Why I Partner with Nationals: An Interview with a North American Missionary

We often get the question, “Why would North American missionaries go live in another country if the nationals have ministry covered?”

Once people learn that Live Global’s ministry model is to serve alongside and under the leadership of national Christians in their countries, we often get the question, “Why would North American missionaries go live in another country if the nationals have ministry covered?”

Live Global team member, Chris G., answers that question in this interview.

Chris G., Live Global Team Member

Explain where you live and how you got there.

We live in Bucharest, Romania. When we joined ABWE in 2008, we said anywhere in Romania but Bucharest… God has a great sense of humor and an amazing ability to teach His children that He’s in control, and His plan is the one that matters. 

Who do you work with and what are their ministry roles?

We work with Felix & Oana Tamas as well as Cristi & Amy Ungureanu. Felix serves as senior pastor of alfAOmega, a church plant from 20 years ago. He heads up M4Ready, a 9-month training for potential church planters. Cristi serves on the elder board at the same church and he and his wife have a tremendous ministry with orphans and orphan adults. Both couples have been sacrificially serving refugees from the Russian invasion in Ukraine.

What is your role in serving alongside the national Christians in Romania?

I serve as an assistant pastor at the church, and we serve with the refugee ministry as well. Our biggest joy, though, is being able to provide encouragement to our national partners (we just call them friends or teammates as we serve and live together). 

If the nationals are leading their own ministries, why would a North American go to serve with them in their country?

This is a great question. This subject could (should, and probably does have) numerous books on the subject of going to serve with nationals in their ministries. Speaking from our experiences, there is much we bring to the table. Among other things, we get the privilege of connecting churches in the States to the work God is doing here in Eastern Europe. Our national partners just don’t have the access like we do to churches there. Not only do we connect, but we can serve as a cultural bridge between all parties involved. The USA is a lot different than Eastern Europe. And if you don’t understand both cultures intimately, there is plenty of room for misunderstanding, confusion, and even ruined relationships. One of our jobs is to help those relationships along. Since we live here, we get to work alongside our national partners everyday. So we are involved in their day to day lives, as they are in ours. This creates lots of room for mutual growth as each of us brings value to the relationship.

Are there times and scenarios when a North American should NOT go serve overseas alongside a national Christian?

Absolutely there are times and scenarios when a North American should not go to serve alongside a national Christian. The most obvious would be if the national partner didn’t actually want them there. But more often than not, you’ll find that there are open invitations to come alongside national partners. That’s where we need to begin evaluating the genuine need, the abilities of the North American missionary, and evaluate if it’s really a good fit. A key to that is asking God for wisdom and guidance. Ultimately, in every on-site partnership, we need to make sure that the North American is not hindering the growth of the national partner, or the growth of discipleship by the national partner into others. We can fill many roles, and we should, but not at the detriment of allowing other nationals to step into those roles. It’s a difficult situation to identify, and it often takes a great deal of humility and some experience to say “I should not go there” or that “I should leave this place.” And that’s not to say those situations don’t change over time. It might not be a good fit or need today, but a year from now the landscape could look different. Or it might be a good fit today, and a North American moves… We continually need to be evaluating things. One day we might just recognize that it’s time to relocate. That isn’t to say we cease investing in or caring for our national partners, we just do it from a distance with the same love and affection.

What recommendations would you give to someone who is exploring moving overseas for missions?

Pray. Talk with your church leadership. Be active where you are right now. That’s one that often gets overlooked. If you aren’t serving in your church, moving to a place where it’s more difficult to do ministry won’t help spur you on to be active. So get involved in serving in your church now; don’t wait until you move overseas. And talk with missionaries. As many as you can connect to.

What are your ministry habits that have caused you to be most effective in your role?

Be grounded in the Word. After over a decade of ministry overseas, we recognize that God’s Word has been an anchor for us when times have been tough. Patience is important. Things take time. Hospitality and generosity are two essential ingredients in life overseas.