audacious missionary initiative has seen the light of day. I knew I was
supposed to be as excited about it as I am sure the missionary
colleagues who concocted the plan were. After all, another tribe in
Africa which hitherto has had no gospel witness will, if everything goes
according to plan, hear the good news in the next few years. But deep
down inside, I was not particularly excited. I was, to be honest,
pessimistic. Surely, I thought, this is another exercise in futility.
After all, the tribe in question is fiercely Muslim. Their rejection of
Christ as Lord will be, if the long history of missionary efforts in
similar tribes is anything to go by, swift and, unequivocal. (Though as
Africans, they will at least be polite about it.) A half-dozen disciples
on the margins of the tribe after 20 years will, by any fair measure,
constitute a smashing success.
our colleagues were led by the Holy Spirit – and I have every reason
to believe they were – what might we make of such a seemingly futile
enterprise? It seems – and this does not make good missionary
recruitment material – that sometimes God sends us missionaries to the
far corners of the earth not for our hearer’s salvation, but so that
their eventual condemnation will be made as unequivocal and damning
as possible. In the Apostle’s words, some missionaries are,
alas, destined to be the fragrance of death to their hearers.
I am right in this suspicion, it will not be a new thing. Isaiah, too,
was sent to a people who would be “ever hearing but never
understanding.” God told Jeremiah plainly that “when you tell them
all this, they will not listen to you.” Ezekiel was sent to the house
of Israel which God assures him “will not listen to you because they
are not willing to listen to me.” And of course Jesus and the apostles
had a similarly cool reception from the Jews in the synagogues. The two
witnesses in Revelation 11 will preach before an equally unreceptive
audience. Still, God sends them, even as today he sends missionaries on
what seem to be futile missions.
do they go? Of course at the outset, hope, optimism, and great
expectations of what God might do carry the day.
But when the decades wear on and obstinacy and indifference are
all the missionary has to show for his efforts, then what? Did the he
waste his life? Did all
those supporters waste their money? While the Kwong are nowhere near as
stubborn as the Jews of Isaiah’s time or the Muslim tribes in
question, they have displayed just enough apathy, compromise, and
occasional contempt for the gospel that we have sometimes asked
ourselves these same questions. Two great theological truths have come
to mind during those seasons of discouragement.
first is that while a missionary labors, prays, and weeps, for the
salvation of his hearers, what he desires (or should desire) even more
is the glory and honor of his Lord.
second more sobering reality is a corollary to the first, namely that
the Scriptures seem to teach that ultimately, the glory of Christ will
shine in the eons to come in the judgment
of the intransigent just as in the salvation
of the righteous. In other words, a missionary’s ultimate aim (the
greater glory of Christ) is achieved even when he is destined to spend
his life with a tribe which isn’t the least bit interested in what he
has to offer. This is not so much a consolation for the missionary as a
vindication before the saints and angels (never mind his family and
supporters) of his apparently futile expenditure of his life.
eventuality – that I might spend my life in apparent futility so that
God’s judgment of a people will be more clearly just and Christ's
glory correspondingly greater – was never a part of my missionary
orientation. And with reason. Hope and optimism, not sober “what
if’s” are what a 26 year-old needs (or at least wants) as he sets
out to take the world by storm. But failing such a theology of judgment
(or something similar), it is hard to see how a clear-thinking person
can reasonably give his life to an endeavor whose prognosis of success
(by the usual measure) is so poor.
the glory of Christ fill the hearts and minds of our colleagues as they
go forth boldly in this new initiative, so that they persevere in the
very difficult task which lies before them. And may God grant them
the unspeakable grace and joy of seeing the Son glorified in the great
salvation of many of their hearers.
ministry at a glance – so you can pray.
enduring desire is to see Kwong pastors take their responsibilities as
shepherds seriously. His efforts in this regard with the pastors of the
Kwong church district as a whole continue to be a failure. With regards to
our local church here in Chageen however, it is good to see Pastor Pierre
and some of the elders being more proactive about going out to visit
people who haven't been in church for a while.
Thursday morning discipleship and prayer times with some of the
influential women have been encouraging. When one of the ladies suggested
suspending their meetings during planting season, the others took
exception, and they continued to meet through this very busy time of year.
is transforming the book of Acts, which we finished translating last year,
into a serial radio drama. Meanwhile, Mark, François and Joseph have
finished translating the book of Revelation, have tested it for
comprehension with several Kwong men, and have written extensive study
notes to illuminate the meaning of this difficult book. Quite apart from
achieving another milestone in the translation effort, all of us were
greatly enriched with the vision of a sovereign God and the Lamb
superintending the end of civilization as we know it.
coming January will mark seven years that the Voice of Chageen has been on
the air, doing an end-run around illiteracy, saving us thousands of miles
and months of travel, and being in a general sense the mouthpiece of all
that we do in Kwongland. The thing that impresses us most, however, is the
faithfulness of our staff – David our engineer, and François and Kaglo
our main DJ's. Our main "issue" right now is that the huge
lead-acid batteries which are charged by solar panels and which operate
the station are aging, and need to be replaced – all 960 lbs of them.
This obviously requires a large shipping container but none is on the
horizon. For the time being, the Lord has given us wisdom to successfully
nurse along the ones we have.
Evangelical Clinic of Chageen continues to be the top-rated clinic of our
government health district. As such, it is receiving quite generous
"merit" grants from the World Health Organization which enable
it to make improvements and reduce the prices it charges patients. On the
down side, bad blood between the Kwong church hierarchy and the clinic
chaplain, Luke (whom some of you may remember from the days when he was on
the translation committee) has left the clinic with no chaplain at all. This is a pity, because Luke was doing an
excellent job, even visiting patients at home after they got better.
continue to teach the children's Sunday school in Chageen every Sunday,
and Jonas, our incomparable story teller continues to tell them the
history of Israel – which we continue to record and edit for broadcast
on the Voice of Chageen. However, after almost 6 years of telling stories,
it seems Jonas is getting kind of tired of doing this. He only manages to
do another episode about every 3rd Sunday. Mark pinch-hits on
the other Sundays telling the kids stories about Jesus, which to be
honest, does give some needed balance to the "curriculum", such
as it is.
This Paper Newsletter
may be thinking that it has been a really long time since you received a
paper newsletter from us. As a matter of fact, it has been an entire year.
That sounds bad, but during that year-long hiatus from paper, we sent out
6 lengthy news updates via email. A sign of the times, you might say. If
you are one of the 91 people getting this paper letter but not getting the
email updates, and you would like to hear from us more often, send us a
note at firstname.lastname@example.org and we would be most pleased to add your
name to the email list.