On Mission: Meet Eric and Joy Paul
“So, Eric, if I were from the local paper, how would you be interviewing? How would you answer these questions I’m asking you?”
Eric stared toward the kitchen sink (which is part of their living room in their studio apartment). Holding his chin, not quite comfortable with my questions, mostly searching—searching to say with just the right language how God has directed he and his family to this mission field called the Big Island of Hawaii. He’s less interested in saying what I want to hear, not the least bit stifled by the answers one would expect from an evangelical, staff pastor.
“I see myself as an agent of reconciliation to divided people groups,” he finally said.
This is Eric Paul, more comfortable in the radical rather than the nominal; more at home in wrestling for peace than cozying up in prosperity; more apt to call his ministry a ministry of reconciliation than a ministry of success and recognition.
He would prefer all attention and professional accolades disappear while his friends and neighbors thrive in a community of justice and abundance. He would prefer not getting an ounce of credit other than the silent, internal affirmation that he indeed is being faithful to the cross of Jesus Christ when he inspires people to live lives marked by grace and forgiveness, vitality and generosity—to live as people saved.
Staff pastor? Yes, technically. But not interested in filling a “staff” role; more interested in seeing the “kingdom come, God’s will be done”.
Missionary-Pastor? Absolutely. On mission with the God of resurrection and salvation.
When I sat with Eric and Joy to discuss this Pastor’s Perspective, Eric was less conversational, more pensive (processing, thinking, internally wrestling with each question, dissatisfied with each answer).
When I asked him if he would answer this way to a reporter, he ignored me. For Eric—half of the Missionary-Pastor team in the North Kona Mission Zone—it doesn’t matter who the audience is, the message is the same: the message is the cross.
The cross is the “lens” by which we must understand ourselves as sinful, broken…and recovering, hopeful people. The cross reminds us that the world is chalk full of unbridled power and violence. The cross helps us see our weaknesses and penchant for exploitation and addiction, greed and materialism.
The cross reminds us that there is a response to such sin, and though the response is not the psuedo-solution the world would give, it is the deep, everlasting, and world-changing solution these times need. The cross is power-through-brokenness, victory-by-grace, salvation-through-submission, and hope-from-the-underside. The cross of Jesus Christ is the only world altering story that has the potential of healing and reconciling the multitudes of broken relationships between disparate people, families, countries, and cultures—and the disconnection we have with the Creator.
This cross—the cross of Jesus—is Eric’s call.
None of that call is singularly held by Eric. Eric and Joy are a team. They were called together to be Missionary-Pastors. Joy articulates it differently, however. Her stage in life (young mom of two), her work experience (teaching and tutoring in disadvantaged urban contexts), and her sensitivities (struggling families, underprivileged children, local community health) are the ingredients that God has used to piece together her call.
Joy is an ordained elder in the Church of the Nazarene; she is committed to leading the Body of Christ toward faithfulness. Joy is convinced that community health begins with family health and family health manifests in children that are thriving. The health of community can be measured by the wellbeing of the kids. As a ministry leader then, she is called to minister to the building blocks of community: families with children.
“Every family I’ve met needs assistance,” she says, “and throw me into that category of needing assistance. I can’t do it on my own.”
For Joy, as you can see, having degrees and expertise doesn’t qualify her as a minister of the Gospel; instead, being with her neighbors in the thick-of-life, modeling and teaching and inspiring other families to live healthily and faithfully serves as her credentialing and her practical ministry outlet.
Is she on staff? Yes. But as a Missionary-Pastor, you’ll find Joy looking for ways to BE with other moms and BE with other kids, serving as a source of grace in their lives and hope in a healthier future. Pastors can DO programs 7 days a week, Missionaries must first BE in and among the people and homes of the community.
Being with other families on a journey toward the Kingdom is Joy's call.
Eric and Joy Paul, along with Justice (2) and Micah (6 mo) are on a mission with Kona Coast Naz. As they grow friendships with other families in the community they are intentional to fulfill Joy’s calling. As they are agents of grace and model the cross of Jesus Christ to their neighbors, they fulfill Eric’s calling.
Two practical examples of this might surprise you.
In their conviction that deep and genuine health is a part of our call to faithfulness and the beginning of the salvation found in the cross of Jesus, they have identified one area in which they both can engage their calls and minister to this community. In the way of Jesus, the Pauls are wanting to build relationships with others around meals and tables. But what is served on the table is important (remember: Joy is called to minister to the health of families, and food is a major component of that health). And clearly, reaching those in need of God’s grace and hope is a top priority (remember: Eric’s call is the cross, from where we receive our hope).
Meals. Table. Healthy food. Relationships. Hopes.
They are seeking a ministry partner to fill the positions of Missionary-Farmer. This person would focus all of their attention at accomplishing the task of literally GROWING healthy discipleship relationships and stronger families. (Don’t you love that!?)
Another practical example of their ministry at Kona Coast Naz is their focus on church plants. They are helping KCN become a multi-congregational, multi-ethnic church on mission to the Big Island. Specifically, they are helping plant several ethnic churches in North Kona and will facilitate the relationships between their ministry efforts.
Building Kingdom bonds and healthy relationships are a difficult cross-cultural challenge. But if there is a young family that is capable in overcoming that challenge, it is the Paul ohana.
We are thrilled to have them on our team to reach the lost, disciple the found, and model the Kingdom here on the Big Island, and I hope that this glimpse of their call and ministry has excited you (as much as it does all of us).
The following picture is without Micah (and Justice is much older now), but It's one of my favorites!