Missionary Slide Shows

africansHaving visiting missionaries in the audience is an exciting time at fundamentalist churches. They set up displays with neat pictures and artifacts from their mission field. They tell thrilling stories of exotic peoples and cultures in far away lands like Botswana, Tanzania, or New Jersey. But most importantly, missionaries show slide shows.

The slide show inevitably starts with National Geographesque scenes of the picturesque beauty of the country and some vital statistics.

“19% of children under five in this country are red-headed and left-handed. The plains region shown here receives 473 inches of rain yearly. The national dish is fried earthworms.”

Next come the stories of the missionary’s work

“In this picture we see the church building where we’ve been meeting for the past three years. Sorry…that man’s not really standing on his head, I must have put that slide in upside down. This man was our first convert — his name means ‘hater of fat white people’.”

At the end comes the Ministry Plea™ portion with and endless stream of faces of people old and young. (Mission field seems somewhat short on middle-aged ugly people.) For those missionaries are able to afford multimedia presentations (a.k.a. a tape recorder) a song like People Need the Lord or Thank You* will wail out to underscore the need on this particular field.

One may wonder if putting the church members’ neighbors on a screen with a soundtrack would make them seem more needy of the gospel. But one doesn’t wonder for too long. It’s time for the love offering…

*not anymore since Ray Boltz came out.

20 thoughts on “Missionary Slide Shows”

      1. I love these comments. I am choosing to read JTR’s comments as a wry satire, even more wry than the posts he’s commenting on 😉

    1. The phrase “You don’t know the half of it” (in response to JTR) keeps running through my mind.

  1. Of course, if you’re a missionary kid, you’ll also have the entire slide show memorized.

    “This is Bedford, home of John Bunyan. He was a tinker. No, I didn’t say stinker, I said tinker.” (and yes, that is a line from my dad’s old presentation!)

  2. Don’t forget the all-important sunset picture! “As we see the sun set over [insert mission field] I’m reminded how the sun is setting for all these people”

  3. I’ll never forget a missionary identifying by name all 40 of the strangers in a slide. Yes, 40 people in one photo!

  4. @Ken: we must have known the same missionary! Ours was from Africa and tended to talk A LOT about everyone he knew there. One time he showed a slide with eight different men in it and gave a detailed account of each and everyone, while his audience gritted their teeth and tried not to think about the dessert fellowship time that was to come at the end of the service, if there ever was an end. As he finished his dissertation–er, description–we breathed an audible sigh of relief. Until he clicked on the next slide. Which had approximately 483 people in it, all of whom had their own story that needed to be told. We had much wailing and gnashing of teeth in the dark.

    1. I’ve heard those missionaries!!

      I was always relieved when a missionary had a pre-recorded testimony to go along with his slides. That way he wouldn’t be tempted to extemporaneously expound on the miniscule details of all the people in his pictures!

  5. Agh! A friend of ours is a missionary now and I JUST saw his presentation after reading this and its the SAME format as described here.

    I wonder if there was actually a format taught in fundy u for that.

  6. My favorite was the moochinary family that showed up at our church half an hour late with their convoy of vehicles. I do not remember how many kids they had, but it was in the double digits. Each child had to quote a chapter of Scripture. Then each of the musical groups formed from the family had to sing a song. (It is amazing how many quartets you can form by arranging 15 kids into different units) Then came the slides, slides of their house, children at play, their hospital, grocery store, the grocery store in the next town and even slides of their midwife–no joking. (I suppose that was relevent because the wife looked like a doily-topped baby manufacturing machine.) Then the preaching started. Three hours later the service ended. Our church decided to support them in reaching their soon to be closed US Military base with a pre-closing population of 3000 soldiers.
    At least we got to hang a German flag in our auditorium. (We did not support the one going to German nationals– but then he didn’t have any “courtship prospects for the pastor’s kids.)

  7. I had a Spanish teacher in high school who had been a missionary to the Philippines. Every class we tried to see if we could get her to start talking about her time there, so we could spend a little less time on Spanish verse memorization and such. The best days were when she would bring in her old slide shows, although it was a bit hard on her son, who was in the class. I imagine the last thing teenagers want is for the parent to show their whole class pictures of them in their fantastic toddler underoos and tell everyone how their pet monkey bit them on the butt when they were five 😀

    1. She was pretty cool though. She ended up sitting with me and some friends at lunch during a field trip and taught us how to say “stupid” in Tagalog!

  8. I never had the slide-show missionary (because I mostly went to Fundamentalist schools, not churches) but I did get the weirdos who made dolls, singing families in converted Grayhound busses, a mish from Brazil with a tape of Anamist rituals with an all drumming/chanting soundtrack, and Ken Ham. All six feet of Ken Ham. God, is he intense. Almost as intense as the crazy Swede who smuggled Bibles into the USSR, but that is another story.

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