As a Christian, I know that my mission is to bring the knowledge of Christ and His Good News to a broken and fractured world.
In my 17 years serving as a missionary in Guatemala, that mission has never changed. While the whole world needs to hear this Good News, the specific population that we believed God has called us to serve is defined in James 1:27
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
What is it about widows and orphans that is so special? They represent what is often the weakest most vulnerable element of any society. The family unit is broken, their father, husband, provider, and protector is gone, and often they are left at the mercy of others.
We know from the Bible that they are important to God. Psalms 68:5 tells us, “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling”.
The decision to stay in Guatemala as missionaries was largely due to the overwhelming need I saw in an orphanage we visited. Though I didn’t have the theology at the time to understand my Christian responsibility, the Holy Spirit spoke to me and called me to serve the orphaned and vulnerable. In all the years we have served here in Guatemala, that mission has never changed.
Our assignment, however, has continued to evolve.
Though they might seem similar, understanding the difference between a mission and an assignment is important if we are to be faithful to the work God has given us, yet adapt and adjust to the changing realities of the world and we live in and the changing culture.
I would say that if a mission is the core purpose of what an organization or group is seeking to accomplish, then the assignment would be the specific tasks that are necessary to carry out that mission.
Our journey during our time in Guatemala has gone something like this :
- 2002-2007, walking alongside 12 girls as they were moved from orphanage to orphanage, bringing them food, clothing and teaching them Bible classes.
- 2008-2014, following those girls as they were transferred to a large orphanage and expanding our ministry to serve the +50 children that lived there through Bible classes, English classes, computer classes, carpentry classes, mentoring, discipleship, youth groups and helping the children transition into life beyond the orphanage.
- 2015-Present, starting a ministry in the slums to serve vulnerable children and their families with the hope that through meeting their needs we would see more children staying at home with their families and fewer children placed in orphanages. Opening two community centers that serve 150 children and their families through Bible classes, tutoring, computer classes, English classes, robotics and ministry to the parents.
The way we served in each particular assignment varied. We made adjustments depending on the need. Our programs evolved as our population changed. The way we did things improved as the years went by, and we better learned how to meet the needs of those we served.
Yet the mission itself never changed.
Realizing that has been incredibly important and helped to keep us grounded and focused on what God has called us to do. As missionaries we are committed to the mission God has given us and strive to be mindful not to get distracted by whatever shiny new ministry might catch our eyes. We aren’t constantly fundraising for new projects and programs to keep people excited about giving. We don’t throw in the towel when things get rough and move on to find something new and easy.
Each program we have been involved with and each place we have served has had a central theme running through it. We are called to serve the orphaned and vulnerable, to love the least of these, disciple people in Christ, and help them develop the gifts and talents God has given them to their greatest possible potential.
Though the ways and places we have done that have shifted over time, in looking back, each assignment has been a stepping stone to get to where we are now.
We are responsible for a ministry that God has created. What started as very humble beginnings in a small orphanage with 12 young girls has grown into two community centers that is fast becoming a model for how to have an impact with children and families in high risk situations.
God in His grace, helped us to stay focused on the mission He had given us. It hasn’t always been easy, and there were many times when we were tempted to shift what we were doing to something easier or more fun. But as we stayed faithful with the assignment He had put before us, we now have the joy of seeing His plan come to pass.
Hebrews 12 tells us: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
We are called to run the race that He has given us, not the race that we see someone else running, no matter how much we might want to. We need to finish each and every assignment before moving on to the next one. We need to trust God that there is a rhyme and reason for every task that He has placed before us. All the while staying secure in the knowledge that “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)
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About Tim and Sharie Martiny.
We are missionaries in Guatemala with our six children, Julia-now is college- (19), Audrey (16), Vanessa (14) Jessica (12), Alex (10) and Alison (8). We both come from missionary families and were raised overseas, Timothy in Europe, and Sharie in South East Asia and Mexico.
We work primarily in orphan care and prevention. The Biblical call in James 1:27 to care for the orphaned and vulnerable is our calling. Our ministry works with vulnerable children and their families in their communities through programs we run at two community centers in Colina Santa Fe and San Jose Pinula.