Two things struck me yesterday as we were getting ready for the Prayer service. Someone had asked me for a list of all the places the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod has or is sending Missionaries. I noted a little known addition to our reporting that we do not list all the places that we are active in the world “for security reasons”. We don’t print the addresses and places of service of some missionaries because it is dangerous to do so.
The other thing was a box that contained mosquito nets that I have and often used as object lessons in some of my presentations. The scourge of malaria is well known.
Now the all wise, all knowing, Center for Disease control comes out with a statement that the Zika virus and the mosquito that carries it may be spreading faster than anticipated.
Then I got some emails from folks that seem to think that we are trying to keep individuals, individual congregations and Districts from “doing” foreign missions”. It isn’t true but there are a lot of folks out there that seem to want to believe it.
Anyway one of the reasons some prudential sense of where we are in missions and what risks there are is in order. I wrote this article over a year ago.
It is hard to find it on the morning “news”, what with the cooks, the fitness guru’s, the stars and the singers but if you can wend through the “bread and circuses” you will find out that things were not as bad as you though they were – they are much, much worse. If we were able to find out what was going on in Paris you probably missed the fact that 2000 people were killed by the Bokol Haram group in Nigeria. If you got those two tidbits between the celebrity “tell all” stories you probably missed the fact that Al-Sahbaab attacked the military base that was the center for Africa Union troops and caused a lot of damage. Since the scare of ebola seems to be over here in the States, you might have missed the fact that 7000 Africans have died from it and there appears to be no end in sight. In the meantime Christian populations from Iraq, parts of Syria and vast areas of the mid – east have been effectively purged.
“Christianity should be realistic in terms of goals and obstacles in mission work. Here we would do well to limit our understanding and wisdom in light of God’s purpose and intentions. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths” (Prov 3:5-6). All the obstacles to mission – stark opposition, financial constraints, theological confusion about the actual nature of mission, etc. – gnaw at the confidence placed in our efforts…….The gap between Western economic wealth and poverty in other countries is widening and creating obstacles for missionaries and their perceived identity and purpose.” So says Detlev Schulz in his masterful work “Mission From the Cross” published by CPH. Schulz also says that “Putting mission work into practice is more organized and transitory than the ideal suggests”. We will be speaking to that as we move forward.
The point now is that missions is a dangerous and sometimes dubious enterprise that should be entered into with eyes wide open and as much information, protection and support as one can get. The Office of International Mission seeks to give that support and information to missionaries and short term mission trips as well. The Best Practices document was a mandate of the Synod in convention. A by-law of our church body says that the Board for International Missions is the “only sending agency of funds and personnel for the Synod to foreign fields. These seem to me to be prudent and necessary ways that we become “realistic” in terms of goals and obstacles in mission work.