Sometimes the language we use to describe missions becomes so familiar that it loses its power to inspire.
Craig Querfeld, a TEAM missionary in Peru (that’s him, above), recently put us on to a video that brings into fresh perspective why we do what we do.
A couple of years ago, Peru’s agency for promoting its tourism and exports — called PromPerú — sent a film crew and some of the nation’s most famous celebrities to the small town of Peru, Nebraska, population 569. Their mission: To enlighten their fellow “Peruvians” about just what it means to be Peruvian.
The resulting short film opens with Peruvian chef Gastón Acurio (his restaurants have been named among the top 50 in the world) parking a red bus on the town’s main drag. Other chefs, dancers, comedians, and world-champion surfers file out of the bus and begin reading the citizens of the tiny farming community their “rights” — the right to eat Peruvian food, the right to surf, the right to dance folkloric music. It builds from there into a series of great cross-cultural moments, climaxing in a scene where the good people of Peru, Nebraska, are surfing in a parking lot.
It’s a remarkable and heartwarming video, well worth the 15 minutes (it will fly by). It was a national sensation in Peru and has won multiple awards.
Here’s the thing: The commercial was not meant to promote Peru to Americans. It’s promoting Peru to Peruvians.
The filmmakers apparently felt that Peruvians need to be reminded about their incredible heritage, to help them recognize how much they have to offer to the world. In other words, they wanted Peruvians to remember who they are. The desired result, of course, is that in realizing the greatness of their identity, Peruvians would share that with the rest of the world. The film closes with a line inviting all Peruvians to be her ambassadors.
While the film’s chief aim is tourism, it’s not really that different than what we do here at TEAM. Our job, as a missions agency, is two-fold: To remind the Church of its amazing identity and what a powerful message it has for the world, and to empower people to go out and be ambassadors of that message.
TEAM was founded more than a century ago in partial response to a plea from renowned missions pioneer Hudson Taylor for a thousand missionaries to go to China. Ever since, part of TEAM’s mission has been to echo that call and cheer on Christians who have a missional worldview. The other part of our work is to help those who choose to be go and be ambassadors of Christ, and provide a way for them to go.
It’s not too much of a stretch to suggest that the role of missions agencies is kind of like a group of strangers who walk into a church with a megaphone and begin reading the worshipers their rights: “You are all missionaries! You have the right to go, to be, to live into your call. You have the right to be missionaries!”
That is really good news, when you think about it.