I remember well the black and white picture on the wall and the questions that ran through my young mind as I studied it. Who are those people? Why do we have their picture hanging in our church fellowship hall? How old is it? How old are they?!
The picture of “our missionaries” Wallace and Mona White was a mainstay in my home church in Lovington, NM. We held children’s church and VBS, ate at numerous potlucks, and ran wild while our parents practiced for worship team, all under their watchful eyes. The story goes something like this: Sometime in the 1950s Wallace and Mona White became a part of Lovington Church of the Nazarene where they experienced the saving grace of Jesus. As they began living out their salvation, they eventually answered God’s call to missions and soon became pioneer missionaries for the Church of the Nazarene in Papua New Guinea (PNG). While in PNG, they planted many churches and started a Nazarene hospital that is widely respected and still in operation today.
As a young child, I heard these stories, but they seemed as distant as the colorless people in the picture on the wall. They were stories of work that began long before I was born and that was continuing in far off places that I knew very little about. And yet, somehow it was a part of our church’s story. I really didn’t catch the significance, but I knew there must be something to it because there the picture hung year after year.
People at LovingtonNaz have always proudly claimed that “we are a sending church,” and the facts back up that claim. While cleaning out my desk after pastoring there for 7 years, I found a letter from one of our long-time members that listed all of the women and men who had been called to full time ministry from our church. The list of pastors and missionaries was long. I had grown up in the church myself and was packing for New Zealand, so my name now fell in both categories.
So what about Wallace and Mona and that black and white picture? Last week I had the privilege of attending a meeting of Nazarene educators from around the Asia Pacific region of the world. On the first day, I was introduced to the man across the table from me. He is from PNG, and serves as the President of our Nazarene College of nursing there. His name…Wallace White Kintak. He was named after Wallace White. Our Wallace White. The Wallace White whose black and white likeness hanging on the wall captured my curiosity and raised so many questions in my mind.
All of the sudden the story came alive. No longer is Wallace White just a name. No longer does Papua New Guinea seem far away and the stuff of dreams. For sitting before me was a man who is a follower of Jesus Christ, the president of a college, and new dear friend because a family from my home church answered the call of God to serve in a far off land. Wallace White Kintak proudly carries the name of the man who changed his family–and his country–by introducing them to the love of Jesus.
The implications are incredible. First it speaks to the faithfulness or our church—a small church in rural New Mexico—who carried the love of Christ to its community so that Wallace and Mona could experience the transforming grace of God in their salvation. It speaks to the faithfulness of a local church who discipled, shaped, and ultimately sent them with prayer and support to the mission field. At least in part because one little church took seriously the call of Christ to “go and make disciples of all nations,” there are 11 Nazarene Districts in Papua New Guinea. The church is on fire there, and is growing rapidly. Women and men are being called to ministry and are being educated and trained by people like Wallace Kintak, who like his namesake, is following the call of God to make disciples.
Watch as Wallace and Regina tell Jaron a bit of their story here.
There are families like the one who is a part of our congregation here in Hamilton who are getting to study abroad in first-world university settings because of the Nazarene missionaries’ commitment to high-quality education. There are babies born in clean, safe environments and medical needs being met 24 hours a day 7 days a week at a highly respected hospital because a missionary couple saw the need for easily accessible high-quality healthcare.
In a world where Christians are tempted to get hung up on which communion bread to use, where flashy lights and professional-sounding bands are touted as essential, and where pastors (and laymen) spend way too much time one-upping each other on Facebook, I am convinced that these are non-essentials that can easily distract us from the important work of the Kingdom. Over 60 years ago a little church, in a small town few have ever heard of welcomed a new couple into their fellowship. The church didn’t have a fancy worship team or flashy lights or much in the way of bragging rights, but they did know how to love. What they didn’t know was that their love and care for this couple would someday extend to thousands upon thousands on the other side of the planet who had not yet heard the name of Jesus. It’s a legacy that is thriving today.
I think my ancestors at Lovington Church of the Nazarene might say; “Son, we are not a fancy church. It’s not about being fancy. A sending church though…yes, that is what we are. So by all means, go, love well, and tell them about Jesus. That’s what will change the world.”