Missionary life for sure often seems like a life of mountain top highs and darkest ocean depth lows. The highs seem fairly obvious: cross-cultural experiences that broaden your perspective and your wisdom (hopefully!), witnessing the dramatic triumph of light over dark, reliving the childlike joy of a new believer, and so on. The lows, though, are perhaps less obvious, but they are real. They include having to live out in a very real way that family cannot come before ministry, that the saying that "home is where the heart is" is trite and untrue (my heart, I can see, over the years will be splintered apart into tens of pieces as my family grows and spreads), and sending out seventy-five emails a week to pastors and churches and being told over and over again that they are not interested in hearing about the Lord's work going on in Togo (an odd choice of phrase from a pastor, if ever I've heard one).
None of those lows are probably surprising to the person who's been on the field or who closely follows missionaries. But we seem to have a newer (or at least more widespread and popular) low: being a public enemy. In the wake of the death of John Allen Chau, the young American missionary who attempted to make contact with a remote and hostile people group, it has become clear that more Americans view missionaries as dangerous fools. My first reaction to the criticism (even coming from fellow Christians) was one of bewildered hurt. Gone are the relatively recent days when missionaries were recognized, even by ostensibly secular sources, as a force for good in the world. But I've found that once I moved beyond my feelings of personal ego, that this opposition reinvigorates me for the task at hand. If my work disturbs and bothers the world, it means that it matters! May the weak-willed, people-pleasing, half-hearted milquetoast Christian who seeks to live biblically without offending a modern secular culture be gone forever. Instead I pray to be a warrior fit for service to Christ.
Through You we will push back our adversaries; Through Your name will we
trample down those who rise up against us. Psalm 44:5
So, paradoxically, that which, at first glance, seems a low, turns out to be a high - a renewal of spirit and courage and a recommittment of mission. Praise God for the work of His faithful, his human army, that through the ages, from the earliest martyrs down through the present age, encourages us by their righteous example to drop to our knees in prayer and then stand up again outfitted for battle.