Presbyterian Missions—Personal Observations (1st of 6).
In 1986 I applied to become a missionary with the Presbyterian Church. I received no reply. After waiting four months I called the mission office. I was told my application was sitting on a desk, untouched, like a ham at a bar mitzvah. Look up the word shock in the dictionary, and it will say, “What Bob Blincoe felt when his denomination mission office said it would not be responding to his application.” This is the story of what happened next.
For many years I planned to be a missionary, but my denomination said I was not yet qualified. “What should I do to get qualified?”, I asked. “Bob, you and your wife should get overseas for a couple of years as a Volunteers in Mission.” So, Jan and I went to Thailand for two years with the Presbyterian Church as Volunteers in Mission. We earned $35 a month teaching English in Bangkok, and we are grateful to God and to the Presbyterian Church for allowing us to learn our first foreign language and to meet lifelong friends.
In 1980 we returned to the United States. I still planned to be a missionary. But a missions officer said, “Bob, you are not yet qualified; you should be a pastor for a number of years.” That is what I did. It was a blessed day when St. Andrews Presbyterian Church of Strathmore, California, called me as their pastor. I was 29 years old. For the next six years I preached my heart out on Sundays and visited in the homes and hospital rooms of the parishioners during the week. But I made it clear I could not stay; I had to become a missionary. In 1985 I sent my application to the Presbyterian mission office in New York City. I heard nothing back. I called to see what could be done to move my application along. it become clear that nothing was going to be done, since I had written on my application, “Desiring to go as a missionary to Muslims.” My desire to be a missionary in a Muslim country was the reason my application was set aside.
I wrote to Dr. Ralph D. Winter for advice. He called me on the phone, and called again when I did not get the first call. This was the beginning of a long, happy relationship with the man whom I consider the greatest teacher and the most important thinker of our generation. Dr. Winter asked me to leave the pastorate and come to live at the US Center for World Mission in Pasadena, California. Ralph and Roberta Winter even came to Strathmore to explain to the congregation what I was about to do: “Your pastor, Bob Blincoe, is going to get an education in mission that will last him the rest of his life.” In 1986 I resigned from the pastorate on friendly terms. Jan and I closed a chapter on our lives and stepped into the unknown of the world of missions and raising our own financial support.
Jan and I made an appointment at a counseling center in Berkeley called the Center for Ministry. The Center for Ministry is a place where pastors who are in crisis or in transition pay a lot of money to get counsel. Jan and I arranged to meet with a psychologist, Dr. Ed Setchko. He truly helped us understand ourselves and each other. We took a lot of psychological tests. We met with Dr. Setchko for three days, driving each day from my parents’ home an hour away. On the third day, Dr. Setchko gave us both a yellow legal pad and asked us to write for 90 minutes on the topic, “What I want to do with my life.” I went to one room, Jan to another room, and Dr. Setchko to his office. All three of us wrote for 90 minutes. This writing assignment gave me a great deal of confidence that God was leading Jan and me to be missionaries. Dr. Setchko said, “You don’t only want to be missionaries; you also want to challenge the structures of the Presbyterian church to make a better future for applicants who want to go as missionaries.” I realized Dr. Setchko was right. I wanted to be a missionary, and I was also feeling the zeal of the Lord to change the policies of the Presbyterian headquarters mission department.
For the next three years, 1986-1989, I made it my ambition to improve that chances for the next applicants to the Presbyterian mission board. I moved to Pasadena and met new friends who were “all for one and one for all” in the cause of sending a team of Presbyterian missionaries to a Muslim country.
Presbyterian Missions–Blincoe’s Personal Observations. This is my 1st blog post in a series of 6.