February 4th, 2020
“My ACTIONS should draw people to the God I serve, not my SALES PITCH. If people want what I have, they’ll ask me how to get it. If not, that’s their business.”
“I want to be where there are out and out pagans.”
I have a friend who is a missionary. Well, I think that he is still a friend, but it’s hard to tell. I am almost certain that I have offended him, and he may have finally given up on me. In any case, he is an Evangelical, and he has been in Germany for the last ten years. He is absolutely convinced that he is doing the Lord’s work there. I am not so sure.
For a decade now, my friend has been telling anybody who cares to listen about his ministry in Germany. I finally wrote to him last week and said that I cannot make any sense of his work. I told him that I don’t see how his activities relate to Christianity at all. He seems to be constantly busy, but I can’t comprehend how all this busyness brings God into the lives of other people. Basically, I called into question his entire career path, and I do not expect that he appreciated that.
I just don’t get it.
When my friend moved to Bonn, it was under the auspices of a large missionary organization. He quickly started a blog, and sent out monthly updates on his life overseas. The posts read like a travelogue. He always seemed to be going to beautiful, exotic places in Europe for seminars, conferences, and workshops. I was never able to figure out what he actually did. All I know for certain is that at the end of each post, he would ask for prayers…and money. I stopped reading the posts. They were redundant. I stopped sending him money. I still send prayers on occasion.
So, what is he really trying to do? His standard answer to that question is that he bringing the Gospel to a people who “have forgotten that they have forgotten about God”. What the hell does that mean? How is he bringing the Gospel? By going to an endless succession of strategic planning sessions? By attending Evangelical lovefests? What is he actually doing for anybody?
I know some other missionaries. I met Father Peter and Sister Betty in Ciudad Juarez back in October. They live in Anapra, one of the poorest and most dangerous neighborhoods in Juarez. They have been in Mexico since 1995, living among the people, as members of that poverty-stricken community. These two elderly missionaries have the same standard of living as the folks that they help. They reside in a tiny house, and their material needs are minimal. They share whatever they have. They do whatever they can to support their neighbors, especially the women. Sister Betty and Father Peter never asked anybody for money while I was with them. I don’t know where they get their financial support, but somehow they make do.
I totally admire those people. They are bringing Jesus to the residents of Anapra by being Jesus to them, not just by talking about Jesus.
My friend lives a first world lifestyle in a first world country. I am sure that he makes some sacrifices. After all, he is away from his loved ones most of the time. However, he isn’t making sacrifices like Peter and Betty. I know that my friend has his struggles. He has some serious health issues, but he also has access to good health care. He has access to decent food and clean water. He is not in danger of being shot down on the street. My friend went from a comfortable way of life in America to another comfortable way of life in Germany. Is that how missionaries are supposed to live?
My friend has interacted with immigrants in Germany, in particular the Kurds. I give him credit for that. Maybe he has performed countless acts of compassion during his decade in Germany, actions that I don’t know anything about. He has seldom, if ever, talked about doing simple acts of kindness. His emphasis is always on major events, the big time.
Other missionaries I know talk about what they have learned from the people they have met. I am not sure that my friend has learned much from the locals. He has always been interested in teaching about Jesus. It has always felt to me like he is doing other people a favor by just being there. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe he has learned many things from the people he’s met. I don’t know.
My friend is often asking for money. That is a standard topic in his posts and his conversations. Does it have to be that way? There is a biblical alternative. In the Acts of the Apostles, St. Paul pays his own way. He works as a tentmaker, and he never ask for support from anyone during his journeys around the eastern Mediterranean. Paul works for a living. That’s an interesting concept.
I have no problem with people going to faraway places to serve the needs of others, whether those needs are material or spiritual. More power to them. I am happy to help them.
I just want it to be real.