs of the work shall require.” — 1921 General Council minutes

Assemblies of God World Missions recently concluded its 2007 Missionary Pre-Field Orientation, Candidate School and School of Missions in Springfield, Missouri. The highlight of School of Missions is the Commissioning Service. This year, the Assemblies of God commissioned 233 missionary candidates and missionary associates for service to 70 nations.

Who are the missionary candidates?

Men and women who apply for missionary service with Assemblies of God World Missions represent a wide diversity of backgrounds, education and experience. Some are right out of college and have little or no ministry or cross-cultural experience. Others have pastored churches for many years or participated in some avenue of missions work. In some cases, independent missionaries decide to join our ranks, expressing their desire to be part of our Fellowship.

One couple, having served as independent missionaries for several years in Africa, were approved for service by the Assemblies of God and participated in this summer’s School of Missions.

They were drawn to Assemblies of God World Missions, they said, because they noticed something different about AG missionaries serving on the mission field. They saw that our missionaries were prepared for service, showed a sense of unity and had the provisions they needed. This couple expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to be a part of the AG missions team.

Prior to the annual School of Missions each summer, all missionary candidates attend Candidate Orientation. They learn the important things about getting started in the itineration process, such as contacting and visiting churches and raising missionary support.

During orientation, they meet with regional directors to communicate the call of God upon their lives and learn about the wide range of needs, opportunities and challenges of missions service around the world. Finally, they meet with the AGWM Executive Committee for a time of inquiry, to share their call and seek confirmation of their endorsement for missionary service. 

What kind of training do missionaries receive at School of Missions?

The Assemblies of God World Missions Personnel and Family Life Department works closely with the AGWM Executive Committee to design a summer training program. The information presented is based upon learning objectives that deal with relationships, culture, missiology, theology and much more — the nuts and bolts of what a missionary needs to do to function in a setting where accountability is essential.

The summer training program comprises three entities: Missionary Associate Pre-Field Orientation, Missionary Candidate School and School of Missions.

During PFO and Candidate School, missionary associates and missionary candidates receive a closer look at Assemblies of God World Missions — the perspectives and characteristics that surround the uniqueness of our missionary enterprise. This includes a week of missiological and theological training presented within the framework of our Pentecostal perspective — our dependency upon the work of the Holy Spirit.

Although our expectation is not that everyone must be a missiologist, we believe all missionaries need a foundation for and an understanding of what we do and why we do it, especially regarding the work of our Bible schools and the establishment of churches. We stress the importance of indigenous church principles: that churches planted must seek to become self-supporting, self-governing and self-propagating.

Next, missionary associates and candidates participate in meetings called regional applications. They meet with directors from the region and area where they plan to serve: Africa, Asia Pacific, Eurasia, Europe, Latin America/Caribbean, Northern Asia and International Service Ministries/AGWM General.

Missionary candidates also receive training regarding other religious belief systems including animism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and ministering in a pluralistic society. They discover an understanding and appreciation for people of different religious beliefs and how to build bridges for effectively communicating the good news.

Training is also provided to help missionary associates and candidates learn how to build and keep missions support and how to utilize different methods of communication when itinerating in churches. Practical subject matters are addressed including moving overseas, tax laws and insurance. The primary purpose of this training is to help prepare missionaries for the various challenges they may encounter overseas.

Following Pre-Field Orientation and Candidate School is a two-week School of Missions. During this time, candidates come together with veteran missionaries for informative and inspirational sessions. They attend several days of regional studies for their specific field, which helps them learn about spiritual needs and hear reports from veteran missionaries of the work God is doing. Evening services are a time for corporate worship, prayer and preaching.

Another important component of School of Missions is the reentry program for veteran missionaries returning to the United States for itineration.

After spending four years or more in ministry overseas, missionaries face many cultural and technological changes upon their return. They must become acclimated once again to another environment. They likely will encounter changes in U.S. churches, particularly regarding schedules and service formats, which require adjustments by missionaries when contacting pastors for missionary services.

At School of Missions, veteran missionaries returning home enjoy reconnecting with friends whom they have not seen for several years. They have opportunities to fellowship together with a common understanding of what each has experienced in ministry overseas.

What do Missionary Kids (MKs) do while parents attend PFO, Candidate School and School of Missions?

Chad Phillips, missionary coordinator of the MK (Missionary Kids) program, and his staff plan and coordinate a full summer program of activities for missionaries’ children, from birth through high school age. Adult and college-age MKs return each summer to help minister to the younger MKs. Chad and his wife, Dargan, also spend time with missionary couples, giving them an overview of the MK program, providing them with resources and answering questions.

What is the most fulfilling part of training and helping missionaries get to the field?

The AGWM Personnel and Family Life staff finds the greatest fulfillment in knowing that we are involved with the missionary candidate or missionary associate from the beginning of the process. We listen to them communicate the call of God on their lives, help them begin the process toward missionary service and assist them in getting to the mission field.

After attending the training sessions and developing friendships, all School of Missions participants come together for a final gathering — the Commissioning Service, a most significant and sacred event. Parents and children stand together as families, realizing the enormous task ahead of them. Supportive pastors, district leaders, parents and friends gather around each family, lay hands on them and offer prayer on their behalf.

As we join them in prayer, we know that God has gripped their hearts with His call, and they have dedicated their lives to His purpose. At the same time, we have done our best to train and equip them and thus help fulfill the Great Commission by sending forth laborers into the harvest.

RICK JOHNSON is director of Personnel and Family Life for Assemblies of God World Missions.

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September 2, 2007 • 4869

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