So I just returned from a week in South Africa. A team from our congregation served more than a 100 missionaries and their families at their annual cluster meeting. Three of us led worship each day. One, a retired missionary, shared his story and mentored other missionaries at the meeting. The rest of the team provided a Vacation Bible School experience for the missionary children. It was a great experience for our team. It was new for me in mission experience. This is the first time I went overseas to work with missionaries rather than with the local population.
I was blessed to interact with a number of missionaries. Good news! God is moving across southern Africa. People are being saved. Disciples are being made. Churches are being planted. The kingdom of God is taking more and more territory from the enemy. Powerful stuff. I often found myself quietly praying, “God, please do this in America too.”
I heard lots of stories. I want to tell you one. To protect the missionary’s security, let’s call him George. George is a single man, never married. And it’s not because he doesn’t want to be. During his missionary training, he met a woman he pursued for marriage. It seemed like a match made in heaven. They both love Jesus. They both have a heart for the gospel and for the nations. But as they prepared to seek a mission assignment, they discovered health issues that would keep George’s fiancé from ever getting to the field.
What a dilemma! If they marry, the mission field is out. They could serve God in the States, but they couldn’t take the gospel to the nations, to people who have never heard, to the people God had put in their hearts. They prayed, talked, agonized about it. And one phrase rose to the surface over and over again in their deliberations: “the preeminence of the gospel.” So George and his fiancé put their impending marriage on the altar and sacrificed marriage for the mission field.
That was 20 years ago. George’s fiancé didn’t forget George and look for a husband who could care for her in the States. She is George’s prayer coordinator in the States. She never married either. She continues to be a valuable part of George’s mission ministry (their mission ministry) through her prayers and communication for him with their partners in America.
And you know what? They hold not one ounce of bitterness over this. There is no anger toward God. There is no lingering regret or second-guessing their decision. Before they were devoted to one another, they were devoted to God, to the nations, and to the preeminence of the gospel. It will probably come as no surprise to you that God is using George in incredible ways on the mission field.
That’s just one story. I could tell others. But stories like George’s led me to say to them on my last day with them …
Whenever I am with missionaries I always receive so much more than I give. I am challenged to the core by your devotion to God and to the nations. And I can’t help but think of one line in the faith chapter in Hebrews 11 where the author describes these faithful people as “those of whom the world is not worthy.”