We’ve all seen and probably spoken with men in white shirts and black pants who were holding a copy of the Book of Mormon. Other religions have missionaries as well, including Christians. Churches don’t speak about missionaries very often any more unless they are speaking about people in their own congregation who have taken a church sponsored trip to a mission field. There are still families, however, that choose to move from the comforts of home and imbed themselves in a foreign culture for the purpose of sharing the gospel. I am privileged to have an inside look at one of those families.
Minni Elkins and her husband Chris have been friends for a long time. Minni was Jim’s personal assistant while he served as pastor of Park Cities Baptist Church. She left that position to help us when we started the Denison Forum. Chris works with Guidestone helping people in ministry stay safe with good benefits and investment counsel. Chris and Minni are servant-hearted people and they raised their son, Matt, to share that priority.
Matt spent two years as a missionary in the Sudan. I remember a time when Chris and Minni were unable to reach him for several days. I still remember the long prayer walk I had through our neighborhood asking God to send him angels of protection. A lot of people prayed for Matt during those years and he came home with stories of miraculous answers to those prayers. Matt is a man of God and a missionary.
Matt married Katharine when he returned home from the Sudan. Katharine loved him before he left for the mission field and she loved him more when he returned. They now have three beautiful children who are greatly loved by their family. Matt, Katharine and their children gave up a great deal to leave the United States and become missionaries in Nagoya, Japan. So did Matt’s parents. I cried for Chris and Minni the day I knew they were putting their kids on the airplane.
There have been many hard days. Japanese is a difficult language to learn and they have immersed themselves in the culture, which means they want to speak to their new friends and neighbors. Every aspect of their lives has required adjustments.
Chris and Minni made their first visit to Japan during the holidays and each of them wrote about what it was like. Imagine trying to work a microwave oven when even the alphabet is unfamiliar. They saw firsthand what their children and grandchildren did each day and it was daunting.
But God is always larger than our circumstances. As hard as it was for Chris and Minni to leave their family and return home, they had seen the purpose and calling of God being fulfilled in their children’s lives. Minni wrote about her family this way: “Hannah has a big heart. She knows that she is a missionary at her school. She knows the people there need Jesus. And she knows that’s why she and her family are in Japan. She is adapting, growing character, and making lasting friends. One day, she will be able to share Jesus with them in their language. I was inspired at how well Matt and Katharine have instilled in their children their purpose for being in Japan. And each one is making an impact in his or her way. Abigail doesn’t meet a stranger. Her contagious joy crosses all language barriers. Josiah’s big blue eyes and sweet dimples charm the socks off everyone he encounters.” Chris and Minni raised a missionary, who married a missionary and now they are raising missionaries.
Nagoya is a major city in Japan. Our friend Chris described it this way: “What’s good there is very good. What’s bad is, well, awful. This tidy, orderly culture is efficient, respectful and prosperous. But the moral decay just beneath the surface is eroding marriages, families and the society as a whole. There’s a staggering suicide rate. They need Jesus… desperately.”
As difficult as it is to only see their children via FaceTime and the Internet, Chris and Minni understand the greater need is for the people of Nagoya, Japan to know Christ. It is the greatest need of every city, in every country of our world. I’m grateful for all that Matt and Katharine are doing for the Lord in Japan. If you would like to know more about them you can read their blog. Before you finish reading this blog post, would you say a prayer for them and ask God to bless their work? God will hear – and answer your prayer.
It is good to remember that all Christians are called to be missionaries. How often do we pray for a friend or a neighbor that needs to know the love of Christ? We need to ask God to open the door and set up our opportunities to speak the gospel message into people’s lives.
God has called the Elkins family to a high level of service and I expect they will receive a high level of eternal blessing for their obedience. I’m proud to pray for them and help them fulfill their calling. Jesus said, “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:43-45). I hope all of us will remember this verse and choose to have a “great” day!