Why missions? It’s 2021, aren’t we past that?
My answer has come in many ways at different times. But first let me give my simple definition of missions. Missions means going to someone not like me, crossing a barrier of colour or culture and language to live out and share the message of Jesus.
Now back to the ‘why’ question. Why should I go? My first answer began in the back of a pickup truck in Oregon, USA, when ‘somebody out there’ reached out a hand to me and the fear and despair in my heart from a drug overdose melted. I did not know then, but understood six months later in a park in Western Samoa, that ‘somebody’ was Jesus. A young missionary invited me to his home for supper (which turned into a month in his house). He had gone to Samoa to share the gospel of Jesus. He modelled and explained it and set me on a life long journey to do what he had done for me. My first answer to the why was that someone went to me and told me. I needed a messenger and a saviour and so do all the ‘others’.
There have been many more answers to the ‘why missions’ question. In 1980, 500.000 refugees, fleeing the ‘Pol Pot’ genocide in Cambodia ringed the border with Thailand. I’d heard the stories of their suffering and prayed for these desperate people. Some months later I found myself in a camp in Cambodia. A Thai army jeep drove in with a little girl, wrapped in a blanket, who had just lost her leg to a land mine. I held her, Chanta, 12 years old, in my arms in the back of our truck as we drove the hour and a half to the nearest hospital. My world was falling apart from with the fear, anger, the helplessness I felt. Nothing in my safe and secure life in Canada had prepared me for this. ‘Where are you Jesus? How could a little girl, gone fishing lose her leg. Why didn’t you stop this?’ It wasn’t audible but I heard his answer in my heart, ‘I never meant for this to happen, never in all eternity, but at least I could have you here when it did.’ That was answer number two, and it changed my life. Being there for those God loves. I read the Bible to Chanta through many lunch breaks as she was treated in the hospital, and five months later drove her back to her parents.
My three-month outreach turned into eight years. I was tricked into missions. I could not leave. I was part of an outpouring of hope never before known to the Cambodia people. A people who had ‘lived in the darkness’ of the endless wheel of suffering, of karma and Buddhism ‘had seen a great light’ (Isa 9.2). The church of Cambodia was born; an eternal hope was born, in those camps. Hell had lost its hold on them.
There have been many others answers to the why along the way. After Thailand I studied the bible for a year and learned that the bible is the missionary-God’s story of saving humanity. He first called Abraham to ‘leave his father’s house and go’ saying ‘I will make you a blessing’ to the ‘others’, (the ones not like you) (Genesis 12. 1-3 NLT). And Jesus said ‘as the Father has sent me so I am sending you’. Jesus left his home and came to us. And again and again He said ‘I am a Father to the fatherless, a refuge for the foreigner, an advocate for the prisoner and it is all through us.’
One last ‘why’ story from another missionary. He went to Africa because, as he wrote later, ‘I’d heard about the suffering of the African people and I wanted to go and help. When I got there, I prayed and shared the gospel, but nobody listened. One day I went into my bedroom and got down on my knees and said to God “You tricked me. I came to help these poor lost souls, and when I got here I found out they aren’t interested in You, or the gospel, they love their sin and want to stay in it. You tricked me God and I’m going home.” And I heard a still small voice which seemed to echo through eternity say, “I know they are sinners, and they love their sin, and are going to die in it, but I love them. I didn’t send you out there for them, I sent you out there for me. I know they are sinners but I love them and I died for them to show them my love.”’ And the missionary wrote, ‘It changed it all. I was ministering to the heart of the living God.’ Jesus said in Matthew 25.40 ‘As much as you’ve done it for the least of these you’ve done it for me.’ When we minister to those God loves we are somehow ministering to him. This was Mother Teresa’s motivation. She said I get up each day and go out and minister to Jesus in the poor and lost and dying.
These are some of my answers to the why missions question. Number one, someone left home to reach me when I desperately needed a saviour. How about you? Two, there is a broken world out there, Jesus has the power to heal but He does it through us. Will you leave your home and go? Three, when we love those He died for we touch His heart. That’s the best part. He has suffered most.
Over to you then.
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