Why send missionaries?

26 12 2011

There are voices in the Church today that look at missions-sending primarily through the lens of financial ROI (return on investment). They argue that a US-sent missionary is too expensive compared to the low cost of supporting nationals in their own country. Without getting deeply into this issue which has many facets unseen through the financial lens, such as the crippling dependency that results from the dollar, I am prompted today to share with you a letter I received this morning from one of my seminary classmates who has spent decades in West Africa. This letter reminds me of one of the reasons we must continue to send out missionaries from the USA: We need their perspective to help us see our own lives more clearly.

Here is the letter from Steve and Carol Smith:

Dear friends,

Carol and I stopped by the Nutrition center of the El Rapha Health Center on Wednesday where we saw a young mother with her six month old baby girl who weighed 3 ¾ lbs. (that’s not a typo). Our hearts broke as we saw a tiny adult-looking face (NO baby fat) with big sad eyes & listened to the little girl moaning in her mother’s arms unable to understand why she was suffering. The reason this child is at death’s door from malnutrition is not because the mother doesn’t love her but because of ignorance, unhealthy child-care traditions and poverty.

Another child was born into the poorest of circumstances and grew up in a backwater town in the Middle East over 2000 years ago. On that fateful night an angel announced to the most despised social class of the day these life-giving words: “unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Because he came, there is hope for this broken world. Because he came, we are here for such a time as this and you are where you are for such a time as this and the gospel we live and speak is “the power of God for the rescue of everyone who believes.”

May our hearts break for all who have not yet heard and who moan in misery without knowing why.  May God have mercy on this child and all the children who suffer.  May the love of God in Christ constrain us to no longer live for ourselves but for him who died and rose again on our behalf.

We want to thank you very much for being partners with us as we serve the Lord here in Côte d’Ivoire. We couldn’t do it without you. Your prayers and encouragement and support help us in so many different ways.

We wish you a blessed Christmas season and a New Year full of the joy of knowing Jesus and of making him known.

Steve and Carol



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