Greetings brothers and sisters,
It is truly a blessing and a privilege to be able to report of the work of Jesus Christ in this part of the world. I thank God on a consistent basis for giving me the opportunity to serve him here in Cambodia. Most of you have received an email from me recently announcing my commitment to Christ in this country for at least 20 more years. It wasn’t an easy decision as the head of my family but definitely a necessary one. In this month’s blog, I want to do something different. I want to share some thoughts with you that helped me be the missionary that I am today and the decisions that I‘ve made in my life. These thoughts did not originate with me, but by a brother in Christ who is a missionary in France. His name is Charles O. White and in his book, “The Missionary Myth--A Realistic Look at Mission Work” put out by J.C. Choate Publications, chapter five talks about the missionary’s spirituality. I recommend this book to all who wants to be a missionary and to all who wants to support missionaries. I will be quoting word for word an excerpt of chapter five.
“While no missionary would tell you that his original decision to do mission work was inspired primarily by his own spiritual depth, every missionary will tell you that the experience has indeed expanded his spiritual dimensions. The daily putting of his faith on the line, the repeated defending of his convictions against sizeable opposing forces, the constant emotional, social (and geographical) isolation from his committed supporters-- all of this in a foreign cultural setting-- leaves little choice: blossom or wilt. New missionaries discover quickly that they are not as mature as they thought before coming. Some find the going to rough. Most, however, when confronted by the hard reality of mission life, place their hearts in the Lord’s hands, lean full on him, and learn the hard lesson of humility and trust, often with spectacular results, both in their lives and in their work. Brethren tend to overdo the images they project of mission workers to the point of triteness. They see the missionary as a “soldier of the cross,” as an “embattled warrior” for the Lord; they consider him a tireless worker, a master thinker, often an accomplished orator, always a profoundly spiritual person, one whose every attitude is to be imitated, whose every word is to be weighed as rising from the depths of a heart steeped in wisdom. There is a certain amount of truth in all of this. But images, even those constructed on truth, can soon turn to caricature. The definite tendency is to idealize the missionary, to see him not as he really is, but as he is imagined. Is this because of the spiritual commitment that leads him to place his life in the hands of God for the expansion of his kingdom? Is it because of the financial sacrifice he bears in order to preach the gospel? Those who exhibit such qualities certainly deserve our respect and esteem. They do not deserve, nor do they want, to be idealized. For in truth every Christian is called to do the things I have just mentioned. The missionary is nothing more than a “normal” Christian doing what a normal Christian should do, with the exception that he does it in a foreign culture, with all of the challenges and dangers that such supposes. He could well do without the “image” he bears and the enormous public relations aspect the brethren have imposed on his work. If he could only get on the task of teaching the lost, without all of the fuss and bother, he would feel so much better about it all. Instead, he must advertise, convince, pitch, and sell in order to keep himself and his work afloat. The brethren seem to need all of this fanfare. Indeed they even require it. I suspect that underlying our idealizing of mission workers is an undercurrent, if not of shame, at least of disappointment at one’s not having directly participated in a mission effort of one kind or another. This shame/disappointment factor seems to play a role in the way brethren view those who actually do go. They often look at them with wonder and awe, even with envy. I have heard good people who need not feel guilty about not being foreign missionaries declare: “If only I could have been a missionary! Some day, I’ll come over there and join you on the field!” They know good and well they will never be able to do that; but they wish they had been able, and the impossibility of it all gnaws at them needlessly. And what is it they secretly seek? Probably to be admired as missionaries are admired. Let me say here, parenthetically, that this admiration of missionaries has another, less pleasant, side, for it is coupled with a dangerous and perplexing (for the missionary: the brethren do not seem to notice this) reluctance to commit funds to their work for any length of time, with the resulting paradox that admired, adulated workers are forced to beg and plead to find and keep adequate funding for their work. This is an interesting situation indeed. Could it be that real appreciation of the mission worker stems from a respect for his willingness to submit to financial sacrifice? Could this, then, be the reason why, when the missionary is obviously hurting financially, supporters remain strangely unmoved? “After all,” the thinking seems to be, “that’s part of being a missionary, isn’t it?” Let me put it another way: You who are reading this, could you still admire and appreciate a man who, while doing mission work, is not only not having to face financial deprivation but indeed is living well, financially (like most of his located colleagues in the States)? Think about it. On the basis of their lives and work, missionaries are indeed deserving of a special hearing from their brethren; they should be respected for the Lord who dwells in them and for the way they have allowed him to use them to his glory. But the image most brethren have of the missionary’s spirituality is a false one. Real missionary spiritual depth is not necessarily demonstrated by eloquent prayers, impressive preaching, or masterful money-raising, but is rather of a nature that no worker ever really expects to find, the kind that is in the end, more profound, more meaningful than he could ever have imagined before entering the field. At the same time, this deep growth toward God leads him along a road of suffering that few Christians experience.
“Could I have known the path ahead,
Could I have seen that I’d be led,
To mountains such as these,
Forgive me, Lord: I would have fled
Could I have known the weariness,
Could I have seen the tearful stress
Of climbing to this height…
Forgive me, Lord, my stubbornness.
But now I stand upon the crest,
And now I view the Holiest
To which, by pain, I’m led.
O thank you, Lord: your way is best.
I hope that you’ve gained a little insight of what real mission work entails just by reading the excerpt of brother White’s book. The whole book goes into further details of what real mission work is about. In my estimation, it's one of the best books I've read on mission work and would recommend it to anybody who has a serious interest in mission work. I am grateful for such books that help aid us in our ministry and if you have any good literature that you can recommend and share with me, I’d love to read them and expand my knowledge to the glory of God.
This month was very special for me personally in that I was able to perform my very first wedding ceremony as a gospel preacher. It was such a joyful occasian and I am truly blessed to be able to take part in bringing two faithful Christians together in Holy matrimony. I asked that you keep our brother Darat and sister Saray in your prayers and that they will continue to be faithful to God and to each other. This month, the school began it's last quarter for the first year. We are excited for the students in their accomplishing a very demanding first year of intensive Bible study. We ask that you continue to keep them and the work here in your prayers as well.