Meeting needs is important ministry

Jonathan Parker shares some perspectives from his side of the supply desk.

“Making a list, checking it twice … or maybe three or four times before we are done,” says missionary Jonathan Parker, who is the administrator of the NTM office in Mozambique.

Jonathan’s ministry includes handling finances for missionaries, coordinating field conferences and helping with travel arrangements, among other assorted tasks.

An additional responsibility he has is overseeing buying supplies for missionaries.

“One of the first duties of our day is to check our email,” Jonathan says. “We may receive lists from several folks to be purchased and ready for transport with only a few days’ notice. … Most critical is making sure we understand what is being ordered. Since our team is international, it can be very interesting trying to interpret orders, even when they are in English.”

Jonathan says that a South African co-worker once asked for some “plasters with ointment” and he searched pharmacies in vain, trying to explain in Portuguese what he thought the missionaries needed. He was thinking, he said, of some kind of ace bandage with ointment embedded in it. “I received quite a few blank looks,” Jonathan relates with amusement. Later, Jonathan found out that a “plaster” is simply what South Africans call an adhesive bandage, such as the Band-Aid brand products.

The next step in buying supplies for missionaries, Jonathan shares, is to make sure the Mozambican worker understands what is on the list. “The list must be in Portuguese and at times might need a picture added since many of the products come from South Africa, China and India and do not have Portuguese labels.”

Recently, a Mozambican worker bought a case of sardines thinking he was buying a case of tuna. “Unfortunately, there is a no-return policy in about every store here,” Jonathan adds.

The final step is actually finding everything. The availability of items on the list changes constantly, Jonathan explains. “One missionary told us when we first arrived that if we saw something we liked at a good price, buy a lot because we might never see it again. … It might take anywhere from one day to over a week to buy everything on a list,” he adds.

“We get orders for everything from groceries, medicines, propane and hardware to things like car parts and motorbikes,” Jonathan says. “Once everything that is available is purchased, it goes through the process of being packaged-up and labeled so it is ready for transport.”

Ironically, Jonathan does not really like shopping. But meeting needs of his brothers and sisters in Christ changes a task he doesn’t normally enjoy into joyful ministry for Christ.

“Shopping is not a favourite activity of mine,” Jonathan confesses. “But I am thankful for the opportunity to serve my co-workers in this way. Our goal is to keep them from having to take time away from ministry to make supply trips. We count it a privilege to be a part of the team in this way.”

Jonathan says that since he and his wife, Lisa, are relatively new to the field (they have just completed one year of serving in Mozambique), they would ask prayer to be able to build good relationships with Mozambicans. He says that, though the cultural stress has lessened with the passing months, it is hard to communicate because many Mozambicans are very limited in their Portuguese language skills.

“Because we came to fill an urgent need, we did not get the normal time for culture and language learning. It does not happen by osmosis, so we really do need to take time out for this,” Jonathan shares. Pray that God will allow them some time to work with the more formal aspects of culture and language studies.

He also asks for prayer for wisdom in how best to reach out and minister to their Mozambican friends, and for God’s grace in their health, especially for Lisa, who has experienced some health hardships in their first year.

Sometimes, Jonathan shares frankly, “It is a challenge being here. We have three grown children and a grandbaby (with one more on the way) in the USA. Battling homesickness has been very difficult this first year, so we would appreciate prayers for that, as well.”

Please pray for Jonathan and Lisa Parker as they serve God through meeting the needs of tribal missionaries in Mozambique. Pray that God will strengthen them for His service, encourage their hearts and give them great joy as they trust Him to bless and use their service for His glory.