Mission and Sustenance
Had a massively restful weekend sitting in our warm little kitchen (with its dirty sticky floor that no one has mopped for several months), reading.
Grabbed John Pollock’s book on The Cambridge Seven off someone’s bookshelf while looking for something on a completely different subject. The Cambridge Seven were a group of Cambridge students who left for China as missionaries with the China Inland Mission (now OMF) in 1885. Being wealthy, young, personable, and some, great sportsmen, their farewell tour of England gave them a bit of celebrity.
Followed that with Eileen Fraser Crossman’s biography of James O. Fraser, Mountain Rain, who arrived in China a few decades later in 1908, also with the China Inland Mission and did good work amongst the Lisu people in Yunnan. Then to understand how the CIM started (and also because it was on my bookshelf from the amazing 10ofthose.com sale at School), Roger Steer’s book on J. Hudson Taylor.
(Somewhere over the two days, someone came over to talk about her upcoming study on Mark’s Gospel, and another also passed me a book on Corrie Ten Boom who hid Jews during the German occupation, was interred in a concentration camp, and continued to keep her eyes on ultimate reality throughout, giving real hope to fellow prisoners by alerting them to the fact that there was a God who was sovereign over all. Then, conducted some experiments on salted caramel brownies while the rest of the brain had a good think about all these things.)
Past midnight, a housemate wandered in for a spot of tea and a break from studying Isaiah, and we had a bit of a chat about what to make of biographies of Christians. While there were some things I found a bit strange about the biographies – eg. the disproportionate emphasis on how wonderful their lives were and how much they gave up to do overseas mission in China, the lingering look at the love lives of missionaries, and the possibly erroneous use of Bible passages, there was much to learn about their complete dependence on God and at the same time, their dogged hard work to the detriment of their health.
The Christian’s sustenance is to be found in God’s word and in prayer; but for the missionary’s physical sustenance, it would probably be necessary to learn to cook local dishes the local way with local implements etc, and also to learn to cook by instinct, being able to gauge what it will take to make cheap mystery meat palatable. Also, it would be irresponsible not to eat nutritiously so some care about the food to be ingested would be necessary, and if one is also to be hospitable, then the food should also be somewhat tasty. To that end, some experimenting might be of use (with housemates looking on in trepidation at the extensive use of massively discounted meat – “don’t you think it is massively discounted for a reason?!” etc):
Peter Williams from Tyndale House in Cambridge just came over to the School to talk about biblical scholarship as ministry. A decade ago, this would have been very attractive – to be able to serve God while burying oneself in books and to not deal with the messiness inherent in relating to people. But now, being in academia, though useful for the church, seems too restrictive. There are so many people who have yet to hear about Jesus, so many still in danger of eternal death. Am very restless to have the training done and to put feet into action.
If 2 years’ time, i seem to have the right skills to serve as an overseas missionary, i’d still want to check that:
- it will not be about how much I’m sacrificing, as if giving up a comfortable life was such a noble thing when in fact, Christ has claim over our whole lives;
- it will not be about running away from the perceived demands of modern society for the simplicity of a less developed country, because everyone is inherently sinful and if i can’t see that, i will merely be doing what good Christian kids do when they grow up, but not pleading with the lost to repent and be saved;
- it will not be not adopting a pietistic attitude of superiority (i have so little, you have so much, therefore i must be more obedient to God and/or more holy),
because all this will just be able about doing mission for self and self-glory. Rather, I must be compelled by love for people to see them saved, and love for God so that I wish to see him proclaimed and glorified in all the world.
And perhaps to the world, the picture of the missionary should be as a Toronto magazine described Hudson Taylor:
Hudson Taylor is rather disappointing… A stranger would never notice him on the street… except, perhaps, to say that he is a good-natured looking Englishman. Nor is his voice in the least degree majestic… He displays little oratorical power… He elicits little applause… launches not thunderbolts… Even our Goforth used to plead more eloquently for China’s millions, and apparently with more effect… It is quite possible that were Mr. Taylor, under another name, to preach as a candidate in our Ontario vacancies there are those who would begrudge him his probationer’s pay.
To which Taylor is reported to have replied,”This is very just criticism, for it is all true. I have often thought that God made me little in order that He might show what a great God He is.”