Personal History — Paul Whitley
As a young boy, I remember sitting in the church listening to my father preach. When he would finish, there would always be a time for people to respond to the message. For months, perhaps years, I would have this overwhelming feeling that I needed to go forward and give my life to Jesus. But I was so afraid. Not afraid of what it would mean for the future, but just afraid to step out in front of all those people and walk to the front. I am glad that one night during a summer revival service, I finally was able to release the back of the bench in front of me and answer that small, still voice that had been calling to me for such a long time. That night in the summer of 1958 was the beginning of what has been an international journey.
For seven years, that journey brought me to the former Communist country of Poland, nestled among the mountains of the northern range of the Caucasus Mountains. The journey to Poland brought me from the deserts of Mexico, through the jungles of South America, across southeast China, and the frozen tundra of Siberia. It was a long journey, but one full of the provision and majesty of a God who guides me by a voice over my shoulder saying, “This is the way, walk in it.” Sometimes I have felt like the Apostle Paul when he wanted to go to Asia and later to Bithynia, but the Lord forbade him. It was because of the need of the man of Macedonia.
Poland became my Macedonia for a time, and there were men and women there who called out in their hearts, “Come help us.” I am so very thankful that I did not have to make that journey alone. Karen was right there by my side the entire time. Never complaining, but always encouraging; ever full of wisdom and discernment, she has been my strength and continues to be so. Only God knows what the future will hold, but this one thing is certain, I have to trust him just like that 11 year old boy trusted him that summer night 52 years ago. I still have to listen for that small, still voice and follow it.
Some people think that a missionary is an individualist, a lone ranger of sorts, but that is far from the truth. A missionary is the low man on the totem pole so to speak. He is sent out to serve the church, to do those things that others are not able to do. He can’t do this alone, for he has to quit his job back home to have the time to accomplish the task he is sent to do. This means that he must depend on others for his provision. He must be a person of prayer for there are many situations for which he doesn’t have the answers. It is at times like these that the ones who sent him don’t have answers for they have never encountered such circumstances. However, they can pray and intercede for him that God will provide the answers.
He must be a diligent student of the Word for many depend on Him for the answers to their problems. Since he isn’t afforded the privilege of sitting under the teaching of his own pastor, he often finds that he has to feed himself through diligent study of the Word. He must be a receptionist, a secretary, a bookkeeper and a public relations man, because there usually aren’t enough funds to hire these. He also must often be an auto mechanic, computer programmer and jack of all trades. Versatility is the order of the day.
The most important thing to a missionary is a strong personal commitment to the Lord. He can’t afford to slack up on his Bible study and personal devotional life. These are his lifelines to the One who sent him. To be successful, he must have a strong relationship with his family. Often, the family is the only island on a lonely, empty sea. And he has to have strong relational ties with the people in his church, the ones who support and believe in him, and those he has been sent to serve.
So you see, a missionary is a very relational person who cannot survive by trying to be Superman. He must be a team player, but for him to succeed there must also be a team. I thank God that we have always had a faithful team that loves us, prays for us and is there when we need them. The support we have received from the friendships of fellow members of the different fellowships to which we belong and other faithful churches and individuals that have been with us for so many years has been invaluable. These organizations believed in us enough to send us out and to stand with us now for over twenty-nine years. No one could ask for more committed people with which to associate and for them we are eternally grateful. We celebrated 29 years of missionary service this year, the last six of which have been spent primarily in nations of South America. We anticipate many more years of service in the world and ask for your prayers as we continue to serve the Lord Jesus Christ and the Body of Christ.
Presently, I am serving as the Director of Mission for Faith Christian Fellowship International. We are working in over 30 countries with an emphasis on Bolivia at this time. We network with existing ministries in order to encourage, exhort, equip and empower national leaders.
Even though Karen and I are the principal ones traveling, we are supported by a great volunteer staff. Maria Artigue, Bonnie Pope, Jeff Darst, Chris Wade and Karen McLaughlin work behind the scenes making sure that everything works smoothly. For them and our many supporters, we are deeply grateful.
Many opportunities abound with Invading the Darkness and we would love to be the ones who introduce you to the world of missions. Give us a call at 678-371-1452 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to see how you can plug in to our mission opportunities.