Today’s Five Question interview is with Eddie Funkowitz. Eddie was a career worker for the IMB, but has moved on to different challenges in the US. We caught up with Eddie as he was applying for a Sam’s Club membership while slurping a 64 ounce drink he got for a buck down at the Stop N Go.
As always, names are changed to keep my interviewees from coming to my house and stealing my jalapenos in retaliation. Everything else is absolutely true.
1. Many IMB workers feel cut off from SBC life and trends. Returning to the North American SBC work force often means figuring out the latest events and hot-button problems. What SBC trends and issues caught you off guard the most when you moved to the U.S.?
After coming off the mission field where there is a huge sense of family or team pride within the IMB, I found it extremely disappointing to see the fighting within our own convention. I am not saying everyone within the IMB sees eye-to-eye on all the policies or direction the IMB is taking, but by and large the missionaries take great pride in being part of the IMB team. As a convention founded on the concept of autonomous churches cooperating together in order to accomplish greater things, it is extremely discouraging to see us fight over non-essential matters. I don’t expect every church within the convention to agree on every matter, but it would be great to see the same sense of family or team pride within our convention.
2. As you’ve represented the IMB to pastors and ministers who became, in essence, your co-laborers here in North America, did you find they understood how missions changed you and your view of ministry?
I don’t think it is realistic to expect them to understand. Life and ministry in a different culture is completely different than in North America. I don’t view this as a negative; it is simply reality. It is similar to when missionaries share with churches on their STAS. Some people understand, but most people don’t have the experiences to truly understand what life and ministry in a different culture is really like.
Missions is my passion. It is what excites me. Some pastors will say things like, “we need to focus here first, before going overseas.” That goes against everything I believe. It doesn’t offend me. I just have a completely different view of the world as a result of my missions involvement. I believe if every pastor would leave the comforts of North America and go and serve for a couple of weeks in a different culture it would radically change the church in North America.
3. What part of life in North America appeals to you the most relative to where you were living and working on the field?
Some of the obvious perks are living closer to family, knowing the language, understanding the culture and eating familiar food.
The speed at which Americans live is absolutely crazy. We are so over-extended and we have no reason to be. We have more money and more conveniences than practically everywhere else in the world. We should be the most care-free, laid back society; but we are probably the most anxious, uptight, stressed society. What’s sad is that it is equally true of believers and non-believers.
4. How did you explain the change in your calling (or however you put it) to people who supported you in missions?
I didn’t feel like there was a change in my calling. Missionaries often change roles or even geographical locations for many different reasons. However, it is never viewed as a change of calling unless they go back to North America.
Many of my friends in the IMB have served in different countries. Much of the leadership within the IMB served in different countries. If they were asked to explain the change in their calling, they would say there wasn’t a change they simply moved to a new role or new country. I view mine as the same. I continue to serve in missions as a missions pastor.
5. There’s talk of the IMB and NAMB combining or joining efforts. Since you left the turf of the former in order to live in the land of the latter, what’s your thinking on this concept?
I think it is an interesting concept. I personally believe that life and ministry is so radically different outside North America that it would be a mistake to combine the two organizations. I understand that some operating budget could be saved or possibly more resources would find its way to the field, but missionaries outside of North America face completely different issues than those living in North America. I believe the two organizations should stay separate.
Bonus question: How many pounds have you gained since being back in the US?
I have gained 3 lbs. over the last 3 1/2 years. Not too bad for a guy who loves to eat. I gained more weight on my past stateside assignments and vacations to the US when I was with the IMB than I have in the past 3 1/2 years.
Only 3 pounds? I wanna be you when I grow up.