Many members of the church might think that the number one reason why a missionary quits is “money”, but while that might be part of the problem, that is not the main reason. The real reason is, people. Missionaries are people too, a reality that, apparently, many forget. A missionary is more than “a person who is sent to a foreign country to do religious work” (webster.com). It is for this reason that is needful to do a brief study of what a missionary is.
A missionary is a human being.
When you are a child one of the first things that you learn is that the living things born, grow, reproduce and die. A missionary was once born again, as every faithful Christian, he grows in knowledge by diligently study the Word of God, what is the mission field, and what is needed there to do an effective job. By his work, lost souls learn what is needed to be saved, and those who decided to obey the Gospel are baptized, and become children of God. Finally, whether he dies in the mission field, or needs to leave the mission field, his work and life are remembered there. Some might started their ministry as single missionaries, some of them might find his helpmeet in the mission field, and others might be married already and his family is involved in the mission work as well. This writer is thankful for having a loving wife and son who are willing to help and support him in everything that is being done here in Panama. Just like every living thing, a missionary has needs too, and, as a human being, companionship and fellowship are also needed. God knew that when He created us,
“… It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him” (Genesis 2:18).
While this passage clearly teaches about the beginning of the relationship between one man and one woman, it also let us learn that we are social beings. A missionary does not escape that need, after all, he is a human being, just like you and me.
A missionary has feelings.
An employee who does not feel valuable in his job, often quits and seeks for better opportunities in another place. To be in the mission field is not easy. There are a lot of factors that can certainly make the missionary feel that he is not valuable where he is. As discussed in the beginning of this article, people are the big factor. It might be that the local brethren does not approach to the missionary. Some of them might feel that he is a threat for what they are doing and attempts to demoralize him. For this kind of cases, a missionary can find encouragement and identify himself with the apostle Paul,
“Again, think ye that we excuse ourselves unto you? we speak before God in Christ: but we do all things, dearly beloved, for your edifying. For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults: And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed” (2 Corinthians 12:19-21).
The brethren at the mission field might not recognize all the sacrifices and efforts that the missionary has. The supporting brethren might think that the only thing he wants is money, so that is what they do, send money, and forget of that simple personal touch that we often call “communication.” Dear brethren, I cannot lie, in our short time in Panama, I have been feeling discouraged in some occasions, to the point of thinking on the possibility to quit, but, there is that little voice in my head, sometimes referred as conscience, that keeps reminding me that, “I CANNOT QUIT ON GOD.” It is because of God that I am alive, it is because of Him that I got to meet my beautiful and wonderful wife, it is because of Him that I have the blessing of having a smart and handsome son, it is because of Him that I got able to find His church, to listen to His word, to learn what I need to be saved, to dedicate my life to Him and His service, because He is the One who gave me everything. Even when the brethren do not want to listen or pay attention to the message that the missionary preaches, even when there are people that throw their door at his face when he attempts to invite them to a Bible study, even when things are not as simple as they were while he was in the world, the missionary must be brave and, as the psalmist, be confident to say,
“My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever” (Psalm 73:26).
A missionary is not a beggar.
Recently, I heard wonderful lessons at PTP365 by Jack Honeycutt, and Wade Webster. In both of those lessons, with all the experience they have, they agreed on how painful is for a missionary to be treated as a beggar. According to Webster dictionary, a beggar is “a person who lives by asking for gifts.” A missionary is not asking for gifts, a missionary is seeking for support to do the work of the Lord. A person who, probably, sacrificed his career, a long tenure at a good company, maybe his own business, to dedicate himself to preach the Word (2 Timothy 4:2), and to prepare others to teach and do the same (2 Timothy 2:2), to follow the example of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, by seeking those who are lost and bring them the hope that is in the Gospel. An employee at the grocery store, postal office, government or a multinational company is not a beggar, he is an employee, he receives a wage for his work. Do we have a Biblical teaching about this same right for those who dedicate themselves to do the work of the Lord? Yes, we do, the apostle Paul wrote about it (1 Corinthians 9:1-14).
A missionary is not a beggar, he is a worker, and worthy to be respected and supported for his work. Our beloved brother, Garland Elkins, is known by many in the brotherhood, by his efforts on raising funds for several works of the church, such as the Memphis School of Preaching. Many of us heard many times how he said, in one occasion, that in his tombstone, it should be put the words, “and the beggar died.” This writer loved this brother, and miss him greatly, because he never quitted, he kept standing for the Truth and preached it wherever he went. I had the honor, with many other students from MSOP, to be there when we celebrated his 90th birthday at the Christian Care Center, in Memphis, TN, and heard how big was his wish to preach at that age. His wish was fulfilled as he preached the day after his birthday, and the text of his sermon was
“I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread” (Psalm 37:25).
Dear brethren, the word of God is powerful and simple, why then, we keep the idea that a missionary must beg for support for his ministry, instead of realizing that we must be involved in his work, because it is not his, but it is the work of the Lord, to whom, we are thankful for His infinite blessings toward us.
A missionary is a man of the book.
I love to watch wrestling with my son, even when we all know that it is “fake”, and scripted. I wrote fake between quotation marks because, while it is scripted, there are occasions when an injury might be real. The wrestler follows the script and provides entertainment to the audience. One of the most famous, John Cena, has the slogan, “Never Give Up”, and many are the articles in the news about how positive is that approach, especially with little children. Christians, more than a plain script written by man, have the powerful Word of God as the user guide of their lives.
While people might give up on the missionary, while the missionary might give up on himself, God did not give up, He gave Himself for all of us, and the opportunity that we have today to be saved! That, without a doubt, must be the motivation of a faithful Christian who wants to preach the message of salvation to every soul on this planet. A missionary must live by the book, set the example to those whom he reaches, and teach the Truth wherever he goes. I remember the words from brother Bobby Liddell during orientation day and sometimes during class. He kept telling us, “if you think that you will make a lot of money by preaching the Gospel, you are in the wrong place, and the doors are open for you to leave.” This is something that not only preachers, but missionaries need to keep in their minds. Being a graduate of a school of preaching will not grant you a job, but your efforts, dedication, and service to the Lord. A person who thinks that to be a missionary is to live as rich people in a third world country, is wrong, very wrong. While there are many that, sadly, have been causing this confusion as they took wrote ways and decided not to do the work in the way that must be performed, there are faithful brethren who are struggling in the mission field, but they keep doing the work, they are applying the Word of God in everything they do, no matter the circumstances or difficulties, in order to please and glorify our Heavenly Father in what they do.
A missionary is a brother in Christ.
This point might sound redundant, but it is something that the brethren might forget often. The missionary is not an employee of the congregation, he is a servant, why? because he decided to do the work of the Lord in a place where not too many are willing to go. It is easy to come every Sunday to church services, listen to the message, sing the hymns, pray, and participate in the Lord’s supper and collection in comfortable pews. But, how often do we remember that man that is out there preaching in places that might be hard to describe, with the only purpose to bring the message of salvation to lost souls, and brethren that does not have the same blessing that we do? Do we really love those brethren? The apostle John wrote,
“If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also” (1 John 4:20-21).
Dear brethren, it is not my aim to make you feel sorry for this servant, or any other missionary you know, but to realize that this is a very important and worthy work. The Great Commission is simple,
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:19-20).
The missionary gives his best to fulfill this part of the passage, “teaching them [all nations] to observe all things whatsoever I [our Lord Jesus Christ], commanded you [at that moment, the apostles, today, his Church].”
A missionary is a human being, as you and me, he does have feelings and needs encouragement, he is not a beggar, he is worthy to receive a wage for what he does, he is a man of the book as he goes out and teach the Gospel in his mission field, and finally, he is a brother, he is part of the same family that you are part of, the family of God. If your congregation supports a missionary, let him know how much you care for him, and how valuable is his work. This simple action will make his day even better than it already is.
God bless you!