Thirty-one years ago, in a steamy apartment kitchen in Madrid, Spain, a fellow missionary wife and I were talking. She asked me about our adjustments to our new home and our experiences, and then she said something I will never forget:
“They always tell you about the millions who are waiting
for someone to share the gospel with them,
but they never tell you about the millions who couldn’t care less.”
It’s true; they never told us. (But, maybe that was best.)
Even though millions don't care, it's still our duty to share with them how Jesus Christ came to save sinners.
Here are a few observations about missions that I hope will encourage you, wherever you are in the world:
- Mission fields are different. Pioneer missions anywhere are slogging, preparing-the-soil work. The faithful missionary plants, but he might not see a lot of sprouts—yet. “Cherry picking” works are those where former generations of missionaries have tilled, planted, fertilized, and pruned. These missionaries are the ones who preach and see a hundred souls saved in one campaign. These are the ones that have native pastors clamoring to move on to the other mission fields of the world. Years ago, it wasn’t this way, but now, it’s cherry picking time. The orchards are ripe for a large harvest. Some places are extremely hard because of false religious beliefs. There’s a lot to overcome when every house has an ancestor box or an idol shelf, and the people live in fear of the spirits. In other places—like Europe—the natives have almost completely rebelled against anything that resembles religion because of abuses in the past. Atheism is the accepted, “cool” religion.
- God never calls missionaries to go where no one will be saved. If God called you to a place, He has at least one soul there who will respond. We might need to change our perspective a little bit: isn’t it worth spending your life spreading the gospel if one soul goes to heaven? Is the missionary who’s reaping a large harvest greater than the man or woman who’s preparing the soil and not seeing as many “results”? The Bible says the harvest is His. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase (1 Corinthians 3:7). Each part of “gospel farming” is important, but it’s ultimately God who provides the sun, rain—and the harvest.
- Our job is to be faithful. Period. Every field is different, every church is different, and every mission work is different. Every missionary, too, is unique. It’s an honor to be a missionary, but all we’ve done is to obey God’s call. I love how the Lord puts it into perspective: For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord (1 Corinthians 1:26-31). Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful (1 Corinthians 4:2).
- Whether the soil is hard or all tilled and fertile, God is working. Sometimes He lets us peek in as He does things, and sometimes we will never really see what He is doing in hearts until we get to heaven. It’s for us to trust Him to do His work. I once read about a man who stood on a street corner in Sydney, Australia, faithfully asking people if they died, did they know where they’d spend eternity. He didn’t know it, but many people came to Christ through his simple, faithful witness. (You can access the full story here.) It might be that we have no idea what kind of an impact we have for the Lord until we walk the golden streets in Glory. But God never sleeps. He’s always on the job, seeking to save the lost. It’s our job to do what we can to spread the gospel.
Is your mission field white already to harvest? (John 4:35) Go for it! But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come (Mark 4:29). Enjoy filling your bucket with bright red cherries.
Is your mission field a pioneer work, and you are preparing the soil, planting, and watering? Look for God to bless. The Apostle Paul said, I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6).
If we’re faithful in spreading the gospel, there will be some fruit. It might not be the same percentage as the person who toils in a mature field, but there will be fruit. But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty (Matthew 13:23).
These principles have greatly encouraged me through the years. I trust they’ll bless you, too. May we be found faithful!