Today is going to be a real treat for both you and I! I recently interviewed a man by the name of Craig Noyes.
He was my youth pastor for many years, and recently (over a year ago) made the transition of becoming a full-time missionary-in-training to reach un-reached people groups across the globe with the Gospel.
Craig has had an extremely significant role in my own spiritual growth, and I consider him at this point to have had the most significant influence on my life than anyone. Through the youth group He headed up God really used him to reach into my heart and teach me so many things pertaining to life and godliness, all through preaching and teaching the Bible.
So recently I had the opportunity via the internet to interview him about his heart behind missions and other questions i hope you all will find interesting and encouraging! Enjoy!
-In a nutshell, how did Christ lead you to himself, and when?
“Our Lord Jesus called me to himself when I was about 7 years old. In fact that’s when He called my whole family to himself! My mom and dad met two couples by the names of Jeff & Marlene Kran and Scott & Monica Libby when I was about 5 years old. These two couples were so faithful to love my family, share the Gospel and model what it means to be Christian. After two years of building relationships, witnessing and Bible study my parents believed the fact that Jesus died in their place and was offering this gift of forgiveness and adoption to them! My mom then shared the Gospel with me. I didn’t get saved right away, but within a couple of weeks I too saw Jesus as the hero that He is and believed.”
-When did you start to feel a calling toward missions?
“I first started feeling a tug toward missions when I was in 8th or 9th grade.”
-What’s your heart behind tribal missions?
“Wow! How do I keep this brief! There is really two parts to this answer. The first is a theological reality that blew up the way I saw the world. Acts 17:24-25, “The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; 25 nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things;”
God doesn’t need me. He wants me.
Read that again and think about it. I first heard it put that way in a testimony by Mark Hall from Casting Crowns. I am not God’s employee, I’m not holding God up, His plans don’t depend on me. I am God’s child, and just like a father could paint a wall faster without is 7-year-old helping, but includes him because he loves Him, so God has chosen to use me for no other reason than He loves me. This truth changed my thinking from, “Where does God need me?” to, “Where does God want me?” So how could I spend my life doing anything but that which my daddy wants? Over the years, through desires in my heart, opportunity, clear teaching of scripture, gifting, input from wise councilors and God opening doors as I (now we;) walk that toward missions I believe God wants us to bring the Gospel where it’s never been.
The second part of the answer is the other side of the great theological antinomy of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. Romans 10 makes is painfully clear that people will not be saved unless they hear the Gospel and believe it,
“And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
While it’s true that we are surrounded everyday by folks that are lost and needing to be saved, there is a reality that they will almost certainly be challenged with the Gospel’s message in their lifetime and always have the opportunity to hear it when they want. Whereas there are millions and millions of people on earth that have never heard the Gospel once and never will if someone doesn’t go bring it to them.”
-Where and what are you and your wife currently studying?
“We are at the New Tribes Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Roach Missouri. We are studying the technical, linguistic and spiritual things we will need in order to move to a remote area of the world and see mature churches planted where they’ve never been.”
-You were a youth pastor for a while, how has that time taught and grown you to where you are now?
“I worked with the youth ministry in our home church for 8 years. One of the things I began learning (and am still learning) is how to genuinely love people and why that’s so important. The idea of using somebody or manipulating them is such a terrible thing to think about, especially if a minister does it. But I’ll be honest, there are times when I’ve been nice to people because I’m supposed to, or because I want them to keep coming to church or youth group or I’ve shown love to someone because I’m the youth leader and I don’t want to set a bad example and look bad. In other words I’ve used ministry as a spiritual word for manipulation. I wanted something from them. God has been teaching me about genuinely loving people; no agenda, no expected response, just love them. Thank God that’s what He does with me since I’ve got nothing to offer Him!”
-How was the transition from Youth pastor to missionary in training?
“It was pretty smooth overall. When I came to Vermont I came being convinced that God wanted me on the foreign mission field eventually. Don’t get me wrong, the youth ministry in Vermont was never viewed as a rest stop, I still view it as the most meaningful ministry I’ve ever been part of and it was really hard to leave when the time came! But every selection of other leaders, Sara and I transitioning to less and less hands on direction of the ministry, and years of praying were going into that time when we would step out and others would carry the ministry forward. When I was in high school I used to think to myself, “When I leave a ministry I want to have done such a good job that it’s obvious when I leave.” Now my goal is to do such a good job leading leaders that the ministry is better when I step out of the picture. So all that to say I’ve always been a missionary in training and have planned accordingly, but emotionally it was hard to step out of that role.”
-When did you meet your wife, and how did meeting and pursuing her affect you burden for missions?
“Well, funny story, I would have been about 5 and Sara about 1 when we first met. As I mentioned in the first question, my family all became Christians at the same time in large part through a couple families that really invested in us. The sequel to the story is that I ended up marrying Scott and Monica’s 2nd oldest daughter! My debt of gratitude just keeps growing!
Pursuing and being married to Sara has greatly stretched my idea of what doing missions work looks like. For a long time I viewed marriage only in the context of missions work. God has taught me to change my perspective to see missions in the context of marriage. I’m still just as burdened for missions as ever and in fact I would say I am taking it way more seriously than ever. It’s one thing to think about going to remote dangerous places as a single guy, but let me tell you, you’ve got to be convinced that God wants you there when you think about taking your little baby and wife there too.”
-Speaking of your baby girl, what has it been like to be a new father?
“Indescribable. That’s my answer in one word. To elaborate a little, two powerful thoughts entered my mind the day Ashea was born. The first was that I had no idea how much my parents loved me until right now. If you would have asked me anytime before then if I understood how much my parents love me I would have said I had a pretty good idea. But I had no clue. I don’t try to explain the love I have for her to people anymore, it just can’t be done. There was no box in my brain for this level of love. So now when I read a verse like, “Behold what manner of love the father has given to us that we can be called the sons of God” or sing a song like “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us.” It usually stops me in my tracks.
The second thought was the fact that Ashea is not ours to own, but God’s gift to us to train and send out in His service. Sara and I made an agreement and committed to God that we would, in God’s strength, view our relationship to Ashea as stewards commissioned to train her up in order to send her out, not to keep her for our own pleasure. It sounds silly, but it’s easy to be scared when she takes her first crawl, or pops her first tooth because it’s one step closer to her not needing us anymore and being gone. But then we praise the Lord because our goal is not for her to need us, it’s for her to need and follow the Lord and she is one step closer to that. Arrows weren’t made to stay in the quiver (Psalm 127:5)”
-Have there been any foreseeable challenges in the future as you word toward missions?
“No, not really. Said no one ever! Yeah! Finances, staying faithful in our walk with God, fears, choosing which country to spend the rest of our life working in, and then which tribal group, getting visa’s, knowing the line between faith and foolishness, choosing teammates to live with in the tribe and do our life’s work with, discerning God’s will, etc. I think you get the idea.”
-Where do you see yourself, Sara and Ashea in 5 years, in 10 years?
“If all goes according to plan (the plan we think God has for us ) 5 years from today we could be preparing to move into a tribe somewhere in the world or have been in a tribe for about a year learning their language. We will have spent 1 – 1.5 more years at the MTC training, 1-2 year raising up prayer and financial partners, 1-2 years living in country learning the trade language and investigating which tribe to move into and then prepping to move in.
In 10 years, Lord willing there will be a young church that is learning about how to walk with God and lead the church themselves.
Those things being said, we’ve talked to many missionaries whose lives didn’t follow “the plan.” So ultimately where I hope to see Sara, Ashea and myself in 5 and 10 years is trying with all our hearts to live lives pleasing to God. “Finally my brethren, whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” I Corinthians 10:31”
I hope you were encouraged reading this! If you want to find out more about New Tribes Missions follow the link here: (http://usa.ntm.org/).
And if you’d like to read more about Craig, Sara, and Ashea, check out their blog here! (http://newfields.wordpress.com/)
Thanks for reading! If you want to see more interview-type posts like this, let me know in the comments!