Kunkels look forward to challenge of Paraguay
By Barbara Shoun
January 24, 2006
JEFFERSON CITY – In less than six months, Tim and Iracema Kunkel and their son, Steven, will leave the relative safety of the United States for a land where danger, corruption and poverty are commonplace. They will become missionaries to Paraguay.
“Why do we go?” asked Tim Kunkel, who then proceeded to answer his own question.
“I’m a private and there’s a General who told me to go – and that is the Lord Jesus Christ.”
For 15 years prior to the summer of 2005, the Kunkels were missionaries to Uruguay where they set up the work, trained people, started local churches, discipled believers, and entrusted the ministry to local pastors.
Kunkel said he had felt for about a year that their work in northwest Uruguay was nearing completion. When the International Mission Board (IMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention approached them last April about starting a ministry in Paraguay, they prayed about the move and knew it was where God wanted them to be.
They remain in contact with their Uruguayan pastors.
“That’s what Paul did,” said Kunkel. “And he worried about them. That’s why he sent letters.” Kunkel does the same for his pastors. He prays for them, calls them, sends pictures, and provides encouragement.
While on state-side assignment for one year, he and Iracema are making adjustments in preparation for the move to Paraguay.
“We are leaving a beautiful, picturesque place ( Uruguay) for a country that is not as beautiful,” he says. He and his family felt safe in Uruguay, but in Paraguay, with its jihadists and Islamic fundamentalists, they do not feel so safe.
While in the States – missionaries spend four years on the field and one year in the States – they serve as Missionaries in Residence for the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC). This involves living in the state and making contacts that support mission efforts.
The Kunkels have speaking engagements nearly every weekend and are doing a number of five-day missions celebrations in which they are part of a larger group speaking about missions.
In the meantime, they are learning the Guarani language and doing strategic coordination on how to bring the Gospel to the 6.3 million people of Paraguay. Tim will be going there in March for 10 days of training with people who are on the Eastern Paraguay team.
Only 1-2 percent of the population is evangelized. Kunkel refers to the country as “one of the pockets of lostness in South America.”
When they arrive in the country, the Kunkels will have to find temporary living quarters until the IMB is able to rent or buy them a home. Their belongings have been in storage since they left Uruguay and will be shipped when they find permanent housing. Thankfully, some people have given special offerings to help with these re-settlement expenses.
Kunkel believes the support of churches back home is vital to the success of mission work in foreign countries.
“I don’t think we’re challenging our people enough and telling them that the world is in dire danger,” he said. “Christianity is losing ground. Populations are swelling. They’re having more kids than we are. There are 6.4 billion people on the planet and 1.2 billion have never heard the Gospel. Missions is so necessary.”
He tells of the response he and his wife had in Uruguay.
“We helped start churches where there had never been a church in the history of the world. They (Uruguayans) asked us, ‘If Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, why did it take you (Christians) approximately 1,960 years to get here?’
“There is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved,” he said, quoting Acts 4:12. “If we believe that Christ is the only way, somebody has got to take the Gospel to these people. If it’s not me, then who is going to do it?”
He notes that most churches set a goal of only $10 or $20 per regular attendee for their Lottie Moon Christmas Offering while the typical U.S. family spends nearly $800 for Christmas gifts.
“We say we believe the Bible in the Southern Baptist Convention. The Bible says Jesus is the only way to salvation. How can we believe that and not have the passion to take Christ to the lost?” he asked.
The Kunkels leave July 6 for Asuncion, Paraguay. Anyone interested in receiving their monthly updates may e-mail them at email@example.com or call them to arrange a speaking date at (573) 635-8791.