I pray that no missionary will be as lonely as I have been.
Stories about missionaries had such a big impact on me as a kid. Growing up, my mom was always involved in projects to support Nazarene missionaries in countries like the Philippians and Africa. We put together big boxes of food and sundries and we mailed them in the fall so they’d reach them by Christmas. She put junior missionary books in my hands and made sure I read them. My little paper crown on the bulletin board filled with jewels, one for each one I finished.
Once a month on a Sunday, we had missionary night at church. It was always very exciting. I loved to hear about danger and adventure in faraway places.
By the time I got to college, missionary night had pretty much become a thing of the past, although missionary trips at SNU were enormously popular among the student body. We saw them as a way to see the world as much as we saw them as a way to spread the story of Christ. I had friends who spent summers in Mexico, New Zealand and Paris. One of my big regrets is that I never made good on a promise to myself to spend a summer at The Lamb’s Club in New York City. I did, however, go to Belize, a trip I’ve always cherished.
Recently, Chris Forbes, one of the co-authors of Guerrilla Marketing for Nonprofits, sent me a link to a film project he’s working on about about a Baptist missionary, Lottie Moon. I’m so glad to be able to share this with all of you.
During my time in Belize, which in the late 80s was not yet a tourist destination, I mostly turned soil and washed dishes. We canvased the neighborhoods and villages around Punta Gorda and invited people to church. There was no hard push. If they wanted to come they did, and if they didn’t, well, they didn’t. So much of mission work, I learned, is about living out your faith in acts of service. Sometimes, those actions involved helping farmers plant chocolate plants on plots of ground the government cut from the rain forest. This is what we did.
Lottie Moon, highly educated and speaking seven languages, left her home, family and life of privilege in Civil War-ravaged Virginia and devoted the rest of her life to serving the Chinese. She fought against hunger, ignorance, lack of education for girls, the foot-binding of women, opium smoking and other evils – some age-old, some introduced by Western colonials. What appalled her most, however, was spiritual poverty.
And, this I think, is the worst poverty of all.