Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Going and trusting in God’s providence
Auntie Ruth’s missionary service in the Amazon jungle: “…a fund of scary stories, including small aircraft that crash landed, being left without food for days at a time and brushes with dangerous-looking tribespeople…”
One who did respond in a far-reaching way to the call to “Go and make disciples of all nations” was my friend’s Auntie Ruth. She was, shall we say, a determined and fearless character who had spent most of her adult life in remote and less-than-safe places in South America as a missionary with medical skills.
On enforced retirement to the UK, she entertained others with a fund of scary stories, including small aircraft that crash landed, being left without food for days at a time and brushes with dangerous-looking tribespeople – not to mention a few animals. Many of these stories had a common theme, a bit like Paul’s shipwrecks, of being stranded or vulnerable or both and having to rely on God’s providential – and urgent – help.
As a single woman she had had to learn to look after herself in all sorts of situations, while relying on God to do the real looking after. Coming back to England, she had the brisk no-nonsense, confident manner that had kept her alive and the kind of faith that goes with it, but it sometimes offended the sensitivities of those following the genteel life of the Home Counties. In short, her call had been to go out of civilisation to the as-yet unreached. Back home at the door of a church or chapel, or in a home group, she was a misfit. But that was Auntie Ruth, and that was her call.
The “Go” command is not an impersonal order of the First World War Western Front kind, or an unreasonable test. It may be a test of obedience, but the Jesus who said “Go…” on that Ascension hillside is the same Jesus who encourages us to step out and go for Him today. As He sent out the twelve and then the seventy-two (Luke 9:1-3; Luke 10:1-2) so He is likely to send us to represent Him to the people we can best connect with. They may be no further than the water cooler, gym or coffee shop, or down our road. As His Holy Spirit is both the giver of gifts to the church and to individuals, so our first call is in line with our passions and gifting. We will have enough barriers to cross without adding more.
Go for Him, go with Him, go because of Him — this is something we must understand. For a few, that WILL turn out to be the challenge of a different continent, culture, customs and the whole communication issue. The early missionaries to China took, typically, five years to master the complex language and writing.
For you and me, at work or in the club restaurant, communication, customs and culture are still bridges to cross. They may not require us to live as dangerously or determinedly as the traditional kind of missionary. However, in post-Christian Britain the call is still a cross-cultural one and in some ways there is more to learn about how to be Good News to cynical English-speaking people, than how to proclaim Good News to somewhat intrigued non-Europeans.