– The MISSIONARY climbed over the last golden sand dune and gazed out over the sunbaked vista, wiping beads of sweat away from a tanned and blistered forehead. The village lay down below in the faint remnants of what may have been a riverbed long ago, now scorched and lost to the sands of time. The missionary had purposed to stand atop the pedastal of victory if only for a moment to rest but the joyous cries of the towns people suddenly sang a song of exuberant anticipation as they came rushing out for the long awaited treasure. The missionary came stumbling down towards them, dragging two enourmous leather bags. The camels had unfortunately perished long ago during the difficult trek through the desert, yet this special delivery was of the utmost importance. The missionary began to unpack the bags as the villagers crowded around with infectious smiles and laughter. Even some of the children had begun to sing songs of their hero`s arduous journey and triumphant arrival. Then, the villagers` smiles began to fade at the missionary`s puzzled face. Searching furiously through the bags and satchels, eyes of confusion quickly gave way to shock and sorrow. The missionary fell down on the hot sandy desert floor, head bowed in disbelief at the revelation that the tears now flowing from everyone were the only water to be found… –
There is a question that, though seemingly simple and straight forward, still proves to be a difficult one to answer for many of us that declare “I am a Christian”. This series will address the needs of the missionary, but in this very first entry I want to discuss the most vital one. The question is this, do you have anything to share? I`m not talking about Bible literacy or a list of degrees, but is your relationship with Jesus Christ, the One you intend to tell others about, strongly rooted and growing? When the Lord met a Samaritan women at a well, He beckoned her to ask for the living water that He promised to those that would believe in Him. (John 4:4-14) It would bubble and churn inside, gradually growing to become a refreshing well of eternal life. As missionaries, we may be going to locations that have never even heard of the Messiah. So, do you have water to give to a parched and thirsty land?
Now, before anyone surrenders to the tempting lures of offense and attitude, let me just remind you that this is not Sunday at the ol` church house with 2 o`clock bake sale we`re talking about here. That also has it`s place, but there is a relaxing air of safety when surrounded by so many Christian believers, whether they be family by blood or faith. However, when you step foot on foreign territory, there may not be any traces of the gospel having been there at all. That means the cultural foundations that may have existed for thousands of years and that hold up the people and society of that country are composed of something else entirely. Which also means that besides a church that we hope is operating in the country already, there may be no living water there for the people, or you! A Christian also needs to stay in fellowship with the One who gives that water simply because we live in a world that has been in the most ancient of droughts, sun burned with war, famine and greed, the things that are the opposite of our God`s character.
So, you`re still ready to go? Ok, then what do we do to make sure we have that relationship? What are the dangers if we don`t? First of all, our decision to have accepted Jesus Christ into our lives should be one that we made of our own mind and not to please anyone else but God, as we have become humbled by our need for His love in our lives. I can honestly tell you that there is truly nothing like that moment when one becomes aware of his or her own finite mortality in the face of the almighty God and then realizes that He loves you, wants you anyway. This event sparks a desire to know and explore this being even more, who has made that possible through Jesus. On the contrary, attempting to preach to someone overseas about a God that you only know through what your mom, dad or televangelism program taught you is not going to go very far. That may have been the starting point for your journey to salvation, but an intelligent adult of any nation will be able to see that your familiarity with your God did not go much further.
Which brings us to my next point, a warning actually. A stable relationship with the Lord is paramount in order to be effective in any ministry, of course, but it is also protection for the missionary as well. The world is huge and very old and so naturally it brings along many peoples and cultures older and more articulate than yourself. Your faith in the Lord and His spirit living and breathing in you may be all that keeps you from being enticed by the words and attractive traditions of the countries you will be ministering in. Now, of course there are some traditions native to a nation that are harmless and simply a part of their heritage. In fact, you must have some interest in the ways of the people that you will be living with in the first place. However, it is in the things that are a direct violation to the ways of God and that ultimately pull your attention away from Him that the problem lies, and if you`re wondering what those things are then you know where to look. Read the Bible, pray, build your relationship with your Savior. Make sure that after all those hours of flight time and lines at airport immigrations, you at least have some water to share.