In the thirteenth episode of Inspiring Stewards, Nathan Jones speaks with Carlos Gomez from Panama. He shares about how he came to know Christ in his teenage years and how he eventually got into missions, first as a missionary, then as the head of a mission sending agency. He talks about how God uses both difficult situations in our personal lives and crises in societies to invite us to see how can we continue doing His work from a different perspective. He concludes by reminding us to be still, listen to God, and join Him in His mission of transforming the world in powerful ways.
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The music is Concerto a’ 4 Violini No 2 by Telemann played on classical guitar by Jon Sayles. Published by Exzel Music Publishing.
I feel like I say this a lot, but you are in for a treat on this podcast episode. I had the wonderful privilege of interviewing Carlos Gomez, founder and director of PAAM, a Panamanian mission sending agency. Carlos reflects on the role missions is playing at this unique time in history all over the world. And as you will hear, Carlos encourages us to stop and listen for the Lord's voice. Well, thank you for joining me today, and I pray that you would do just that, that you would stop and listen for the Lord's voice in my conversation with Carlos today.
My name is Nathan Jones, and I want to thank you once again for joining me on this episode of the inspiring Stewards podcast.
Carlos, thank you again for taking time to be with me. Let's kick it off. Give us a bit of your background, your story growing up.
Thank you, Nathan. My name is Carlos Gomez. I grew up in San Jose, Costa Rica, and I have four brothers. My mother was the first generation of Christians in my home, and it was through my mother's faith that I came to know Jesus. I lived in Costa Rica until I was 20 years old, and I married Deinis in 2000 during our missionary training. Since then, my wife and I serve the Lord in missions in different places and roles.
Carlos, you mentioned your faith kind of came through your mom. Speak to that environment growing up and how that led to your personal relationship with Christ.
I grew up in a very happy family. When I was five years old, my parents got divorced, and that broke our hearts and our home. And my mom, she was looking for some help. She came to the church, and she was trying to help us to go through all the pain, and she knew that the only one resource she had was God. So that really marked our hearts as kids at that time. And that was the beginning of my journey with Jesus.
Wow, that's powerful. Thank you for sharing such a personal part of your story. What impact, then, did that have in your life? What age actually were you when you came to the Lord? And then what impact did that have?
I guess I accepted Christ many times when I was a child. But it was when I was 15 that I really understood what it meant to follow Jesus. After the separation of my parents and the deep pain that it brought to my life, Christ helped me to understand that He wanted to heal my heart and give me a purpose. So I understood that He loved me. He really loved me as I was, but He didn't want me to be the same person. He wanted to transform my life. So it was in my teen age when I really encountered Jesus, or maybe I should say, Jesus encountered me in that path.
Yeah, that's tremendous. Such a powerful impact at a critical time in your life of coming to know the Lord. So praise God that He drew you in. So here we are, 2022. Let's jump ahead and share with us: Where did your journey take you and what does the Lord have you involved in these days?
Let me tell you a bit about my story. We went to the field as missionaries. We left Costa Rica in 2000 with this dream of reaching more people for Christ. We went to different places, and we returned from the mission field in 2006. We came to Panama for six months. We have been here for the last 16 years. And the reason is very simple: I think God had it in His plans.
What happened is back in 2006, one of our sons got a blood disease while we were on the mission field. We had to start a medical treatment that lasted four years. Thank God he's well now. But that helped us to understand that, at that time, we were not able to go back to the field. But even if we were not able to do that, we could help others to go. We just came across that God always has plan A. There is no plan B for us. He was using that difficult situation in our home that time to just put it in track in a different direction and help us mobilize churches and people to the missionary field.
So that is how we founded a Latin American missionary sending agency here in Panama. And we have been working on that for the last 16 years. So now we are a community of about 60 followers of Jesus serving in 15 countries in the middle of unreached people groups. We are focused on bringing access to the Bible, working on Bible translation, and empowering people for community development, and of course, focused on evangelism and discipleship.
We are just like the connection between the Church and its missionaries and international organizations who are serving around the globe, reaching out Muslims and Hindus and people from different contexts, just trying to love them and serve them and giving them the chance to find the gospel and bring some hope into these communities.
That's wonderful. Carlos, I have the privilege of working with a couple of different mission sending agencies here in the US. And it's fascinating to hear you share your story and hear about other countries creating mission sending agencies. And it just is an affirmation of the Kingdom of God at work and growing from different countries.
Because we tend to, in North America, have the mindset of “Oh, we're sending missionaries and catalyzing missions.” But to see countries creating those all over the world is just tremendous. So praise God for how He's using you and your family in that way. So, thank you for sharing.
Well, this is the Inspiring Stewards podcast. And so Carlos, what role has the concept of stewardship played in your life and in your ministry?
When I see efforts like this talking about stewardship, I really like the intentional effort to invite leaders to remember that we are only stewards, not owners of God's resources. I believe that God is using the difficult circumstances around us as an opportunity to generate good changes in the church and the leadership. For that reason, we need to read God's word with a different perspective and just review the principles that are guiding us as we follow Jesus in His mission.
Stewardship is, for me, one of those important principles as we are likely to encounter greater financial challenges and we will have to learn to accomplish more with less. Stewardship is going to be a very important lesson for us how to navigate through all the difficulties we are seeing in this time post-pandemic. Just to be faithful and use in a good way the resources that He’s put in our hearts and understand that His mission doesn't stop. He's just inviting us to see from a different perspective how can we continue doing His work and trusting Him even in the middle of need sometimes.
So I think this is a very very important lesson, a very important issue for leaders, especially from the Global South, to understand how can we be faithful on continuing His mission, just paying attention to what He wants us to understand as we follow Him.
That’s a great word on stewardship from that perspective. So, Carlos, you started to hint to this, but how are you seeing God in the world today around you, either locally or globally?
Everything is changing right now, Nathan. You know that after the pandemic, the world, the church is not the same. And that is good, in a sense. I think God is changing paradigms about what it means to be church.
I believe God is challenging us to focus more on people than on buildings, to be more concerned about fulfilling the mission than just filling temples, and more aware of the goal of the church as transforming lives and communities by God's grace rather than just doing Christian programs or activities. I really believe God is changing the way we do missions too. I see a change of roles in many contexts where the missionary collaborates more closely with local believers to evangelize and disciple others around them.
There is an acceleration in the collaboration of the global church. The church in the Global South is growing rapidly and with it, taking more responsibility on God's mission, as well. I see God acting in unexpected ways. While the world is closing borders, I see God opening doors. That's amazing. He doesn't stop and He's inviting us to change in order to join Him in what He is doing today.
Wow. I love hearing perspectives on the expansion of God's kingdom and churches from a global perspective. It's such a healthy perspective to consider. Carlos, this isn't a question I had prepped you with, but what are you seeing to be some of the greatest challenges to mission work today?
I think changing the traditional way we have been working for the last decades maybe and understanding how God is doing new things now. I think that is one of our big challenges right now. Not to just stick with the ways of recruiting, mobilizing people, engaging the church in missions, but trying to understand that God is doing different things, trying to see solutions where everybody sees problems.
It means a change in our perspective of the situation and the role we are going to play in missions today and how we are going to respond to the circumstances we are facing. I think that's one of the biggest changes for us: to make the change, to change the way we are seeing things, just to move forward with God as He is moving forward His kingdom.
That's tremendous. Never want to get ahead of the Lord as we learn from the book of Jonah, for sure. Well, Carlos, what a great conversation. Any final thoughts you would leave us with today?
One of the things that I would like to share with you is maybe the biggest lesson for me during the pandemic time and it's this. We need to remember: just stop on the way and listen to God is an obligation. We were overwhelmed with activities, programs, Christian events that we were not just paying attention to how we are transforming lives in this kind of different ways of doing ministries.
I think God is using the crisis to bring changes in church and missions. And if we are going to continue, we need to understand what He is doing and join Him in His mission. And for that, we need to stop. We need to listen to God. We need to understand how He is moving, where He is going, how can we change. Because only there in Him, it's an abundant fruit for His glory.
So, that would be my final thought. Let's remember that we need to stop. We need to be still. We need to listen to Him. We need to understand where He's going, what He's doing, and just join Him in His mission as He is transforming the world in a powerful way as always.
Carlos, that's a wonderful final word. Thank you again for your time today.
Thank you, Nathan, for your time.