One of the things that has always impressed me about Missions Fest is the Mom and Pop operations.
Missions Fest is a massive event that brings 30,000 Christians together in Vancouver each year to hear world class missions speakers and learn about local and international Christian mission agencies. The 28th annual event was held January 27-29 in Vancouver’s Convention Centre. Like similar events now held in other cities, Mission Fest Vancouver combines celebration, inspiration, information, worship and recruitment.
One of the key components of the event is the Exhibit Hall, where over 200 Christian missions and ministries have booths to introduce people to their work. I have always been struck by the wide variety of missions and ministries represented there.
Massive organizations such as World Vision and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association are there, of course. But alongside them are what I call “Mom and Pop missions” – the equivalent of the family-run corner store. These missions are run by one or two or a handful of people. They often originated in a genuine call of God to an individual Christian to reach out to a specific group in a specific place – widows in the Ukraine, street women in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side, AIDS orphans in Uganda, child sex trade workers in Thailand.
Many of the large organizations were begun in a similar way, of course, with a specific call of God to a specific ministry, and then perhaps a further call of God came to expand into other areas. But many missions remain small.
The large organizations can mount massive evangelistic campaigns and massive feeding and aid programs in response to natural disasters that the small organizations could not even contemplate. But the small missions can meet small gaps of need that the large organizations might not notice. They can also adapt quickly to new situations and new needs.
Something similar happens in the area of persecution. The big agencies have such a high profile and such economic and political clout that potentially antagonistic governments might not dare to attack them. But if they do decide to persecute or forbid these agencies from doing their work, the big agencies make big targets. At the opposite end of the spectrum, it is hard for a government to find out about and stop the individual Christian who witnesses to his neighbour.
Taken as a whole, Christian missions are like a dry stone wall composed of large rocks and small stones and pebbles. No human could or would ever design such an approach to missions. And no human has.