Saturday, January 2, 2010

Things I Learned from Steve Saint

This past semester, I took a class called Missions Strategies. One of our textbooks was The Great Omission, by Steve Saint. You might recognize his name; his father was one of the five men who was killed by the Waodani Indians in Ecuador (the movie End of the Spear tells this story). I really enjoyed this book; each week, we had to write a reflection on the chapters we had read, and one of my reflections contains many important pieces of information or advice that will be helpful for me to remember while on the mission field, so I want to share it.

In the book, Saint told the story of the first of the Waodani to ride in a plane with his dad. Do you remember the scene in the movie End of the Spear? That man's son, Tementa, now flies a plane in order to meet the transportation needs for the Waodani. Tementa was asked if he understood that he could die because he flies the plane, and he said, "If I fly, I might die, but if I don't fly, others will die."

On that same page, Saint remarks, "Safety isn't the ultimate objective for us as Christians, nor is living a long life. Our objective is to obey God and to fulfill his plan for us." That is a reminder that I desperately need. When I talk to my parents about being a missionary, one of the first/main concerns they have is about my safety. I understand that because they are my parents, but God did not call me to be safe. God called me to take his gospel to all nations.

Similarly, I have been thinking lately about how I want to be a missionary who goes to the unreached places of the world. Then I think about how scary and dangerous that is. And I wonder if I should go to the 10/40 window, where I might not be safe. But I need to remember that my objective is not safety, it is to obey. And if God says, "Go, minister to people who may hate you. Go, work in a place ravaged by war. Go, take care of the people the world calls the least of these," then I will go. To the person who is given much, much is expected. I have been given much, so my response is to be a blessing to other people.

Other reminders:

•"A little genuine concern for people's felt needs usually goes a long way toward breaking down such barriers." Sometimes, I stress out about how to plant the gospel in a place that has never heard it before. The command Jesus gives us is to make disciples of all nations, but it is very difficult to make people understand how much God loves them and you love them too if you are unwilling to take care of their physical needs. Compassion, tangible compassion, helps to break down the barriers that tell people you are an outsider and are not to be trusted. When you show that you care about their needs, not just the spiritual ones, they might just be willing to hear what you have to say about their spiritual needs. Of course we want to give people the Bread of Life, but it is hard to tell them about the Bread of Life until they no longer need bread in their stomachs.

•"We cannot excuse how we live on the mission field by what we have given up at home." This quote helps to keep me in check about my lifestyle. There are numerous stories from missionaries about how their possessions and affluence have shattered any chance they had of connecting with the people they were there to minister to. My possessions—my affluent lifestyle—are not worth that much to me. So I don’t want to ever attempt to justify the way I live on the mission field by what I have given up.

•"They never really needed us in the first place; they needed Christ." What an awesome reminder! It is not about me! God can accomplish his plans perfectly well without me. But I get the privilege of being involved in the kingdom of God. However, if I ever have pride because of this, I know that they don’t for one second need me, they need Christ!

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