by Dr. Kevin L. Moore, director of missions studies at FHU.
What comes to mind when you hear the words “New Zealand”? Kiwi birds? Rugby? The Hobbit? I immediately think of Gauntlett Lotter, Jill Anderson, Peter Gray, Jane O’Donnell, Shirley Loveridge, Mac de Thierry, and a host of other special friends. Having been involved in the Lord’s work in New Zealand the past three decades, I have been blessed by close relationships with some of the finest people I know. Starting at the Lower North Island, I’m thinking of Joan, Trish, Leigh, the Batemans, Arulandus, Raines, Toas, Phillips, Bannister clan, Robinsons, Zous, Angs, Jacobs, and so many others. Further up the highway are June, Janny, Paul, Beverly, Rodger, the Copelands, Gawes, Van der Ventels, and more. So many fond memories of the McGraths, Piersons, Andersons, and Walkers, as well as Lara, Tessa, Julie, Robbie, Lucy, Halligan twins, and Daniel. There are the O’Donnells, Kyles, Grays, Paynes, Townsends, Pakis, Pauls, Nealls, Spicers, Paikeas, and dear Ms. Betty, Gayna, and Glenys. Words like “love” and “family” just don’t seem strong enough for Michelle, Janette, Sophie, Carolyn, Nona, Ma, and their families. And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of the Pipers, Fowells, Blackmans, Jensens, Fentons, Van Kuyks, Basons, Stanfords, Banks, Whitakers, Cranstons, Cammocks, not to mention the Parrs, Cumings, Leotas, Timotis, Heathers, Hodgmans, Hansells, Woodrows, De Freres, ad infinitum.
With a sizeable lump in my throat as I write these words, I’m trying to make a point. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only missionary who feels this way, and I’m almost certain that the apostle Paul could relate. He confesses, “what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches” (2 Cor. 11:28), and his prayer life bears resounding testimony to this (Rom. 1:9; Eph. 1:16; Phil. 1:3-4; 1 Thess. 1:2; 3:10). Just read the last three verses of Acts 20 or the first chapter of Philippians, and you will have some idea of the intimate connection he shared with these people. In the final chapter of Romans, after mentioning no less than 35 individuals by name, you get the impression that Paul could have easily continued to list a multitude of others had he not reached the end of the papyrus scroll.
Throughout his letters the apostle makes numerous references to the Roman provinces of Macedonia, Achaia, Asia, and Galatia. I can pretty much guarantee that in every reference he is recalling the names and faces and stories of those he dearly loved in these places. When he speaks of Macedonia (1 Cor. 16:5), it is not the provincial or geographical locality that interests or concerns him, but the Macedonians themselves (2 Cor. 9:2, 4) and the churches of Macedonia in particular (2 Cor. 8:1). These congregations were comprised of individuals whom Paul knew personally and cared for deeply.
Macedonia incorporated the cities of Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea. For Paul, Philippi meant Lydia and her household, the local jailer and his family, a slave girl, Epaphroditus, Euodia, Syntyche, and Clement. Other Macedonian friends were Gaius, Aristarchus, Secundus, and Sopater. When the apostle writes of Asia, he has in mind fellow-Christians in Ephesus, including Tychicus, Trophimus, Onesiphorus’ family, Carpus, and at times Timothy, Aquila and Priscilla. Elsewhere in the region he was mindful of Epaphras, Onesimus, Archippus, Philemon, Apphia, Nymphas, and Eutychus.
Galatia was the home of Lois, Eunice, Timothy, Gaius of Derbe, and Crescens. Achaia is where Paul had developed a close bond with Crispus and Stephanas and their respective households, Sosthenes, hospitable Gaius, Fortunatus, Achaicus, Erastus, Quartus, Dionysius, Damaris, and servant-minded Phoebe. And there were many other places and many other persons firmly embedded in the apostle’s heart, though not enough ink and papyrus and time to record them all.
Reading the New Testament through the eyes of a missionary makes a big difference. Potentially boring geographical details take on new life and meaning as one recognizes the precious souls these places represent. Providing everlasting significance to our sometimes underappreciated maps and geography studies is the simple reminder that the Macedonians had names. “For God so loved the world …”