Many of you know I wasn’t much of a reader growing up. I read phoenetically, thus slowly. I start books and either lose interest or run out of free time. Taking a novel from beginning to end is a huge investment, and few books get that undivided attention.
Anyways, unlike so many of the other missionaries here, I didn’t grow up reading stories of great missionaries, nor did I thirst for Africa. I only learned about Cameron Townsend (Wycliffe’s founder} after starting to pursue Wycliffe. Nate Saint, George Muller, and others were just names to me.
My friend David was telling me about a little book he’d just read about a missionary to Burma (next to India). After finding a couple of Kindle books that I’d wanted to finish in paper form, but failed to bring along with me, I found the book David mentioned: Adonairam Judson, published by Youth With A Mission.
Last night, I got a couple of chapters in, but today, I finished it. Page after digital page, I read the story of the first american foreign missionary. I read a story similar to Paul’s, of long journeys over water, prison sentences, and speaking to local officials. Compared to Judson, Paul had it easy. Adonairam Judson buried 3 wives, most of his children, and almost all of his friends. He lived in a time where going into missions meant you would most likely die there, days when “medevac” meant a 7-month sea voyage.
Death had only touched me once, well actually twice, since leaving. Once with here with Shawn’s passing, and once before that when the boyfriend of one of my best friends died in the hospital. I admit that I’m not much good at relating to grieving people, I’m more of the get-things-done type, and that’s nearly impossible to express long-distance. As I look toward returning home before linguistics school, I believe I will have the grace to return to find all of my family thriving.
Replacing this isolation in Burma experienced by Judson and his familes, there is a new and opposing struggle for missionaries of the digital age. The struggle is a spread of responsibilities. My duty is to serve God, through my life even more than through my work, and my commitment is to share this world with my partners. Beyond that is another level, we work FOR the Cameroonians and are often tempted to leave cross-cultural relationships struggling when pressing duties rise. Many of our extraverts seek out Cameroonians on tough days, but I usually retreat into the quiet. For the many wonderful things Cameroonians can be, loving, enthusiastic, persistent…quiet doesn’t describe any public gathering.
I don’t know if I have expressed it here, but I find it interesting that each missionary here felt a call strong enough to put aside, at least for a time, friend and family obligations for the sake of the Cameroonian people. We’re here trying to relate to a people whose lives are directed by family obligations, and can’t (or at least wouldn’t dare) to step outside these obligations for even a couple of hours.
Thank you Yah for being bigger than me, bigger than Cameroon, and for your Son’s example of being the perfect cross-cultural missionary, even to death. Fill me again with your Spirit. Help each of your ambassadors to be continually filled by your peace that passes understanding, and comfort those left behind, who continue to see a person-shaped hole in their lives. Fill that hole with warmth, compassion, and encouragement…and bring both Cameroonians and Americans into the fold and closer to You because I reflect Your light and Spirit. Amen