I've had missions on my mind of late, probably because I have been reading missionary biographies. I recently finished Steve Saint's End of the Spear, which is an excellent book. It only served to whet my appetite for more of that Auca story, though, so next, I pulled Jungle Pilot down from the shelf--the story of Steve's father, Nate Saint. I am halfway through his biography now, and I have many feelings associated with that story. As a teenager, I read Through Gates of Splendor, which was one of two missionary stories that most influenced my life for missions. The other was the story of John and Betty Stam in China.
As I read now of the life of Nate Saint, I marvel that he was a normal missionary just like us. I know that sounds strange, but there is so much that I can relate to about his life. They went through many of the the same things in Ecuador that we went through in New Guinea, and some things even that we experience here in Kenya. In that sense, they were normal missionaries just like us.
I've been a missionary most of my life. I remember on our furloughs the strange way we felt when people all over America viewed our family as heroes, when they set us way up high on some imaginary pedestal. We tried to convince them that we are normal people, just like them; that we are serving the Lord just the same as they are, only in a different country. Yet, I realize that I have done the same thing with Nate Saint and Jim Elliot and Hudson Taylor and Adoniram Judson and the Stams. In my mind, they are heroes because they were willing to take the Gospel to places where people have never heard it. They were willing even to die so that people could know Jesus Christ. And that is where I think the difference lies. They truly are heroes. Us? I don't think so.
Wednesday night in church, Bro. Mickey preached a very stirring missions message. He brought out something from the life of Paul that I have never seen before. Paul said that he gloried in his infirmities, in his suffering, and in the trials that he went through for Christ's sake. Why? Because he counted it all joy that God would count him worthy to suffer for Him. Paul saw himself as a debtor to Christ because Christ had paid his huge sin debt. He was not a debtor having to earn or obtain his salvation, but he was a debtor in service to Christ because Christ deserved it of him. After God saved him and called him to be a missionary, Paul was determined to live out his life in service to Christ no matter the cost. It eventually cost him his life too in Rome, but none of that moved him, neither counted he his life dear unto himself, so that he could finish his course with joy, and the ministry, which he had received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.
Unfortunately, I think missionaries today have a much different mindset than those who have gone before us. Why do we shrink from hardships and from suffering when Paul embraced it? Why do we ask, "Why does this have to happen to me, God?" while Paul rejoiced in everything that came into his life. His constant focus in life was the furtherance of the Gospel, so that whatever came into his life, he rejoiced and tried to use it for God's glory. Remember how the Philippian jailer got saved? He was saved as a result of Paul and Silas singing and praising God in jail. I'm afraid that if I were sitting in a jail cell chained to a soldier, I would be complaining and worrying myself into a frenzy! But Paul rejoiced that he was counted worthy to suffer for Jesus' sake! That is a whole different mindset than we have today.
I can't help but think it is an honor and a privilege to be called of God to join the ranks of missionaries like Nate Saint, Jim Elliot, John G. Patton, William Carey, David Brainerd, and the Apostle Paul. But without a doubt, they were of a lot higher caliber than we are today. I am convicted as I ask myself, "Do I love souls like they did? Am I willing to suffer, and even to die for the cause of Christ that the Gospel may go forth to people who do not yet know the Truth?"
This is what has been in my heart lately. I am so thankful that God gave me my heart's desire to be a missionary wife, but God has been working in my heart to change my whole mindset about missions and the mission field--to view missions as Nate Saint did and as Paul did . . . even as Jesus Himself did. Jesus gave His whole life that we might live. Am I willing to lay down my life, my everything so that others may live? What a convicting thought!