by Donald Marsden, Associate Director
One of my favorite films is Fiddler on the Roof. The events take place in the Russian Empire in the early 1900s, a time of social unrest and revolution. After 25 years of marriage Tevye, a poor Jewish dairyman, and his wife Golde, have five daughters. They need to find husbands for the older daughters. Yente, an old woman who has her nose in everybody’s business, is happy to offer her services as a matchmaker. But all of Yente’s efforts at making matches for the daughters are a failure, because the culture is changing. Young men and women are forming friendships and making their own matches.
In my work with Frontier Fellowship, I describe myself as a “relationship broker,” a matchmaker or go-between. I’m looking for people in the Western world who fit the characteristics for partnership with Christian workers out on the frontier—where very few people follow Jesus and the vast majority have little or no opportunity to hear the Gospel.
When I tell people I work as a “relationship broker,” they smile or laugh in recognition that I am telling the truth, but using a word not normally associated with Christian mission. The typical word is “mobilizer.” “Broker” is a word associated with big money—stocks, real estate and power politics. A broker is a deal maker. In spite of these odd associations, the word seems to fit.
As a language learner, I’m often curious about the background of words. I recently looked up the word broker to learn its history. What I discovered both surprised and delighted me. The word broker, first found in Middle English in 1355, comes from the Spanish word albaroque, a ceremonial gift given to the middleman who arranged a business deal between parties. The Spanish word comes from an Arabic word al-barka, meaning blessing or divine favor. The blessing, originally understood as a gift given to the middleman, came to be understood as the middleman himself.
Discovering that the original meaning of broker is blessing brought me great joy. Introducing my friends in the Western world to mission leaders in nations and villages where the Good News of Jesus is just now being made known is one of my favorite things. I am blessed to be in this work. I hope to bless others through it. I have seen clear evidence that God at times does, in fact, use me as a blessing to others through it. Sometimes a matchmaker succeeds!
When we introduce our friends and communities to be a part of God’s work among frontier peoples, we “stir up one another to love and good works…encouraging one another” (Hebrews 10:24-25). Who can you invite to join us on this journey of creating avenues of Gospel access for all peoples?