by Bob Honegger
As we read and hear about the bad things happening in our country and around the world, it is easy to have the attitude that the world is very rapidly falling into a state of deep despair. A recent article written by Shane Bennett entitled “Five Reasons You Can Have Hope for the World” sheds a different light on the state of affairs in the world. Shane is a missionary working with Muslims and is a dynamic mobilizer for God’s work throughout the world. Here is a short summary of his reasons:
1. God’s purposes are certain. The story opens with God telling Abraham and Sarah that they will get lands, children, a great name and blessings to give to all nations and people groups to accomplish His purpose. At the other end of the story, John is given the vision of a great multitude that no one can count from every nation, tribe, people and language standing before the throne and before the Lamb.
2. Many things are better than used to be. According to J.D. King of World Revival Network, over 15% of the people in previous centuries, died from violence and war. In the 21st century that number has dropped to less than 1%. Since 1980 world poverty has dropped from 50% to 21%. In developing countries it is projected that extreme poverty could drop from 16% of the population to less than 3% by 2030. Infant mortality has dropped in the Industrialized West from 25% in 1800 to less than 4% globally.
3. Jesus is bringing fresh hope to new people. With current global refugee crisis, God is bringing people from unengaged areas right into access to the gospel message. “It all looks like very much like Paul’s sermon in Athens. Many are reaching out and finding life.”
4. The harvest force is growing. As the gospel goes out in new places, it is going in the hands and hearts of new ambassadors: Chinese believers taking the gospel back to Jerusalem, Latin believers serving Muslims in North Africa, and Nigerian Christians going to Europe.
5. God continues to use “dopes like me. “ (For all of you who have had the opportunity to hear Shane, you can just hear him saying that). A direct quote: “It never ceases to amaze me. God took this beautiful creation and entrusted it to a couple who traded it away for a piece of fruit. Then he turns around and entrusts an apparently pretty big part of the rehab project to people like you and me. Sometimes I’m tempted to say, you’d think He would learn.”
What a great God. What a great hope. What a wonderful time to be alive.
by Nick Steffen
“Lance and Carol were missionaries to Brazil, where they ministered to street children. After two years of service in Brazil, they returned home to New York for Christmas. Their first evening home, they drove to a local mall to do some Christmas shopping. Carol had looked forward to this moment for a long time.
They stood together at the entrance to a large up-scale department store and stared. The sheer choice of products and the amount of people buying things overwhelmed them. Everything glittered and glowed, lights flashed on and off, numerous displays seemed to say, “buy me.” They watched as people wandered aimlessly, wallets at the ready, looking for anything half-acceptable on which to spend their money. Carol saw one man take a $50 bill out of his pocket and buy a bottle of perfume without so much as looking to see what brand it was. She remembered Brazilian mothers who would give their souls for $50 worth of food to feed her children.” – Re-entry 79 Peter Jordan YWAM Publishing 1992
We should all be well aware of the privileged position we have been given growing up in the United States. If we forget and begin to complain about small stresses and frustrations consuming our mind, others may remind us that these are “first world problems.” In other words, our concerns would likely pale in comparison to the sheer gut-wrenching poverty experienced by so many people in this world. Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately), our lives are structured in such a way that we rarely have to experience the distance from our world into the other.
To do so would quickly give us vertigo.
Missionaries try to straddle these class divisions by maintaining lives both in the world of their supporters and the one where they live. But they often suffer the attempt to transition from one to the other. What would we say to Carol in the story above? How can we support her when we know that the larger systemic issues she is struggling with are bigger than our conversation?
I suggest that the issues missionaries are struggling with are not “their” issues, but “ours.”
By transcending the boundaries between one group and the next, they are seeing the boundaries that we use to make our lives intelligible, to identify whose ‘world’ we’re in. By trying to see the world as God sees it, they undoubtedly become sensitized to the ways that men have tried to create the world as their own.
Carol’s concern above is not simply the reaction of an overly-sensitive person, but one who has been re-sensitized to the truth. Our responsibility as the church is not to coddle or console them, but to share their concern.
The church’s job must be to live in such a way as to make missionaries’ lives intelligible.