Saturday, June 16, 2012

I read this missionary biography once which left me amazed and frustrated.  I was amazed that someone - no, a group of people - had encouraged this man to write an autobiography, that it had been published by a Christian publishing house, and that many people had genuinely enjoyed this man's words.  The problem with the entire book was that the man was exceedingly arrogant and prideful.  He was stubborn like an ass, but without all of the charming qualities that the barnyard animal employs.  I have often considered writing a work of fiction with this man as the central character, because the "anti-hero" theme is so strong right now - but his life is so extreme that I couldn't possibly fictionalize anything more extreme.

In his twenties, after no church would call him as their pastor - again, probably because he was such a jerk - his District Superintendent encouraged him to try to start a new church.  He wasn't provided a salary of a title by the denomination.  The young pastor began calling himself the "Bishop" of the region where he would try to plant the church - because his small denomination wasn't yet represented in that valley.

It gets so much better than that.  The entire book is filled with such examples.  (It's fine.  I'm working toward a point.  Just bear with me for a minute.)  He eventually becomes a missionary somewhere.  During WWII the mission board asks all of the missionaries to leave the war-torn country and go to a safer location until the war is over.  Now, this man hadn't learned the language yet, but when the mission board's vehicle came filled with the missionaries who had served for decades - he refused to get on board and he refused to allow his wife and two small children to go to safety as well.

As the war got worse, mission boards from countries not in conflict with the host country also left.  By an extreme miracle, one such envoy passed by his house and had four available seats. His wife begged him to flee or at least allow her and the children to go.  He refused.

  In the end, during a battle the American army had to parachute in and rescue his family under gunfire.  A few soldiers were killed during the rescue mission.  This man had the buffoonery to write an entire chapter about how God's providence had protected his family and brought them to safety.  He wrote about how God had prepared those soldiers for such a mission, and that "in God's timing" they were able to get his family to safety!

Okay, here's my point:  I work rather hard to not be this guy.  I spend considerable energy on being kind, considerate, thoughtful, and not a jerk.  I also try to listen to God and the opportunities God has put before me.  I have done enough ministry to understand that sometimes it is very difficult, but generally it is a wonderful experience to serve alongside God's people in fulfilling God's great plan.

Sometimes in mission work it is easy to dig a hole for yourself and then complain about "the persecution."  When I realize that I am digging a hole, I genuinely try to stop digging.

I had originally planned to spend some months in Stryi.  I had planned well, made comprehensive outlines of how things should work, and got others on board to help me out.  But, in the end, Stryi will not be in my plans for this summer.  At least not in the way I had planned.

A lot of things happened.  A lot of things fell through.  There was lots of confirmation that the timing was off and that something better was waiting in the wings.  I could explain some of what happened, but I don't think it would edify anyone.  It was an unbelievably frustrating, eye-opening couple of weeks.  My main goal during my time in Stryi was to observe and try to understand better.  In these last few weeks, I was able to observe more than I thought I would be able to observe in the two months I had planned to spend in Stryi.  God revealed many things, and opened some great doors.

I don't feel defeated by this in any way.  I feel really encouraged that we have some tentative plans of how we can realistically move forward.  Sometimes plans change, and part of being a missionary is being flexible and open to change - and not being a jerk about it!


  1. Geez Micahel, now I want to read that autobiography. Turns out there's no such thing as bad press :) Seriously, I don't think you have to work hard to not be that guy. As long as I've know you, you're...anti-that guy.

    Hope the summer in Stryi (did I spell that right? I don't think I could possibly pronounce that)...anyway, I hope the summer goes well and that the Holy Spirit really does amazing things through you and around you.

  2. He was actually CMA and planted his church not too far from Kane. I, thankfully, can't remember his name - and the whole series of missionary biographies run together in my mind.