Mentorship & ministry: Missionary shares ‘Letters to an Apprentice’
May 4th, 2020 / By: Shawn Hendricks | TEXAN Correspondent / comments
After serving in remote villages of the Amazon and war-torn areas of sub-Saharan Africa, Jeremy Taliaferro knows the importance of having solid Christian mentors in his corner when times get tough.
The native Texan has served with the International Mission Board for more than 20 years. He and his wife Susan have four children and lead a team of missionaries in Uganda, where they help minister to refugees near the South Sudan border. During his mission career, he has mentored young missionaries, and many of them continue to serve overseas. Taliaferro shares about the lessons he’s learned as an apprentice and mentor in his book, “Letters to an Apprentice: A Culture of Mentorship.”
“I have had an amazing journey of mentorship throughout my life,” writes Taliaferro, who is member of First Baptist Church in Springtown, Texas, and also partners with Harmony Baptist Church in Weatherford. “And I want everyone to have access to life-changing mentors like I have had. However, that doesn’t just happen.”
In the book, IMB President Paul Chitwood noted that Taliaferro challenges Christians to “steward well their influence in the lives of others.”
“After riding the dusty roads of Uganda with Jeremy, walking through refugee settlements with him, and watching him interact with his children, his team members, and indigenous church leaders, I can testify to the fact that Jeremy is modeling what he encourages his readers to do … his book has inspired and equipped me to be a better mentor.”
There are no perfect mentors, Taliaferro writes. In the book, he shares openly about hard lessons and mistakes he has made as missionary and mentor. He also gives an honest look at mentors who have poured into his life through the years.
In one chapter that Taliaferro titles, “The Missing Chapter: A Difficult Question,” he writes about a mentor who eventually turned away from his faith in Christ. Taliaferro wrestled at first with whether he should include the man he simply refers to in the book as “Pilgrim.” But he decided it was important to include a chapter about a mentor who disappointed him but still had a positive impact on his life.
“I remember so vividly as he walked alongside me as I was starting out as a missionary,” Taliaferro writes. “He gave me wisdom and challenged my prideful ideas. I saw him demonstrate a deep love for a hurting people. I saw him lead his family and love everyone around him. But now it’s gone.”
Taliaferro goes on to write his former mentor a letter and expresses his hope that he will one day turn back to Christ. “Although you have closed the door to the Lord, I beg you not to lock it,” he writes, “it is my hope that you will leave the door cracked a bit and let him take it from there.”
Taliaferro hopes readers will better recognize the mentors they have in their life and intentionally seek out opportunities to mentor others.
“Often times we have mentors in our life, and we don’t even notice it,” he said in a video about the book, “and we don’t even recognize them as mentors until years down the road and we realize this person really impacted me.”
For more information about the book, released by Lucid Books, go to https://letterstoanapprentice.com/. Or, go to www.jtaliaferro.com.