I don’t have with anyone else the relationship that I have with my father-in-law. Before he ever was my father-in-law, he was my mentor. I believe we can learn quite a bit about mentorship in the mission field by looking at the way Bro. Allen Newton has invested in my life.
My father-in-law was the first one to introduce me to Jesus. The Jesus of the Bible. It was with him that I found the simplicity of Biblical Christianity. The night I confessed my sinfulness before a holy God and trusted Jesus as my personal Savior, it was because he asked me (once again) what was keeping me from getting saved.
I did not go to Bible College (only recently I have been doing some more Seminary classes). Everything I know about the Bible and ministry, I can trace directly to my father-in-law. For three years I had one-on-one (for the most part) Bible Institute classes with him, as he involved me in his church planting work in Southern Portugal.
I believe the way I was trained was an ideal situation. One that we will try to mimic as we continue the ministry of Reach Portugal. Please allow me to give you some of the characteristics of New Testament mentorship that we will continue to live by.
1. Stand for truth
When I met my father-in-law I was 12 years old and he was the weirdest person I had ever met. He was tall, non-Catholic, had a funny sounding name and, simply put, was not “from there”. He was different than everyone else. That attracted me. I had many questions. I purposed in my heart that I was going to win that man and his family to the Roman Catholic church. Even though he wanted to have a friendship with me, he did not hide what were his beliefs. He did not sugar coat anything, from the Theory of Evolution, to my sinful condition. He gave me the truth, and he backed it up with the Bible.
The Lord wants you to be involved in other people’s lives. You don’t have to hide the truth for the sake of attracting friends and winning people.
2. Give your time
Only recently I understood this about my father-in-law. I did not see it as a child. He would spend time with me, answering my questions and sharing the Gospel. I was not an easy kid to be around either. I was a little “know-it-all” with an attitude. I praise the Lord for the patience He gave my father-in-law. For hours at a time, he would sit with me with an open Bible.
If you want to be a New Testament kind of mentor, you have to be willing to give your time to the ones you’re discipling. Jesus spent most of His time with His disciples.
3. Open your home
Soon after I met them, I received an invitation to visit the Newtons in their home. For me this was huge. There I saw a genuine family dynamic and a couple that loved each other. I had meals with them (nothing against that) and for the first time thanked God, in prayer, before the meal. After those first few visits, I was told I was always welcome. I could come anytime. I think I abused my welcome at times, but it was so important to me at the time.
Missionaries do well in having a permanent “open house” philosophy towards the ones they are discipling. A mentorship relationship is a family relationship.
4. Have genuine interest
Soon after I was saved, the Newtons had to leave Portugal. They had to take care of their daughter that at the time needed multiple ear surgeries. They did not know if they would ever come back to Portugal. No church was left on the island where I lived, but the Newtons stayed in touch. My mother-in-law would write me letters to tell me what was going on. They made it possible for me to call collect every other week. When I called, they wanted to know what was going on. It wasn’t just a way to minister to a convert, people will always notice if you’re not sincere. They really cared!
New Testament mentorship is not about the mentor. We must learn to develop real interest in people’s lives.
5. Encourage growth
After the Newtons came back to Portugal, eventually I joined them, this time in main land Portugal. I surrendered to what I knew was the will of God for my life and began studying for the ministry. My father-in-law would give me things to do that were outside of my comfort zone. It could be to write, print and pass out a tract, give a devotional in a small group Bible study, teach a Sunday School class, and finally, preach my first sermon. I was never left without direction. He believed in me and trusted me with an ever growing sphere of responsibility (too much, I thought). That was fundamental in my personal and ministerial growth.
A mentor is someone that will encourage someone else to grow. As a mentor your role is to equip and encourage. Thank you, Allen Newton, for being a mentor in my life. I owe so much to your selfless investment in my life.
The more I think about the special relationship I have with my father in the faith, the more I think I want to have this same mentorship relationship with others. I believe this will be essential to train others to reach Portugal with the Gospel.
Do you (or have you ever) have a mentor in your life? Tell us about this person by leaving a comment below.