“Experience is the best teacher.” That’s what many of my college and high school professors told me.
With some experience now behind me–31 years since beginning my missionary career–I’m beginning to believe that is true. At least I know more now about what I DON’T know or those areas that I still want to learn about.
But time is running and the lessons learned become crystallized. So it’s time to put them in writing. Maybe they can be of help to some of the newer generation of missionaries. Perhaps these lessons and thoughts will move them along the scale of growth and maturity faster than I did. If nothing more, my experience can be a step ladder to give others a better view of what’s on the horizon.
I graduated from a small, somewhat unknown Christian High School (except perhaps on the east coast) called Baptist High School. This place became a wonderful haven to me after being schooled in the public school system for 11 and a half years. What I am today cannot be blamed on my alma mater, as I only attended there for 1 semester. But, my diploma states “Baptist High School.” So a graduate I am.
From there the college phase of life opened for me at another Baptist institution. This college has a long and illustrious history that is linked to a unique point in time when many Christian organizations were putting basic teaching and doctrines in a new light. That light was jaded, from what I can see today, and thus schools like mine, Baptist Bible College, of Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania, were formed to stem the tide of liberalism in believe and in faith. Four years in a resident dorm setting left its mark on me…as did I on the few friends and mentors that crossed my paths in those days. I look back with extreme fondness on the work my profs did in my thinking process. For me at least, they broke open some much needed locks on the doors of my belief system.
Formal schooling took a back seat to the experience I gained in a highly structured Pastoral Internship in the Calvary Baptist School of Church Ministries, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Wise and successful pastors took me under their wings and began that painful process of knocking of the rough corners in character and life view. Only 12 months long, the Internship restructure my thinking about me, about missions and about leadership in the Local Church setting. I often have summed up that period of learning by saying “Four years of pastoral life and work were crammed into 1. I was never the same after that.”
From there, my travels took my wife and our 2 year old daughter to the South American country of Chile. We arrived only 11 years after the military overthrow of a Socialist president named S. Allende. The military dictator was in power then. Life in Chile came with the added reality of soldiers on the street every day. Regular curfews (once I got caught being out AFTER that curfew, which I am sure I’ll write about in this blog), and strict controls in many areas, including the press and television. Our small family arrived in Chile under the guidance of a fabulous mission sending agency called the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism, Inc. Presently I am still working with that wonderful group of people in Chile.
Other highlights along the miles I have traveled will be shared as I sense the need to do so. One more important fact about me: my post-graduate degree is from one of the oldest Institutes in the United States, called the Moody Bible Institute. MBI’s Graduate School enriched my theological and educational experience, while moving me into a realm not previously known, that of the broader Christian circles. While interacting with other Bible-believing Christians, my hours and months of study there honed my thinking and my convictions. That too was a trip! But none the less, one that I am building on, as the opportunity arises.
Still learning: still traveling, and by God’s grace, still growing.
Dave Rogers, M.A. Min.