Missions ‘just got personal’ for pastor Tony Mathews
    November 20 2014 by Kate Gregory, IMB/Baptist Press

    Tony Mathews had thought international missions wasn't for everyone, that as a pastor his focus should be on the local church.

    North Garland Baptist Fellowship, where he has served for 22 years, supported Southern Baptist missions and ministries through the Cooperative Program. Members of the Texas church had gone on international missions trips, which the pastor had supported – from a distance.

    That changed in 2012 when he went on his first missions trip to help lead activities for children of Southern Baptist missionaries in Africa.


    IMB Photo by Elijah Wilson
    Pastor Tony Mathews is leading North Garland Baptist Fellowship in Texas to greater involvement in missions, by partnering with IMB missionaries to reach people groups in Madagascar and Ecuador, as well as supporting them collectively through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and the Cooperative Program.

    Trying to fathom what it was like for them to live away from the comforts and familiarity of home, Mathews asked one of the children if she wanted to live in the United States again to have closer access to places like restaurants and theme parks. The 9-year-old girl said no. When he asked why, she responded: Because my best friend here doesn't know the Lord.

    Hearing that clarity of purpose from one so young impacted Mathews. While he was still in Africa, he rewrote North Garland's new members packet to re-emphasize missions, "to build it into our DNA, not just in the church but within each member: 'We do missions.'"

    Talking with the children's parents, the missionaries, face to face also changed how Mathews saw the world, and himself.

    "I was overwhelmed hearing the missionaries' stories – hearing about the lives they've touched and going places where others didn't go," Mathews said. Through the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, "our pennies, our nickels, our dollars enable them to share. And through that, we're a part of what they're doing."

    International Mission Board (IMB) missionary Adam Hailes showed the pastor photos of a people group in Madagascar and told him about the opportunities and challenges of reaching them. It was the same people group, the Antandroy, that Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth had recently adopted. Mathews' church in Garland, a suburb of Dallas-Fort Worth, decided to partner with the Hailes to reach the Antandroy and send ministry teams to Madagascar.

    When Mathews returned from Africa, he made it his mission to enlist other African-American pastors in missions trips, knowing from personal experience how enriching a pastor's personal involvement in international missions could be to a local church.

    As a result, Mathews and a group of other Dallas-area African-American pastors began partnering with IMB missionaries Johnny and Donna Maust to reach Afro-Ecuadorians along the South American country's coast.

    Again, it was that personal connection with a missionary that made missions real for Mathews.
    "Just getting to know Johnny and to see his heart for the Afro-Ecuadorians is encouraging – he'll go anywhere and talk with people about the Lord," said Mathews, realizing that willingness is what embodies missions.

    "Now, I desire that everyone craves to be a part of it," Mathews said. "I want to show my people that God is not only their personal God, but He is also a global God and we need to be there to share that news with others."

    Read related story "Reaching 'the people of the thorns' in Madagascar" here.

    Watch Pastor Tony Mathews discuss his church's involvement with missions around the world:

    (EDITOR’S NOTE -  This year's Week of Prayer for International Missions in the Southern Baptist Convention is Nov. 30-Dec. 7 with the theme of "One Sacred Effort Find your place in God's story" from Matthew 28:19-20. The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions in tandem with Cooperative Program gifts from Southern Baptist churches support approximately 4,800 international missionaries in seeking to fulfill the Great Commission. Gifts to the Lottie Moon offering are received through local Southern Baptist churches or online at imb.org/offering, where there are resources to promote the offering. This year's goal is $175 million.)

    11/20/2014 12:05:38 PM by Kate Gregory, IMB/Baptist Press | with 0 comments
    Filed under: Cooperative Program, Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, missions

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