CEDAR HILL, TX – Elgin and Dorothy Taylor became the first African-American missionaries to Japan in 1959. Their 23 years on the island of Okinawa were merely the beginning of their 55 years of service in foreign missions.
Following a brief retirement due to health reasons, the couple returned to missionary work, founding TEL International Missionary Society in 2007.
TEL International exists to serve indigenous missionaries. The Revolution in World Missions that dramatically broke away from traditional methods of global evangelism also led to an entirely new set of problems. The indigenous missionaries were, as their friends and neighbors, underserved.
It is quite a different thing to reach them and send indigenous missionaries than it is to equip them as Jesus had done with His disciples. The men whom Jesus commissioned had received three unique years of intense, up close, and personal instruction and preparation.
Aside from the earliest foreign missionaries such as Hudson Taylor and Adoniram Judson, missionary candidates most often received instruction in Scripture and holy living alongside training in the languages and cultures in which they hoped to serve.
Indigenous missionaries may possess the cultural awareness and language skills that emissaries from the West lacked, but they generally lacked the other enabling resources that Western missionaries brought with them.
The Taylors understood that “Global missions is a very simple endeavor: All that is needed is:
- a man called of God
- sent to the place where God has called him
- with the right tools in his hands”
TEL International exists to provide indigenous missionaries with the right tools in their hands. TEL wants to ensure that “the men who go down into the mine have the tools they need.”
TEL is, therefore, a support ministry that helps existing ministries become more effective. Much of what TEL does centers around funding existing evangelistic efforts around the globe. Elsewhere, they may be funding the construction of a new church building; in another, they may be providing textbooks, desks, chairs, chalkboards, uniforms, and supplies for teachers and students in schools in developing countries.
The organization helps to underwrite sustainable agribusiness initiatives, vital medical services, deliver easily accessible drinking water, and provide feeding and nutrition training and programs. Not to be understated or forgotten, TEL’s primary investment is in empowering Christian leaders.
By investing deeply in leaders, we are following the only model of church growth that has ever proven to be sustainable and fruitful. We invest in pastors, missionaries, and leadership, and these trained Christian leaders, in turn, invest out into the community to which they serve. We focus our training efforts on personal faith development, expository preaching, intercessory prayer, sacrificial service, personal evangelism, and personal discipleship.
The missionaries supported by TEL International may be spread around the globe, but they constitute a family of faithful Christians who ascribe to a Code of Ethics that frame a culture of compliance, ethical decision making, and accountability.
Motivated by compassion and guided by integrity, TEL’s ministry equips churches and spiritual leaders to be the light of the world within their own communities. All of their activities are focused on evangelism and driven by delivering trained disciples who, in turn, will evangelize and train others.
I was particularly touched by a statement on the TEL International website. It is one that could easily be overlooked – both by readers and other well-intentioned missions agencies.
“The work of discipleship is the work of multiplication, not addition, meaning it starts slow and builds over time. We will be patient enough to do the slow groundwork initially to have a powerful impact over the long-term.”