Friday, June 15, 2007

Who is the Real Missionary Anyway?

I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.

Apostle Simon Peter

Birganj is a little town on the boarder between India and Nepal. My plane was late and so I stepped out of the tiny domestic airport and walked out to the main road. There I saw an Indian man dressed is a saffron cloth, sandals, a walking stick and a bag over his shoulder. I took him to be a traveler of some sort -- perhaps one on a pilgrimage. "Where are you going?" I asked. "Lhasa Tibet" came the response.

I knew from my travels that Lhasa, Tibet was far from where we stood. One would have to to up through the capital of Nepal, Khatmandu -- up over the Himalayan mountains, cross the foothills near Mt. Everest and then go up through rugged mountain passes into Lhasa! Tour groups drive this route in five days.

"Oh, are we waiting for the same aircraft?" "No, sir." "Are you waiting for a bus?" "No. sir." "Well then, how are you traveling," I asked. "I walk," came the answer.

"Please help me understand," I said. "I do not understand how you can walk to Lhasa Tibet from here." "Yes sir, that is what I am about to do."

I looked at this Indian man. He look plenty intelligent with bright sparkling eyes behind his dark rimmed glasses. His English was not that of a local peasant. He sounded like someone of standing who had been well educated. I took another tack.

"Why are you going to Tibet?" I queried. "I am a missionary sir." "Oh, are you a Hindu guru -- or Buddhist -- or what." "No sir. I am a missionary." "Well then, what is your religion?" "I am a Christian sir! A Christian missionary."

"OK. Are you a Jehovah Witness, or Mormon or what?" "No sir, I believe that Jesus, the Son of God died as our Savior, and that all who believe in Him will have eternal life. My duty is to tell this wonderful message to everyone I meet."

I was dumbfounded. I had never met anyone just like this man before. "Please, explain to me how you as a Christian missionary are going to walk from here to Tibet. I know that it is hundreds of kilometers away over high snow covered mountain passes." "I will walk. That is what I do. I awake very morning and I pray and ask God to show me the people along the road who need to hear of Jesus. Then I walk. And as I see people out farming in their fields or working by the side of the road, I stop and ask them if I can tell them about Jesus. If they are interested, I spend a few days with them until they have made a firm decision and then I move on. I intend to do this all the way to Lhasa Tibet."

"Who are you? Where did you come from?"

"Well sir, 15 years ago I was a nominal Christian with a high paying job as an engineer. I got in trouble in my work and was thrown into prison. While I was there, I told the Lord that if He got me out of prison, I would quit my job and would spend the rest of my days telling people about Him." At this point he reached into his little bag and pulled out a photograph. It was of smartly dressed Indian business man. "That was me," he said. "But this man is now dead -- and I am a new man in Christ."

As I pressed this man, I learned that he has been "walking for Jesus" for 15 years. His home is in Chennai (Madras) in the South of India. But he has walked up into Pakistan, into Afghanistan and now in to Tibet to share the Gospel. A quick calculation of how far he has walked went up to about 20,000 kilometers (12,000 miles).

A few minutes later my small plane landed and I rushed to climb aboard. As we flew up into Nepal I looked down into the mountains and canyons below and thought of my new friend Sadu -- and him walking for Jesus with the Gospel.

There, I began to ponder a deep question? Who was more of a missionary -- me flying along in this little airplane headed for a conference with Christian workers in Nepal -- or this humble man who is walking for Jesus?

Slowly the realization hits, that while there are over 100,000 foreign missionaries who are registered as coming from the Western world, there is a vast army of emerging missionaries who are rising up in Asia, Africa and Latin America . Many are unknown, have little financial backing, have no large sending organization behind them -- but they are out there faithfully doing the work of the Kingdom.

My question then -- and now is, "Who are the real missionaries anyway?" The truth is that in our day, there are more emerging missionaries like Sadu out there spreading the Gospel than the combined total of all sending agencies in the Western World. This fact, has profound implications for world missions. Implications that we will explore more and more in this blog. Stay tuned.


Johnny Brooks said...

Great story. I love meeting people like that. I am not sure I could answer the question of who is a real missionary, but I can say that I am one. Now I suppose I could write about how great I am and how we do not have the backing of any missions agency and we have little finincial support, and so on, but I am doing what God asked me to do, and since that entails me leaving my culture for another, well I suppose that makes me a missionary. Why do we have to have one definition? If you do not fit this rigid mold then you are not a missionary? Every person is unique and every "mission field" is unique. So we need guys walking 12000 miles just to speak to people about Jesus and we need guys in little planes traveling to conferences to talk to people.

latter day saint said...

I love the question, who is the real missionary? I am labeled a missionary because I left my home land to go to another land. I am involved with a church and with christians. Me and my wife have been struggling with our situation, we have been asking ourselves, what is a missionary doing in church? Why do we leave our home church to be supported by churches to go to another church and help them in their land. To me, that is not a missionary, its a christian being employed to live in a foreign land. God is calling us to be emergent and to be real missionaries. What we understand emergent churches to be is the way missions first started, take the gospel to those who havent heard of Jesus. Today in whatever country you might find yourself serving in, the gospel needs to be taken to various areas in that same way, like there was no church to begin with.
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