I saw a sign recently that said, “Thanks to our unsung heroes”. Who, I wanted to ask? If you don’t identify the group, how are they to know they’re being thanked?
In this article I want to identify and thank a group of heroes who often work unseen by the world, behind the scenes, to help people in material ways and also bring them the Gospel of Jesus Christ, “because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes; first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. ” (Romans 1:16)
I mean missionaries and those who support them. Supporters are those who are on support staff with missionary organizations, those who send financial support, and those who pray for any and all of the above.
I don’t know how many missionary organizations are this complicated, but the world-wide reach of Samaritan’s Purse requires these jobs in the support staff and field:
Reporting Systems Analyst, International Projects; Leadership Development Manager; Service Desk Analyst I (Tier I, Ticketing); Security Program Manager; Data Privacy Specialist; Operation Christmas Child Processing Center Associates; Web Designer; Finance Manager, overseas assignment; Seasonal Mail & Data Processors; Internal Procedure Writer; Senior Web Designer; Employee Relations Specialist; Videographer; Temporary Warehouse Associate; Advisor, International Disaster Response; Kitchen Manager; Clinical Specialist, Emergency Medical Response; Global Security Operations Center; Ebola Monitoring & Evaluation Program Manager
That’s much less than half of the job titles that are open now. Samaritan’s Purse operates at the same level of complexity as a full-scale war!
Missionaries are the front-line troops, but there are thousands of Christian men and women who stand behind them, beside them, or kneel in prayer for them.
I’ve mentioned before that I had the privilege of working with one missionary couple in Brazil. Ross and Cathy Hodsdon (feature photo, if I did it right)) had spent seven years there when I arrived, and had translated several New Testament books of the Bible into the language of the people group they were working with. Anyone who thinks missionaries loaf around needs to spend time in the field with them. They work from sunup to sundown, and sometimes longer. They deal with practical problems as well as Bible translation. While I was there, an additional well was dug, and a tin roof for the “pharmacy” (600 miles from nowhere) was bought and installed. One of the Indians had already been trained as a nurse.
Ross and Cathy, after Bible translation and church-planting in Brazil, became Bible translation consultants and have probably spent more time globe-hopping than anyone except Ravi Zacharias. Ross passed away recently from cancer. His widow is still active in Bible translation. I spoke to her on the phone Tuesday evening and asked permission to post a little of their story.
After Bible School and seminary (try earning a Master’s degree with little children at home and your spouse studying too!) with Ross concentrating on New Testament Greek and Cathy the Old Testament translation expert, they were ready to go to work. I was there – incredible! – 45 years ago. Today, at 72 years of age, Cathy is still doing translations via Skype for locations in India and Thailand. The time difference means that one party has to stay up late or get up early. Cathy says that she often tries to sleep after a late session, but her mind is still running full throttle and sleep is impossible.
At Baptist Mid-Missions, once you’re past seventy years old, you are expected to retire or prove that you are still mentally and physically fit to continue. These people are not fooling around. Cathy said that age does take its toll – she no longer goes outside the US, and “I can’t do hostessing any more, except for groups of 4 or 5.” LOL! That’s enough!
This Saturday, Cathy is leaving for a translation instruction manual conference. Those who teach missionaries how to translate will review and learn the manual Cathy has spent “most of the last two years” revising (for the fourth time!) with the latest understanding of how to translate. In addition, there are quizzes and activities to be sure that the lessons are being learned. Cathy prepared those also!
Who supports missionaries? Ordinary Christians like you and me. Sometimes there are people who are so enthusiastic about missions that they go pedal-to-the-metal in their support. If you want to read an account of one of these Superheroines, read this ( https://www.bmm.org/learn/changing-lives/alpha/ ) brief but packed account of “Alpha”, told by missionaries she has supported for over thirty years! At 100 years old, they say “When we last visited her, she was making purses out of pop can tops, in order to sell them and give more to missions.”
I first learned about missionaries through a Hollywood movie, which is one of my favorites from the first time I saw it at my old church 20 years ago. While the real Gladys Aylward never liked the liberties taken in the movie (it is Hollywood after all) I never would let an unapproved account of her life take anything away from the amazing ways God worked in her life, to allow her as uneducated as she was to go to China. If you haven’t read her amazing story, you can here. It’d be too much for me to describe here. And the movie Inn of the Sixth Happiness is a great movie too which depicts much of her journey as an “unofficial missionary”.
A lot of years have passed since I first learned what missionaries ‘do’. At our church now, we are very involved in supporting and sending Missionaries. While not many of those we support consider our church as their home church, we have helped send many of them out as well, giving during their deposition times, raising funds and having many come and speak or teach during our annual Mission’s month.
One of those who’ve come a few times since I’ve been there, is a couple who mission to the Caribbean, which would sound more like a vacation or visions of Jimmy Buffet singing about beaches, palm trees and the slow life. But Rick and Fran S. are anything but living a slow life. The Caribbean ministry encompasses the Bahamas, Jamaica, Haiti and Trinidad and Tobago. Considering that the Bahamas includes 700 islands, that’s a lot of travel time. But put these islands populations together, you’ve got over 14 million people, who need to know the love of and salvation by Christ.
Rick spends much of his time between Florida and the Bahamas, I had posted some photos last year and prayer requests for the Bahamian people during the devastating hurricane. But he was there as soon as he was able to go, bringing with him shipping containers full of much needed supplies, and a container full of furniture donated by a local family owned business to help refurbish a destroyed orphanage. Rick and the local Pastor we’re supporting have created “Champs” which is an organization to mentor and teach boys and young men. It was at the newly built Champs building where thousands of Bahamians were able to get daily food and supply bags to help them after the hurricane.
Our church is such a blessing to AB and myself, and is to so many others who go- but it’s an amazing blessing that as a body we can help spread the gospel and the love in action that goes along with it in our own community and around the world through the missionaries we support.
Romans 10:14 says How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
Our church takes that seriously as our motto is “Pray, Give, Go”. We know that not many of us are called or cut out to be out in the mission field, but prayers and giving is something we can all do to help support those who can go.
Please pray often for God’s unsung heroes. There are many who aren’t even known by the churches who send them because they are true warriors on the front lines in places such as Iran, North Korea and other closed and hostile nations because it’s too dangerous for them and those they shepherd.
Mission work is not for the faint of heart. These folks are incredibly hard working, serious adventurers who love people the way God does, and have a special calling to Go and share His love with them.
Thanks Lawngren for reminding us of these faithful!