Proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ to transform people

The work of our church extends outside of our doors to our community and to the ends of the earth through the missionary outreach that we support. And, even in this time of isolation and a general slowdown, that work of preaching the Gospel continues with urgency.

I once witnessed a powerful example of what mission work does to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to transform people.

You perhaps have heard about the five missionaries who were killed by the Waodani Indians in Ecuador in 1956. The missionaries had flown into the jungle, landing on a remote stretch of the Curaray River which they dubbed “Palm Beach.” There, they had made initial overtures to the previously unreached tribe.

During their stay, something went terribly wrong and the five men were killed by members of the tribe. Among them was Jim Elliot, the husband of the well-known Christian author and speaker, Elisabeth Elliot.

An American soldier and Ecuadorian troops accompanied missionaries to the site several days later to investigate. They buried four of the bodies on the bank of the river—one body was later found farther downstream. The search party left the missionaries’ Piper-PA-14 Family Cruiser airplane behind.

That incident was the catalyst for hundreds, maybe thousands of people to enter missionary service. And, it spawned several books, movies and other presentations.

Elisabeth Elliot and Rachel Saint, Nate’s sister, eventually went back into the village and began living among the Waodani people. Many of them became believers. While Elisabeth eventually returned to live in the U.S., Rachel continued to live among the tribe until just before her death. She is buried near Toñamapade.

Nate’s son, Steve, also got to know many of the Waodanis and spent several summers with them as a boy. As a result, he speaks their language.

In 1994, reports began to come in to Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) missionaries that parts of an airplane were beginning to wash up along the Curaray River at the village and downstream for several miles. Then, a report came out of the jungle that the skeleton of a small aircraft had been found.

I was in the village of Toñampade one day and ran into Bill Clapp, an MAF missionary who had flown there to investigate the reports. I went with him to nearby Palm Beach, and we found some cable and a few scraps of metal that looked like they had come from the plane.

We then crossed back over to the village and went to a house where, we had been told, the airframe of the plane had been placed. There, behind the building, was, indeed, the rusted framework of a Piper-PA-14 Family Cruiser. That discovery brought stunned silence. Finally, Bill put his hand on the throttle and moved it forward. And, I remember distinctly what he said. “The last person to move that throttle was Nate Saint, 38 years ago.”

Several months later I went back to Toñampade in the jungle with Steve Saint, Bill Clapp and others to try to recover and carry out as much of the aircraft as possible. We combed the beach for days, walking back and forth along the banks of the river. One Indian had brought in a sheet of metal that was obviously part of the outside wall of the fuselage. It had a space on the side where the plane’s nameplate had been.

As we were walking down the beach, someone pointed. There, lying in the water was a piece of metal with the word “Piper” on it.

One day while we were there, we took off on a hike away from the river, back into the depths of the jungle. After a half-hour walk, we came upon a clearing and an old building alongside a good sized stream. There, waiting for us was an elderly Indian gentleman. He had walked barefoot for two hours to meet with Steve.

The two men immediately embraced and began to talk in the Waodani language. They must have conversed for at least a half-hour while the rest of us fed the parrots and Toucans and Quetzels that the owner of the property kept while he also allowed his monkeys to climb up on us and sit on our shoulders.

Finally, the pair got up and embraced, and the old man slowly waded across the stream to begin his two-hour trek back home.

I looked at Steve Saint and saw that he had tears in his eyes. I asked him about the old man. He said, “I never know when I say goodbye whether it will be the last time that I see him here on earth.” In fact, the man died about three or four years later.

Then, I learned that it was this person who 38 years earlier had been on Palm Beach and was the one who took a spear and drove it through the heart of Nate Saint, Steve’s father.

And there in the Amazon jungle of Ecuador, I watched those two talk and embrace with genuine affection and Christian love.

I have never witnessed such a powerful display of what one person’s forgiveness of another and God’s forgiveness can accomplish: the complete transformation of a sinner into a believer, a reconciliation between two very different men, and the entrance of a new-born saint into the Lord’s kingdom.

Recently my good friend and missionary colleague Ralph Kurtenbach wrote about another of those tribesmen who died a month or two ago. Here are some excerpts from his article:

Mincaye Ænkædi knew what it was to kill a person. He knew forgiveness for his actions. And he knew what it was like to later become a father and friend to his victim’s son.

Many people will not have heard of him. But to some Christians around the world, his first name is all that’s needed to envision the story of his dramatic conversion to Christianity in the late 1950s in the Ecuadorian rainforest.

His name means “Wasp.” When his life began in the jungle, Mincaye’s people, the Waodani, were trapped in a cycle of revenge killings amongst themselves. Internecine warfare seemed to point them toward self-decimation by time evangelical missionaries attempted to reach the tribe. On January 8, 1956, Mincaye and a small cohort of warriors speared to death Jim Elliot, Pete Fleming, Ed McCully, Nate Saint and Roger Youderian.

Within two years after those spearings on a sandbar of the Curaray River, Elliot’s widow, Elisabeth, and Saint’s sister, Rachel, were living in a Waodani settlement with members of the tribe who had killed their loved ones. The women’s message of forgiveness and peace was transformative in Mincaye’s life.

“Of the reported deaths spanning up to five generations,” missionary anthropologist Jim Yost later wrote, “only two individuals purportedly died of natural causes in old age. Forty-four percent of the deaths were a result of intratribal spearing, and 5 percent were due to infanticide. Seventeen percent were a result of [cowode or “outsider”] shootings and captures; snakebites accounted for another 5 percent and illness 11 percent.”

Steve Saint, who toured with the elder Waodani promoting the movie, End of the Spear, said that Mincaye’s most frequent speaking theme was, “We lived angry, hating and killing, ‘ononque’ (for no reason), until they brought us God’s markings. Now, those of us who walk God’s trail live happily and in peace.”

 “The tendency to idealize or romanticize ‘primitive’ cultures falls to crushing blows … as the reality of life in the upper Amazon rainforest plays out in gruesome details often too explicit and vivid for the cushioned Western mind,” wrote Yost and Williams….  “The reason is obvious—watching parents, children or siblings murdered in their sight burned indelible memories and emotions that could be erased only by a total transformation of the spirit. The fact that that transformation has taken place is the real story here.”

To tell any story is to leave parts untold, focusing on a core set of data. At the heart of Mincaye’s are the undeniable facts that he killed a man—and perhaps many men, as well as women and children—and that he knew forgiveness for his deeds, and that he became to Steve Saint a father.  

 That transformation was brought about through the power of God unleashed by Him through missionaries who long ago went to the Ecuadorian rain forest to share the life-changing news of Jesus Christ with a primitive people.

(For Ralph’s complete article, please click here: https://www.assistnews.net/non-violent-death-of-waorani-man/ )

Today, that kind of powerful witness continues through missionaries who serve the Lord around the world. And, we, through our offerings to our church and our support of missionaries contribute to that kind of life-changing, live-giving witness.

That mission work has not ceased in the face of the Covid-19 virus. In fact, in continues in an even more urgent manner. I pray that we will continue to financially support not only our local church, but the missionary outreach we carry on through His servants serving around the world.

 

Please feel free to leave comments on this site. Those comments posted through the button on this page will be posted if appropriate. Comments sent directly to me are welcome and I will respond, but they will not be posted. Also please forward this link to others who might be interested in this blog. To receive notification of future posts, please click on the “follow” button along the side of this page or write to missionaryjournalist (at) gmail (dot) com. If you no longer wish to receive these articles, please let me know at that same email address.

To shake or not to shake Hands: That is the question in the age of Coronavirus

By Kenneth D. MacHarg

The caution came right from the top: “I don’t think we should ever shake hands ever again, to be honest with you,” said Dr. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases. Fauci, a key member of the White House task force, was quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying: “Not only would it be good to prevent coronavirus disease — it probably would decrease instances of influenza dramatically in this country.”

But, many would say that learning not to shake hands is going to be hard if not impossible to do. After all, it’s so much a part of our social history; we always shake hands with people, friends or strangers.

Even while breaking a life-long habit can be difficult, it can be done. I did it once, and in that there is a story.

We lived as missionaries for nearly two decades in several countries of Latin America where greetings involve much more than just a handshake. Indeed, to properly greet a friend you were are also involved in hugging.

Women hug each other. Men and women, when the woman initiates, put an arm on a shoulder and blow a kiss by the ear. And two men shake hands and give an abrazo, a sort-of hug which involves using both hands to pat each other on the back of the shoulders.

It’s just part of the culture, and an enjoyable one. As a pastor, at times I gave hugs and blow-by-the-ear greetings as I greeted people when they arrived for worship and after the service as we chatted in the back of the sanctuary.

So, hand-shaking, hugging, abrazos became a natural and common part of our lives.

Then we moved to central Asia where I was the supply/interim pastor of an English-language church for parts of three years. Quickly, I learned that my days of hugging and blowing kisses and even handshakes for that matter with local people were mostly over.

While the expatriates in that church from North America and Europe were used to the human contact, I found that many Asians preferred not to touch, even to shake hands, and certainly were uncomfortable with hugging.

Instead, they bowed. Some did so by slightly bending their head and upper torso a few inches. Others went in for the deep waist bow. But most of them, especially the women, recoiled from any handshaking.

But remembering not to do that was difficult. My instinct was to stretch out my hand and grasp theirs. So, as a reminder and to prevent any embarrassment, I took up the practice of keeping at least my right hand in my pants pocket.

Now, that was difficult. I was taught as a child not to put my hands in my pockets. My father-in-law who owned his own business and for whom I worked for several summers frequently told me that he was reluctant to hire someone who did so because he took it as a sign that the person was lazy. And, in theological seminary the professors taught us never, never, never to put our hands in our pockets when we were preaching.

So, in Asia, I struggled to break a lifelong habit and started putting my hands in my pockets when greeting worshippers on Sunday morning. And, eventually, I became pretty proficient at doing so.

Back in the United States, over the years I have drifted back into handshaking and hugging at church and in other social occasions. But now, with the new advice from respected medical experts and the evidence that the nasty virus may be around for a while, I’m going to return to putting my hands back in my pockets.

I did it once, I can do it again. I guess that you can teach an old dog (or in my case, an old man) new tricks. Like handshaking, a lot of new habits may come out of this pandemic.

Kenneth D. MacHarg is a retired missionary/pastor. He and his wife, Polly, live in Carrollton, Georgia.

Please feel free to leave comments on this site. Those comments posted through the button on this page will be posted if appropriate. Comments sent directly to me are welcome and I will respond, but they will not be posted. Also please forward this link to others who might be interested in this blog. To receive notification of future posts, please click on the “follow” button along the side of this page or write to missionaryjournalist (at) gmail (dot) com. If you no longer wish to receive these articles, please let me know at that same email address.

Words from the Lord in times of anxiety

“These are the times that try men’s souls,” wrote Thomas Paine at the time of America’s independence struggles. Those words are equally appropriate today during our current struggle with a deadly virus, isolation, loneliness and even despair.

Think of the emotional roller-coaster that we have ridden in recent weeks. Fear, isolation, grief, doubt, and anxiety have gripped us and left us exhausted as well as frightened and desperate. Some people stay glued to the television while there are those who have turned it off, looked the other way and sought solace in other things.

And, we have asked, where is God? Has he abandoned us? Does he care?

Those are legitimate questions for all of us to raise and with which we should struggle. They go to the heart of our concern and our uncertainty.

But, in the midst of doubt and sadness and apprehension, we find stark words of hope and promise in the Bible. Remember, the word hope in the New Testament means promise, certainty, assurance, guarantee.

Hear these words:

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. Isaiah 43:2 

While we are in the middle of the storm, we are reminded that we won’t be blown away or abandoned or left without hope and promise. Indeed, in the midst of everything that is happening, we can affirm that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8: 38-39

We are encouraged by these words of Jesus: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. John 14:27 

The proclamation of the Gospel for these trying times is, that in Jesus Christ, the man of Nazareth, our crucified and risen Lord, God our creator and sustainer has come to us and shared our common lot, conquering sin and death and reconciling the world to himself.

And, with that affirmation, is promise, hope and proclamation.

With that hope we can continue to serve Him by praying for our missionaries, making calls, sending emails to fellow church family members and supporting our church through financial gifts and prayer. Without this support, like many other things that are experiencing the crunch as a result of the virus, our church cannot continue to minister, teach and serve the congregation and community.

The Christian theologian and author Henri Nouwen wrote about a deeply difficult time in his life in words that we can adopt for our lives in this time of stress: “I can only keep trying to be faithful, even though I feel faithless most of the time. What else can I do but keep praying to you, even when I feel dark; to keep writing about you, even when I feel numb; to keep speaking in your name, even when I feel alone. Come, Lord Jesus, come. Have mercy on me, a sinner. Amen.”

 

(Written for use by First Christian Church, Carrollton, GA, April 2020) 

Please feel free to leave comments on this site. Those comments posted through the button on this page will be posted if appropriate. Comments sent directly to me are welcome and I will respond, but they will not be posted. Also please forward this link to others who might be interested in this blog. To receive notification of future posts, please click on the “follow” button along the side of this page or write to missionaryjournalist (at) gmail (dot) com. If you no longer wish to receive these articles, please let me know at that same email address.

Where have all the flowers gone?…

By Kenneth D. MacHarg

Recently I watched a PBS special, John Sebastian Folk Rewind, featuring some of the great folk music of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

What a wonderful and sobering reminiscence of a turbulent yet exhilarating time that shaped the lives of those of us who lived through it. Memories of student activism, the exhilaration of the Civil Rights movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the influence of the peace movement by activists flooded back into my mind. It was a challenging yet meaningful time to live.

As I soaked in the music and the memories it generated, I remember the idealism of the age and the sense that we, as a generation, were, indeed, effecting significant change in our communities and society at large.

The music was a crucial part of the movement. It expressed the societal frustration that was on the minds of many of people and our desire to bring transformation in our communities, the nation and, indeed, the world.

As I listened to the likes of Pete Seeger, The Kingston Trio, Judy Collins and Woody Guthrie I realized that the words to their music affected attitudes and actually contributed to changing society for the better.

Just two songs will illustrate the power of the music and the lyrics.

Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the flowers gone?
Girls have picked them every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the young girls gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the young girls gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the young girls gone?
Taken husbands every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the young men gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the young men gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the young men gone?
Gone for soldiers every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the soldiers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Gone to graveyards every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the graveyards gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Covered with flowers every one
When will we ever learn?
When will we ever learn?

Songwriter: Peter Seeger

Where Have All the Flowers Gone –lyrics © The Bicycle Music Company

Set in the still-fresh memories of World War 2, the Korean conflict and the then-contemporary military action in Vietnam, this tune touched the sensitivities of several generations tired of war and wanting a more peaceful world. Yet, the seemingly rapid succession of military action was frustrating to those of us wishing for economic and social development while enjoying the prospect of living, working, and participating in a world void of killing, prisoners of war and countless graves.

The second addressed the more domestic issues of racial and ethnic conflict as well as discrimination and growing violence:  

Love is but a song to sing
Fear’s the way we die
You can make the mountains ring
Or make the angels cry
Though the bird is on the wing
And you may not know why

Come on people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another
Right now

Some may come and some may go
We shall surely pass
When the one that left us here
Returns for us at last
We are but a moment’s sunlight
Fading in the grass

Come on people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another
Right now….

If you hear the song I sing
You will understand (listen!)
You hold the key to love and fear
All in your trembling hand
Just one key unlocks them both
It’s there at your command

Come on people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another
Right now….

I said, come on people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another
Right now

Right now
Right now

Songwriters: Chester Powers / Chester William Jr. Powers Get Together lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group

Frustrated by domestic racial and societal separation as well as violence and following several successive wars, this song painted a picture of a generation, in conflict with their elders, yet united around common values and equality with a concern for all citizens regardless of race, creed or sex.

“Come on people now, smile on your brother, everybody get together and try to love one another—RIGHT NOW!”

Naïve? Unrealistic? Not in the view of young people who came of age in that era. These were our goals, our dreams, our values, the things for which we prayed and worked—and somewhat succeeded in achieving.

Naïve? Unrealistic? Hopefully not, but definitely a desperate need in our current, polarized world divided by rancorous politics and hardened separation.

It was good to hear that great music the other evening. I sang along—even in my off-key style. I joined the TV audience in applauding frequently during the program. I also wiped away literal tears that filled my eyes. And, I hoped that we might listen to this music again and embrace its meaning for us and the new generation that is joining the struggle.

Kenneth D. MacHarg is retired pastor/missionary and a resident of Carrollton, Georgia. His mid-1980s radio interview with folk singer Pete Seeger can be heard at: https://archive.org/details/PeteSeegerInEcuador.

In Communion, I am satisfied

By Kenneth D. MacHarg

Back when our children were in their early elementary school years, we lived as a family in Panama where I was the pastor of one of the English-language churches in what was then-known as the Panama Canal Zone.

Our daughter, Beth, became a good friend of a young Chilean girl, Anna, whose father was a shipping agent working with goods that went through the canal to and from Chile.

Anna was bi-lingual, speaking both her own native Spanish fluently and doing a very good job with English as well.

One evening, as she was eating dinner with us, Polly asked if I wanted some more food. “No,” I replied, “I really don’t, I’m full.”

Anna looked at me with her big eyes and said, “Oh, Mr. MacHarg. You shouldn’t say you are full. You should say ‘I am satisfied.”

Oh, Ok, I thought to myself, thank you Anna for helping me with my own language.

Actually, Anna was reflecting in English how you say such a thing in Spanish.  Generally, in polite company, Spanish-speaking people don’t say “I’m full,” they say “Estoy Satisfecho” –“I am satisfied”.

Anna was just reflecting the courtesy of speech that her parents had taught her to say when visiting with other people.

I’ve thought about that incident a lot over the years, and it has brought back many pleasant memories.

I have also found that quite often, when I have completed taking communion, I think to myself, with a little help from Anna, “I am satisfied.”

That’s an interesting thought to have each Sunday. After all, in communion we take the emblems, a tiny, tiny piece of wafer and a small cup that holds, maybe, a half of an ounce of juice, and we consume it as an observance, a celebration, a remembrance of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins.

Now, if I have come to church hungry for food or thirsty for something to drink, I have to admit that what I take in communion doesn’t do much to relieve my hunger pangs or my thirst.

But, that’s not what I am satisfying in this simple but deeply profound act of memorial, of celebration, of worship of Jesus Christ.

In Communion, I am pursuing a very different, very profound concept of quenching a thirst or a hunger.

In Matthew 5:6 we read: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Righteousness is the perfect holiness of Christ. It is an essential attribute to the character of God; quite literally meaning “One who is right”. Think of it as the polar opposite of sin. To commit sin is to go against God’s design for our lives, therefore righteousness is the only living standard that is acceptable for us to stand before the Father. The wages of sin is death, but in the path of righteousness is life, and in its pathway there is no death. (Proverbs 12:28)

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for the perfect holiness of Jesus Christ.

In communion, we are not seeking to satisfy our physical hunger or thirst.

We are hungering for righteousness, the perfect holiness of Jesus Christ.

Indeed, Anna, when I have taken the wafer and the half ounce of juice each Sunday, I am, indeed, very, very satisfied.

Take, eat, drink, be satisfied.

 

Please feel free to leave comments on this site. Those comments posted through the button on this page will be posted if appropriate. Comments sent directly to me are welcome and I will respond, but they will not be posted. Also please forward this link to others who might be interested in this blog. To receive notification of future posts, please click on the “follow” button along the side of this page or write to missionaryjournalist (at) gmail (dot) com. If you no longer wish to receive these articles, please let me know at that same email address.

Thoughts for missionaries and their supporters — Part 2

By Kenneth D. MacHarg

This is the second of two blog postings taken from a presentation at the Honduran Missionary Conference a few years ago.

If you are a missionary, I hope you will take this to heart. If not, perhaps you know a missionary or your church supports one and you could pass this on.

When I presented this at the conference, about half-way through, I heard people laughing. Personally, I didn’t think it was at all funny. Then, I realized that the laughing reflected nervousness, a reaction to some thoughts that were difficult or uncomfortable.

However you react, I pray that if you are a missionary, you will take this seriously, think about it and pray about it.

This is a delicate topic, so I ask you to listen closely. Again I will share with you this scripture:

Matthew 25: 23: “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

We all know that someday we will retire, or we will die. And we know that at that time, the ministry that the Lord has given to us will no longer be our responsibility. We trust that the Lord will say ‘Well done, good and faithful servant!

I assume that we have all made some plans for that day. Plans for old-age care, plans for retirement income, plans for how we may be cared for.

But maybe you have not:

Some of you may say, there won’t be any Social Security when I get to that age. Well…maybe yes, but let me tell you that 50 years ago I heard that same thing—Social Security won’t be around when you retire. But you know what? Polly and I have been retired for more than ten years, and half of our retirement income is from Social Security. And, without it, we never could have carried out those post-retirement volunteer ministries that we have done since we retired. The Lord provided, nudged us to save money and pay into Social Security, and He has used us for His glory in retirement.

Others of you will say, “The Lord will provide.” Here is where it gets sticky. I agree that the Lord will provide.

 Psalm 121:

The Lord watches over you—
The Lord is your shade at your right hand;
The sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
The Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

But, what I want to gently but forcefully nudge you about is the development of an exit plan.

This is important for all, but especially for those who are caring for foster or adopted children.

An exit plan is a deliberate setting out of how your work will be carried on when you are no longer able to do it.

It tells what happens to your facility, to the children, to the students, to the parishioners, to the organization, to the community when you are gone.

And note, I didn’t say when you are dead and gone—just gone!

I want to urge you to write out three exit plans, and to review them faithfully every three years.

  1. Exit plan for what will when you retire or die
  2. Exit plan for what will happen if you have to/decide to leave five years from today
  3. Exit plan for what would happen if you were forced to leave tomorrow morning.

 1. Exit plan for what will when you retire or die

Now, I know, you are 25 and it seems ridiculous for you to be worrying about what happens 40 or 50 years from now.

But, it is not ridiculous, it is just responsible. It won’t take long to write that one out. It may be 40, or 30, or 20, or 10, or (gasp) five years from now, but it won’t hurt you to outline where you think your project will be then and how the Lord would want you to leave it for someone else.

Remember, you will be reviewing this retirement exit strategy every three years so you can modify it as situations and needs change. But at least you will be assuring that the assets the Lord has given you will be respected and used well after you leave the field.

 2. Exit plan for what will happen if you have to/decide to leave five years from today

Now, you aren’t planning on leaving in five years. I know that, you know that, but….during our time in Honduras several years ago, at least three people came to us and opened a discussion about “how do we move on to….”

You need to be thinking about what might be happening in five years. And, oh yes, if you are caring for needy, abandoned children, when you are offered the opportunity to take on responsibility for a new child, use either old math or new math, and figure out what age you will be when that child is 18.

3. Exit plan for what would happen if you were forced to leave tomorrow morning.

Aw, that’s not going to happen, not as long as my health holds and my kids get along here OK and my parents don’t need any help as they age, and the social and legal situation allows me to stay….

But…

  1. A good friend was air-evacuated overnight from her country of service a few years ago by a health concern which was uncertain at best and raised the initial issue about whether she could return.
  2. A missionary family experienced a sudden emergency with one of their children and had to evacuate the country for his protection—never to return.
  3. On our first morning in Honduras, a missionary was flown out on less than 24-hour notice because he had received an extortion threat from a gang. It was leave or risk possible kidnapping or murder.
  4. We know of missionaries who have unexpectedly died on the field. A friend pastoring an international church in Europe lost a substantial percentage of his congregation in a plane crash. Some were business people, others were teachers, and, yes, some were missionaries. That’s never something we plan for, but it does occur.

When we first moved to a new country over a decade ago, some of the first information we received was that if our own government decided that we must be evacuated, we would have perhaps only an hour’s notice and could only take one suitcase

Three exit plans, three steps to living and serving here responsibly. I raise these not to frighten you but because I firmly believe we need to be prepared.

 

Please feel free to leave comments on this site. Those comments posted through the button on this page will be posted if appropriate. Comments sent directly to me are welcome and I will respond, but they will not be posted. Also please forward this link to others who might be interested in this blog. To receive notification of future posts, please click on the “follow” button along the side of this page or write to missionaryjournalist (at) gmail (dot) com. If you no longer wish to receive these articles, please let me know at that same email address.

Thoughts for missionaries and their supporters — Part 1

By Kenneth D. MacHarg

Several years ago I had the privilege and honor of being the keynote speaker at the annual missionary conference in Honduras. This is an event that welcomes all Christian missionaries in the country regardless of their denomination or mission agency.

In addition to presenting five major messages, I also offered the participants two “bonus” presentations designed to provide support, guidance and food for thought.

I share these now with you, the faithful readers of my blog. If you are a missionary, I hope you will take them to heart. If not, perhaps you know a missionary or your church supports one and you could pass this on.

Below is the first “bonus” message. I will post the second one in a few days. Please share these with missionaries you know, your church mission team, or others who might benefit.

Refreshment Plan

Matthew 25: 23: “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

I want to take just a few minutes to address something that I have been pondering ever since our time serving as the interim pastor at the International Christian Fellowship church here in Honduras.

During those months, we met many of you either at the conference or at church or in other settings. We heard stories of what you are doing, the children rescued from deplorable conditions that now are living in cleanliness and love and tranquility.

We heard about churches being planted, people being mentored and restored, families being fed, wells being dug, bodies being healed, souls being saved.

We were, to tell the truth, overwhelmed by what missionaries of Jesus Christ are doing in this country, with the people, how you are giving your lives in service.

What a joy to know you and to hear you and to pray for you.

But, as we talked with missionaries here, in San Pedro Sula and other places, we picked up two stresses, two warning signs, two challenges which many of you face that I would like to address quickly but strongly.

Now, don’t misunderstand. I’m not just some old guy telling a bunch of young whippersnappers how they ought to live their lives and carry out the ministry God has given them.

Nor, I hope, am I just an old grouch venting my spleen.

What I say, I say in complete love, appreciation and concern for you.

So, take a deep breath, sit back, and just listen—not to me—but to the Lord.

  1. Many of you are tired. Worn out. Fatigued. Yes, burned out.
  2. You run day and night (especially if you are working with children), day after day, week after week, month after month.
  3. The phone rings constantly, people knock on your door at all hours, supplies must be bought, work coordinated, government regulations complied with, shipments sprung from aduana (customs), visas applied for in migracíon (immigration), prayer letters written, demanding work teams housed, guided, entertained, construction completed, sick people cared for, crying children comforted, meals cooked…it goes on and on.
  4. And, one thing I learned last year was that while you are faithful at your work, complete in your leadership, trusting with what has been given to you, while you are all of these things, you are absolutely terrible, lacking, disorganized, systematic and just baaaad at…taking a break, getting a rest, going on vacation, getting away from it all.
  5. And, let me tell you just a few things that you may think would be taking a break, but aren’t.
    1. Taking a weekend off to write and address and mail your prayer letters. No way—that’s part of your work, it’s in the job description, sooner or later you will be forced to go home because of low support levels if you don’t do it. So, it’s not vacation, a day off, a rest to do your prayer letters.
    2. Going on furlough. If you think that furlough is a restful vacation…It’s work, hard work, demanding, stressful, enjoyable, yes, but work.
    3. A change of pace—while refreshing and perhaps enjoyable, isn’t a vacation. Coming to this retreat is a change of pace, but it’s not getting away from our work.
  6. What is a break, a vacation? That’s for you to determine. For some it’s a week away from the funny farm just sleeping, watching TV, reading, playing with grandchildren. For others it’s a few days at the beach or in the mountains, or a trip to the city—eating in good restaurants, taking in a movie or two, shopping at the malls, visiting friends. For others it may be a grand tour of Europe, a visit to family back home, hiking, camping—you name it.
  7. Yes, you name it, but whatever you name it, do it! Because if you don’t the whole thing will come crashing down around you eventually.

 

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