"Never pity missionaries; envy them. They are where the real action is --- where life and death, sin and grace, Heaven and Hell converge. " Robert C. Shannon
The above quote was given to me yesterday and is epitomized in the story of a missionary that Rachelle and I shared lunch with on Friday, June 11, overseas. This young man and his family were forced out of the country where they served for several years.The government officials initially gave him forty-eight hours to leave, but after an appeal, he and his family were given a few more days. They left everything behind because they were unable take anything that couldn't fit in a suitcase. To watch their small son's reaction when told that his 'Big Wheel' had to be given away because their wasn't room is something they will not forget. But, more importantly, to be forced from the place to which they were called by God because they faithfully shared Christ was even more difficult. To hear their story, and the enthusiasm of going to a new region, and a new people, to continue fulfilling their call, illustrated to us both the quote by Robert Shannon. No pity for these heroes of the faith; only more opportunities for future excitement of being where the real action is.
Having now travelled to five of the eleven regional headquarters of our convention over the past year, I can say without hesitation that the regional offices that have been established for the support of field personnel are incredibly effecient. The men and women that serve to support the missionaries are are all very gifted and just as called as those who spend their time planting churches in the villages and cities. The pay scale for our missionaries is not high, but each works hard to turn the mission dollars of Southern Baptists into actual ministry by doing quite well at balancing frugality in living expenses, effeciency in ministry expenses, and actually concentrating on how to reach the most people possible with the money available. I have often heard it said that missonaries from other conventions would desire to be appointed by the IMB because of the guaranteed salary and benefits, but for those of us who have seen the missions and ministry side of the Southern Baptist Convention, we know that getting to the place where Southern Baptist missionaries do not have to worry about raising financial support takes many years of laying the foundation for an organization that models effeciency. Southern Baptists began laying that foundation for our mission work over 150 years ago, and the results are being seen today on the mission fields of the world. The Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering are the two financing mechanisms that makes our international missions ministry tick. Trips like the one Rachelle and I are taking make us realize all the more the need for MORE Southern Baptist pastors - not less, MORE Southern Baptist people - not less, MORE Southern Baptist churches - not less to all feel ownership for what is taking place in and through SBC missions.
In His Grace,