Bob and Lynne Trout have been married for forty-seven years and have been missionaries for forty-three of those years (!). Bob currently serves as ABWE’s Executive Administrator for Spanish Speaking South America. He studied at Geneva College, Los Angeles Baptist Seminary, and Bob Jones University (D. Min. 1998). He met Lynne at Geneva College and they joined ABWE in 1966. They initially served in Lima, Peru and Asuncion, Paraguay, and have spent the last thirty-one years in Bogota, Colombia. They have three children and ten grand-children, and are currently serving in their seventeenth church plant.
I don’t know Bob Trout personally, but he is supported by our church body and respected by our church leaders. I’ve read his email updates for several years, and I’ve sought counsel from him via phone and writing. I thought it would be well-worth my time (and potentially yours) to ask him some questions about missions, and he was kind enough to provide some helpful answers. I appreciate his brevity and conciseness, especially since I know that his few words are boiling down decades of experience. As always, my questions are in bold.
How did you recognize Christ’s calling on your life to be a missionary? Early in our marriage we recognized God’s call through a missionary conference and through contacts with missionaries. God continued to confirm the call through our seminary days.
Could you give several examples of undesirable events or periods in your life that you now see the Lord was using to shape you in necessary ways? Our middle child suffered an accident when a woman threw a rock through the window of our car. That was 1980 and we almost gave up our missionary career. We were stretched almost to breaking but we continued on. What a blessing of ministry that has followed through the next twenty-nine years. We learned from this experience that:
- God is in control at all times.
- Family is important, especially in times of distress.
- My wife Lynne was a tremendous help during the entire experience. Wives are so important.
- Love for family is so important.
What are some essential qualities of a good missionary, and how can believers cultivate these qualities? Flexibility, a good sense of humor, faithfulness and loyalty. I believe that it is important to stay focused on where you are going. Key to this is planning strategically where you are going in ministry. The discipline of following that strategic plan is so important. ABWE assists missionaries in this area.
If you were 25 years old again, what would you do the same and what would you do differently (in terms of decisions, priorities, and pursuits)? There is little I would change. We were given a great foundation at our home church with a pastor who focused on missions. His vision was clearly presented in the pulpit. From that time forward, our focus has been church planting/leadership training. God has allowed us the privilege of serving in seventeen different church plants, seven of which we started ourselves from scratch. We have stayed the course and continue to train others to do so. God has allowed us the privilege of seeing one church that has grown into twenty-two (church planting movement) in thirty-one years. One thousand people attended our last annual fellowship meeting.
How have missionaries (in general) changed over the last forty years, for better and for worse?
- New missionaries need community. They suffer in the area of loneliness when they first arrive on the field.
- They want to work in a team but prefer that they direct the team.
- Missionaries are much better trained today.
- Preferences play a major part in their lives. Dress, music, family all influence relationships with others.
- More materialism affects them.
- Short term commitment preferred.
What are the blessings and challenges of short-term trips, for the on-field missionaries and churches themselves? One challenge is that missionaries are busily engaged in ministry, so taking on a group for two weeks or more is a scheduling challenge. The short-termers should come prepared and focused. Several benefits of short-term trips are that the sending church’s vision of missions is increased, and the short-term team can be an example to the nationals.
Over the years, what have missionaries said are the greatest blessings they receive from churches and friends back home?
- Prayer communication — when churches ask missionaries about their prayer needs, or inform the missionaries about the church’s prayer needs.
- Good overall communication from the church such as telephone calls from the pastor and letters from the people.
- Practical provision for needs in all areas: family, projects, support, etc.
What are some of the new doors the Lord is opening for the gospel in South America? What are some of the specific personnel needs?
- Specialized ministries include: deaf, youth, music, seminary professors, medical.
- Needs in Spanish speaking South America include:
– Medical personnel
– Seminary Directors
– Business managers
– Church planting with national (discipleship)
– Camp directors
– English immersion teachers
– MK teachers
What guidance would you give to those who are considering missions but are unsure?
- Visit a field of interest.
- Talk with experienced missionaries.
- Seek guidance from church pastor, staff.
- Read missionary biographies (many available through ABWE).
- Seek God’s direction in prayer and Bible study.
You’ve lived most of your life in South America. What encouragements would you give to members of the church in America?
- Serving God as a missionary for forty-three years has given opportunities beyond what we had expected when we first began. All should consider missions as a vocation.
- Increase your missionary vision through short term visits or volunteer groups. Get involved as much as possible in missions experience and opportunities.
- God blesses the church with a mission’s vision – Acts 1:8.
- Placerita does a great job of including, informing, and maintaining contact with their missionaries. Thank you.
From your many decades walking with the Lord and serving as a missionary, what have you seen about God? What major things do you believe about Him more firmly, more deeply, and more passionately after all these years?
- God always provides for our needs. It is interesting to see all of the details of God’s control over our lives.
- God is a God of fruit (John 6). He has produced fruit that we even are not aware of. During our thirty-one yeras in Bogota, our church planting movement has grown from one church to twenty-seven. The participants in these churches have grown from 35 to 2,500. In ABWE overall, for example, there are over 1,000 churches in Peru and 2,000 in the Philippines.
- Long term ministry reveals more opportunities and more fruit. God honors and expects faithfulness (1 Corinthians 4).
- God honors vision and purpose. As we establish goals and strategy, we can watch God work more effectively as the results become evident.
- God uses all kinds of people to accomplish His purposes.
- We serve for His glory, a difficult aspect of ministry to keep in focus but very necessary.
- God is so good in all circumstances, both good and bad (Romand 8:28, 29).
- God always is in control of all things; He never fails.
- Prayer is vital; God definitely answers prayer.
- Discipleship is essential; God uses this to effectively grow his church.