Pope Francis: If You Feel the Call to be a Missionary, Do It!

pope-francis.jpgPope Francis seems to be talking about missionaries who cross borders to share the Gospel. I agree with what he says about that. But I’d like to add that we need courageous people who will be missionaries for Christ to our own fallen culture, here in the “Christian West.”

Do you hear the call to speak more about your faith? Is God asking you to share Jesus with those around you? That is a tough call, but we all have received it by virtue of our own salvation.

We have the way to eternal life. If we do not share it with those who are perishing, we are not being polite, we are being terribly selfish.

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Missionary Sister Talks about Christians in the Holy Land

I have friends who spent a long time in Papua New Guinea, working as missionaries for Wycliffe Bible Translators.

It is true that God calls special people for this work. They don’t look different than the rest of us. The differences are inside, but they are profound.

In this video, a missionary sister in the Holy Land talks about the challenges Christians who live there must face.

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Christian Workers Save Trafficked Girls in India

Christianity in India is growing most rapidly among the Dalits, or the so-called Untouchables. 

Even though caste discrimination is illegal in India, Dalits are, according to a July CNA article, still viewed as “impure and essentially worthless.” Dalit women suffer the worst, since they are discriminated against both as Untouchables and also for being women. Dalit girls are often victims of prostitution and human trafficking.

The radical message of Christianity that every human being is created in the image and likeness of God has the power to transform people who have been treated like human garbage all their lives. According to the article, it is doing that now among the Untouchables of India.

The CNA article describing one Christian mission to Dalit girls says in part:

Bangalore, India, Jul 12, 2012 / 04:07 am (CNA).- A human rights group in India says Christianity has brought slow but lasting change to the country’s Dalits or “untouchables,” especially for the community’s women who are often victims of prostitution and human trafficking.

“The Dalits are told that they are less than animals and we tell them they are not,” non-profit director Jeevaline Kumar told CNA, “because they are made in the likeness of God.”

Kumar – who heads up Operation Mobilisation’s Anti-Human Trafficking Project in Bangalore, Karnataka – explained that the simple message that every person created in God’s image has transformed the lives of India’s Dalits.

“They are crying out for a change now that they know they can live differently,” she said.

At roughly 250 million people, Dalits make up close to one quarter of the country’s 1.2 billion member population but, according to the caste system, are seen as inherently impure and worthless.

“It is not normal in our world for how these people are treated,” Kumar said.

Although caste discrimination, not the caste system itself, was technically outlawed in 1950 after India won its independence from Great Britain, law enforcement is still lacking.

Dalit women bear the brunt of caste discrimination, Kumar added, since women are looked upon even more unfavorably in Indian culture as they will need to be married off at the expense of their parents.

“The women are the Dalits of the Dalits,” Kumar said, explaining that many of them are forced into lives of prostitution, cleaning human waste or being aborted as soon as their gender is learned.

Prostitution, either in a brothel or as a temple “devadasi,” is among one of the greatest risks that threaten Dalit girls and women.

Even though the caste system teaches that they are impure, Kumar said that “when it comes to sex, no one thinks of them as untouchable.”

Three million people in India are forced into lives of sex-trafficking, 1.2 million of whom are children and 250,000 of whom are enslaved for “ritualized temple prostitution,”According to the Dalit Freedom Network.

“A little help can change the lives of these girls,” she said.

Her organization, which is just “one of many that works towards the same goal,” is striving to promote the message that “there is value in every human being” by responding to “Jesus’ mandate” to “love thy neighbor.”

Her work with the Tarika Institute, a school that trains women who have rescued from prostitution in tailoring, spoken English and computer skills, has been especially inspiring, she said.

“I have known God like never before after I got involved in acts of justice,” she said. “It really brings meaning and fulfillment in anyone’s life.” (Read more here.)

Book Review: All Missionary Work is Relational

For a link to buy Making Friends With the Taliban or to join in the discussion about it, go here

 

Making Friends With the Taliban is the story of one Christian missionary’s work in Afghanistan.

Dan Terry built his work in this war-ravaged country through what I have been told by other missionaries to the Middle East is the only way to do it. He did it by building relationships.

This can be difficult for Westerners because our internal clock is set differently than that of people in other parts of the world. We are accustomed to running by the clock. We want meetings with focus and clear-cut agendas which we follow check, check, check down the list, then set a time for another meeting and adjourn.

This not only doesn’t work in other parts of the world, it is highly offensive and rude. The successful missionaries I’ve known, the ones who actually accomplish things in other cultures, are either able to re-set their internal clocks to run on local time, or they are made that way to begin with.

I think usually it’s the latter. From what I’ve seen, God calls special people for this work. They look the same as the rest of us, but they are not. To begin with, there’s the question of fear. The missionaries I’ve known have been quiet, gentle people who wait on God rather than storming heaven. But they are also surprisingly nerveless in situations that would send me right over the top of the wall.

Getting lost doesn’t faze them. Rocky boats on high seas don’t ruffle them. Falling out of trees and getting bashed hundreds of miles from medical care is all in a day’s work. I once had a missionary friend describe getting stabbed at a roadblock with the gentle comment, “we ran into some rascals.”

They are also gifted with great hearts for the welfare and well being of other people that the rest of us might just want to run away from. Their ability to not even see the external trappings of people and look straight through to the person has never ceased to amaze me.

Dan Terry evidently had all these abilities in large quantities. He was one of those special people God calls for this special work of nurturing, raising up and equipping people who are trapped in centuries of living as the downtrodden and the forgotten.

A woman missionary friend of mine who had spent years in Egypt told me, “Everything in the Middle East is relational.” Based on this book, it would appear to be the same in Afghanistan, only perhaps more so.

Dan Terry had the gift of relationship mission building. It allowed him to do things few other Westerners could. But it also alienated his more clock-and-agenda-bound colleagues in his missions sending organization. This conflict of ways reached the point that the organization eventually severed their relationship with Dan.

I’ve seen this same sort of thing with missionary friends of mine who were affiliated with other agencies and who worked in other parts of the world. Based on what I’ve seen with my friends, I think it may have been more than a misunderstanding between Dan Terry and his missions organization.

Professional jealousy of a type that might surprise the more idealistic was the primary motivator for troubles between my friends and their colleagues. They could, as Dan Terry could, work with and convert people who the rule-bound missionaries could not even really talk to.

In their field of Papua New Guinea they successfully converted hundreds of people to Christ while their co-workers stayed isolated with their books and their grudges. All this was intensified by the fact that they were the only Americans there, which evidently made them crude and rude in their colleagues’ eyes.

God calls special people to do this work. There is a place for the academicians and bean counters in missions work. But a lot of times that place is not in the field. People being what they are, this can create hostility and jealousy.

Making Friends Among the Taliban is the story of the work of Dan Terry, a missionary who had “it.” He had the ability to do the kind of relational work that any successful missionary must have. He was punished for this ability by this missions society and ultimately let go by them. That is their disgrace, not his.

This book does not have the clear narrative style of a page-turner, and it also doesn’t have the heavily-footnoted scholarship of an academic study. But if you want to read an outline of the work of a man who knew how to do relational missionary work, I can’t think of a better source.


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