The Missionary Life: Finding Balance

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The Missionary Life: Finding Balance

For more than 3 decades our partners and friends at the Evangelical Mission to Assist Fishermen (EMAF) have been spreading the Gospel and bringing holistic development to unreached fishing communities in Brazil.

Although Brazil has been impacted by political and economic instability, the ministry has persevered and continues to advance God’s Kingdom in the jungle. There are still over 10,000 communities within the Brazilian Amazon with no witness of the Gospel.

Partners International sat with visionary and leader Marcio Garcia of EMAF to discuss life on mission, EMAF’s most recent project and balancing it all.

What does your average day look like?

You know I haven’t had an “average day” in about thirty or so years! A normal day for me is a crazy day. You know that feeling you get when everything is done and you can see what the next day brings? I haven’t had that feeling in three decades. There is always something that needs to be done, a new vision I have to explore, or there are just people needing us—always. Praise the Lord for that because it means that we are useful. However, if I was dependent on feeling accomplished in my work I wouldn’t survive. I’ve come to learn that when you are in God’s hands you don’t need that. All we need is a desire to serve Him each day and knowing that we’ve obeyed is enough.

I certainly had to adapt to this way of thinking. Because of my business background, the routine I was used to was: complete your tasks for the day, clean your desk, and get your list for tomorrow ready. This doesn’t work in missions because like Jesus said, “the harvest is great, and the workers are few” (Luke 10:2). We are always in need of people, but if they don’t come we work for two. At the beginning this bothered me, but it no longer does. Unlike my training in business, my food and goal now is to obey. My task is to obey. My sense of accomplishment is in obeying.

It’s my understanding that the most recent project that you are promoting is the floating dock at Lábrea which will serve many purposes— namely, a base for leadership training, hosting missionary teams and a resource centre. Can you elaborate a bit more on the development of this project?

There is a dock in very bad shape that belongs to a guy who is a believer and he loves our ministry. He planned to make a lot of money with it but when he heard about our ministry’s need he decided that he would help us. Together we designed a new dock and an attached building, that would be built in the space where his dock is. It will be a house with two bedrooms, a kitchen, a restroom and a big room for meetings. Just outside would be the repair shop, an enclosed place for little boats like outboard engines, and the bigger boats would be docked outside. It will be a brand new, multi-purpose base for the ministry’s work on the Purus River.

How do you balance leading such a huge ministry, taking care of your family and most importantly finding time in the Word?

Have a Vision

When I was 23 years old, Partners International brought a guy to Brazil to help us improve in administration and he also spoke about leadership. One quote he shared has always stayed with me which was, “Success with no successor is failure.” I understood it and believed it from the bottom of my heart.

In everything I do—I think about who will take over and do it in the future. That is why our mission grew to be the biggest non denominational Brazilian missionary organization. Everyone is capable of doing what the Lord called them to do. So everyone brings to the ministry what the Lord is telling them.

If I die, the mission wouldn’t feel my absence much because I always have had someone to succeed me. Even if our ministry organization disappears, nothing can stop this movement—it’s impossible to stop. They know what to do and will keep doing it.

Be Intentional with Family

Because I don’t do everything, I have always had time for my family. I trust people because I know that the Lord uses them and He is good. He leads.       

The only thing in my life I like better than being a missionary is being a father. I love it! There were daily adventures and so many beautiful stages. When my children were young and I was away for work, I would write one letter to my daughters and wife every day because we didn’t have emails during those days. Eventually a letter became a fax, a fax became a call and a call, Skype. If you ask my daughters if their father was absent, they would say I was very present as a parent. When I was there and not traveling I was available for them. While my girls were at school I worked as much as I could and when they arrived I stopped everything. I was intentional about spending time with each one of them. They grew up knowing that I was there for them and you can see that in our relationship today.

Meditate on the Word

I have developed a different way of studying the Bible than maybe most people do. I keep in mind a scripture and I digest that for sometimes months. I spend many many hours going deeper into specific verses that call my attention. When I start I have no clue why that part of scripture caught my attention but because I’ve done this for so many years I know that there is something there that I have to dig into. After some time meditating on the same thing, I see something that was in the Bible all along and this changes the life of a missionary. It takes me a long time to digest something but when that message comes, it is very good and from the Lord. The people I work with also want to see me before the Lord, so they allow me to have time with Him. This is very important for my ministry because if you can not get something, how can you give it?

Please click HERE to donate to the Purus River Floating Dock project.

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Jillian Olazabal
is the Content Writer for Partners International Canada. She attended Manhattanville College in New York, studying Sociology with a minor in Studio Art and also went on to pursue her graduate studies in education. Jillian is enamoured by cultures around the world—each with their own richness and beauty. Love has brought her to an amazingly diverse country where she is learning to be led by God each day.