I am reflecting on the death of missionary John Allen Chau. According to NPR, Chau was a “26-year-old American missionary who was killed by indigenous people this month after sneaking onto North Sentinel Island in the Bay of Bengal.” Chau wanted nothing more than to share the love of Jesus with the people whom he hoped to reach. But before he could reach their community he was shot through with arrows and died. The island is so dangerous that it’s doubtful if his body will ever be recovered.
I am reminded that we who have taken up the call of bringing Christ to others in foreign lands go to those lands without weapons or means of defense. Soldiers go to hard places but take with them the accruements of war. We thank them for their service—as we should. But missionaries often go to those same countries and have only the Gospel of Peace.
I love my life. For me, It’s hard to imagine living a different life where I’m not directly involved in reaching the world for Christ. But my life is a bit different than Chau’s.
I sit at my desk, in Florida (a beautiful state), in America (a free country), working on remote projects to help radio and TV stations around the world tell their audiences about the story of Jesus. I work in a beautiful facility surrounded by green grass, trees, and lakes. The AC and heating work great. I have access to fast Internet. I use all the latest tech. My chair is padded and comfortable. Everyday a housekeeper comes by my cubicle and empties my trash. I have quick access to a kitchen with snacks and sodas. I talk to the people in the cubicles around me and enjoy their company. Down the hall are plush chairs and places to meet with others that are comfortable and welcoming. I don’t drink coffee, but downstairs there’s a coffee bar where many staff go to get drinks and have impromptu meetings on those plush chairs, sipping their java.
Yet, from time to time as is required, I must travel to a few of these countries that we consider risky, even dangerous, especially for Americans. My support team prays for my safety and success when I go. I’ve even had supporters who prayed against my going because they were afraid that I would come to some harm. In fact, there have been a few times in my career where I had concerns about my safety and wondered what might happen. But that never kept me from going to where I needed to go to get the job done. There was one instance where I was sure that I would be arrested. But I went anyway. And it’s only for one reason that I go.
I love Jesus and I want others to love him too.
There really isn’t a better explanation for what we do than that. I love Jesus and I want others to love him too. It’s why I left my radio career in the mid-90s to join staff with Campus Crusade for Christ. I love Jesus and I want others to love him too. It’s why I consult radio and TV stations around the world, and why I go visit them to consult and advise on what they do. I love Jesus and I want others to love him too. It’s why I leave my wife behind in Orlando where she is safe and comfortable and I want her to be that way. Her safety is important to me. But I also love Jesus and want others to love him too.
It’s been said that John Allen Chau went about what he did, badly. It’s been said that he had no business going there and that he was more of a risk to the tribal people that killed him than he was to them. Some said he didn’t have enough training or really understand what he was doing. I suppose we could say that about a lot of missionaries, me included. But for me, one thing wipes all of that away.
I love Jesus and I want others to love him too.
If we could interview Chau right now I’m willing to bet that he would say the risk, and even his death, were worth it. When was the last time you thought a dangerous risk was worth your life? We say that about our kids, spouse, and family. Dying for them would be worth it. But what about reaching a people group whose first response is to murder you then eat you? Is that worth it? I’m convinced Chau would say yes. I’m convinced a lot of us who call ourselves missionaries would also say yes. Why?
Because we love Jesus and want others to love him too.
Being less prepared, being greatly prepared, those things matter. It’s always best to get the training needed for any risky assignment. I get that. It’s important. But in the final analysis it really comes down to the heart. Do you want to go? WHY do you want to go?
Several years ago, when I lived and worked in Mongolia. A missionary came to see me at my office. He was terrified. He was based in Mongolia but actually traveled from time to time to China to reach the people there. He explained to me that he knew that if returned to China again the authorities would arrest him and being an older man he had a good chance of dying in prison. He was terrified. He didn’t want to go. But he asked for my advice. I quickly prayed then turned to a passage in Revelation to share with him. As I spoke he slid out of his chair, knees hitting the floor, arms thrust into the air and yelled, “God is speaking through you right now!” He left my office, determined to return to China and face whatever would come. I never saw him again.
If I could ask him if it was worth it I’m sure he’d say yes. I’m sure he’d say that he loved Jesus and wanted others to love him too. The risk was important, but the gain was more important. It’s why he was a missionary. And it’s why those of us who call ourselves missionaries do what we do. We love Jesus and want others to love him too.
Are you involved in fulling the Great Commission? Whether you are a person who goes or who sends others with your support, be sure of your calling, of your role. Because when it gets down to the hard truth of the matter, it’s all worth it. Whether to live or to die, it’s all worth it. Whether for loss or for gain, it’s all worth it. And it’s all worth it for one simple reason.
We love Jesus and want others to love him too.