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Vol. 12 No.

3 September–December 2017

Take Up Your Cross


Suffering and the Church
MCI(P) 050/03/2017
1
Contents
Mission Round Table Vol. 12 No. 3 September–December 2017

03 Editorial
– Walter McConnell

04 Suffering and Mission: Narrative Research from Cambodia,


with Special Reference to Cambodian Church History
– Yuzo Imamura

13 Mission in High-risk Situations


– Richard S.

18 Faith, Risk-taking, and Suffering in Mission


– Ian Prescott

25 Mental Health and Mission


– Lightyear

29 Those Who Seem to Be Weak: The Role of Disability within


a Missional Framework
– Donna Jennings

35 Worshipping God through Suffering


– Walter McConnell

41 The Role Christian Values Play in Motivating International


Christian Ministries’ Collaboration in Disaster Relief Work
– Sng Bee Bee
45 Surrounded by So Great a Cloud of Witnesses
– Claire McConnell

Cover picture: Donations: Download:

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The editorial content of Mission Round Table reflects the opinions of the various authors and should not be interpreted as necessarily
representing the views of OMF International (IHQ) Ltd.

© 2017 by OMF International (IHQ) Ltd.

Editor: Walter McConnell walter.mcconnell@omfmail.com


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2 Mission Round Table


Editorial
Walter McConnell

Man of sorrows, what a name of suffering still impact the church biblical reality that some sixty of the
for the Son of God, who came and wider society. And while no one Psalms were written as laments to help
ruined sinners to reclaim. can fathom the horrors of the Pol individuals and communities draw
Hallelujah, what a Savior!1 Pot years, Imamura’s interviews with near to God in times of suffering and
Cambodian Christians demonstrate pain. That such a large percentage
When Isaiah looked forward to the that suffering extends far beyond of Israel’s “praises”—which is what
coming of the Messiah he penned what the brutality of that regime as many the Hebrew title of the book means—
appears to be a strange description suffer from poverty, disease, and have this function should alert us of
of God’s chosen Servant. “He was simply for believing in Jesus. His aim the need to see lament as a God-
despised and rejected by men; a man of is to show how the church should given means of worshipping him
sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and respond to suffering on a broad or in times of trouble and grief. My
as one from whom men hide their faces personal level and to encourage us to article, “Worshipping God through
he was despised, and we esteemed him develop a biblically-based theology Suffering,” aims to broaden our
not” (Isa 53:3). How could the Messiah of suffering that will equip us to understanding of the worship of God
be despised and rejected? How could face the realities of our world. by providing a basic introduction to
he know sorrow and grief? The answers biblical lament and suggesting ways in
are given in the Gospels which portray In the next two articles Richard S. and which it can be used in the church.
Jesus in just these terms and where the Ian Prescott consider the place of risk
Lord himself tells his disciples that they facing missionaries who bring good Bee Bee Sng’s article considers the
too must become people of sorrow as news about Jesus to people who may motivations of Christians who take
they give up the world, take up their not want to hear it and to places where part in disaster relief work and the
cross, and follow him (Matt 16:24–25). political, social, medical, moral, and outcomes of their ministry. Her
other risks abound. While we wonder focus on relief to a community
Sorrow and grief are profoundly how to respond to suffering for the shattered by an earthquake shows
central to the Christian gospel. Indeed, faith, the Bible is clear that neither how Christian professionals can work
the gospel is meaningless without the Apostle Paul nor his companions well with local leaders as they share
a suffering Christ who comes for a had one approach toward risk that the love of Christ with needy people
suffering people. This reality, as C. was applicable in all circumstances. in practical and sustainable ways.
S. Lewis rightly points out, “creates, These papers further challenge us to
rather than solves, the problem of pain, temper our fear of suffering for our The final paper dips into CIM
for pain would be no problem unless, beliefs in the light of the greater risk history by recounting a story of
side by side with our daily experience that others will not hear the gospel. brigands kidnapping and murdering
of this painful world, we had received missionaries who sought to serve
what we think a good assurance Turning our attention to forms of the Lord during a time of political
that ultimate reality is righteous and suffering that are hidden to many, upheaval. Claire McConnell sets
loving.”2 How do we make sense of a Lightyear and Donna Jennings the stage for the report by Mary
world where some deny the existence highlight mission to people with mental Craig by relating the history of the
of ultimate good and others insist illness and other disabilities. The needs time and providing some additional
that pain is an illusion? While the here are great and growing, with information to complete the story.
articles in this issue do not attempt wide-open doors for us to expand our
to solve the philosophical problems ministries where few labor. Engaging In a world where none of us can
behind pain and suffering, they offer this work will require some reeducation escape trouble and pain, we need
missiological reflections on ministry to as we build a theology that understands to find refuge in the One who
the suffering and historical examples mental illness and disability and “has borne our grief and carried
of ministry resulting in personal recognizes that people who suffer in our sorrows” because he not only
tragedy and pain. The first three of this way are created in God’s image understands them, he has effectively
them stem from the OMF Mission and that when they become members dealt with them by his suffering on
Research Consultation held in 2016. of Christ’s kingdom they are given the cross. Hallelujah! What a Savior!
gifts to serve along with the rest of us.
In “Suffering and Mission,” Yuzo
Imamura reflects on how the scars The common view that unites worship
inflicted on Cambodia through decades and celebration is corrected by the

Sorrow and grief are profoundly central to the Christian 1


“Hallelujah, What a Savior!” Philip P. Bliss,
gospel. Indeed, the gospel is meaningless without a suffering 1875.

Christ who comes for a suffering people.


2
C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (Glasgow: Fount
Paperbacks, 1977), 12.

3
Suffering and Mission:
Narrative Research from Cambodia, with Special
Reference to Cambodian Church History

Yuzo Imamura 1. Introduction: Suffering in


today’s world

E
very single day, we read In reality, there are different views on
stories of suffering in the suffering. For instance, people who live
newspaper. Tsunamis, in highly industrialized countries such
hurricanes, an Ebola as Japan, find suffering to be an
outbreak, multiple terrorist attacks all unpopular word as they are often
over the world, bombings in Syria, and convinced by the mass media that
countless mental and psychological making our lives easier, smoother, and
collapses. The list goes on. It seems that barrier-free is of ultimate value. They
the world is full of suffering. We ask are constantly advised to eliminate
ourselves agonizingly, “Lord, can this suffering in their lives as much as
be your will?” It is so commonplace possible by using high technology or
that a Google search of “theology of the spirit of kaizen (continuous
suffering” yielded 22,800,000 hits in improvement).4 Alternatively, they
Born and raised in Japan, 0.57 seconds as of 10 October 2017. ignore suffering or think it doesn’t exist
Yuzo Imamura and his wife, in their lives while they strive to keep
Hitomi, have served as In Cambodia today, more than three up with a very fast-paced life. Even if
church workers in Cambodia decades have passed since the there is suffering they can seek help
with OMF International since devastation of the Khmer Rouge, yet from experts such as counselors,
2003. He holds a Master the scars left by the Pol Pot regime and psychologists, or folk beliefs. The motto
of Christian Ministry from the following civil wars are still tangible is “to manage, reduce, and cope with
the Discipleship Training in the society. On the one hand, stress, anxiety, or trauma.” On top of
Centre, Singapore. physical suffering such as that which is that, they are prone to blame the
experienced by land-mine victims is socio-political and economic system for
observable. On the other hand, their suffering. As a result, there is very
psychological suffering such as post- limited space to consider biblical ideas
traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and of persevering, enduring, and living
depression are invisible, yet they have with suffering. But once cross-cultural
tormented countless people. According workers from those countries land in
to a 2012 report, between 15 and 35 Third World countries like Cambodia,
percent of those who survived the they are overwhelmed by suffering such
Khmer Rouge and experienced as poverty, injustice, lack of social
violence associated with armed conflict security, etc., that the local people face.
suffer from PTSD and even more
people within the general Cambodian Persecution (including martyrdom) is
population suffer due to a wider just one form of suffering. Tieszen
transmission of Khmer Rouge- reports that to some scholars “any
associated trauma.1 unfortunate experience befalling a
Christian is considered persecution.”5
Dictionaries define suffering as “the Certainly, persecution comes in various
state of undergoing pain, distress, or forms and intensities, and it hurts
hardship”2 and “physical, mental, or Christians physically, psychologically
emotional pain or anguish.”3 They do (mentally or emotionally), or socially.
not say where it comes from or whether Tieszen rightly says, “We cannot define
it is beneficial or totally harmful. the event based on the level of pain it
might cause, or the level of intensity in
which it occurs. Instead, a definition of

4 Mission Round Table 12:3 (September–December 2017): 4–12


persecution encompasses actions and 1 Peter are almost entirely through every single episode of
spanning the full range of hostility.”6 devoted to helping people face suffering. In the end he came to
relentless sorrows and troubles. And understand God’s big picture, “a great
Before exploring the biblical perspective towering over all, the central figure deliverance” (Gen 45:7, NIV), and said,
on suffering, I would like to note that of the whole of Scripture, Jesus “As for you, you meant evil against me,
while suffering can be subjective, some Christ, is a man of sorrows. The but God meant it for good, to bring it
types of suffering—such as natural Bible, therefore, is about suffering as about that many people should be kept
disasters—are evident to everybody. much as it is about anything.9 alive, as they are today” (Gen 50:20).
The Bible says that suffering not only Like Genesis’s picture of Joseph, Job
gives believers sorrow and pain (e.g., While we try to eliminate suffering, and Ecclesiastes richly demonstrate that
Job of the Old Testament) but also the Bible tells us suffering can be much of suffering is not directly related
brings joy (e.g., Acts 5:41; Rom 5). But beneficial and indispensable to our to justice and judgment; rather it is
such an epistemological discussion lies Christian life. Indeed, suffering is a God’s mystery that is beyond our
outside the scope of this paper. Rather gracious gift from God (Phil 1:29). understanding (Deut 29:29). Joni
than reviewing suffering in terms of Next, we will explore possible Eareckson Tada views her suffering in
non-Christian philosophical analyses, meanings of suffering. this way: “My suffering is redeemed for
whether ancient, medieval, or modern, His purpose.”10 This view resonates
this paper will focus on what the Bible 2.2. Certain meanings with Romans 8:28 where Paul writes,
tells us about suffering.7 of suffering “All things work together for good.”
Peter encourages us to entrust our souls
2. What the Bible tells us to a faithful Creator even when we do
Because we instinctively pursue answers
about suffering to the purpose or meaning of suffering, not understand our circumstances
we should be careful to note that the (1 Pet 4:19).
Countless books and articles have been Bible does not give a clear answer to
written on suffering. Hence, it is not why we face suffering. It only addresses 2.2.3. Suffering as God’s
necessary to duplicate this information how we can handle it. Here are some means for
here. Recently, an OMF e-Learning meanings that are found in the Bible.
module on “the Way of the Cross,” the
strengthening our
Theology of Suffering 101, was faith and holiness
prepared and will hopefully help those
2.2.1. Suffering as God’s
who are not familiar with suffering.8 justice and judgment God saves us and shows us the infinite
Here, foundational teaching and depths of his grace and love through
practical issues surrounding suffering Genesis 1–3 explains that suffering weakness and pain. Dan McCartney
are explored briefly. entered the world as a result of the writes, “Christ learned humanhood
original sin of the first human beings, from his suffering (Heb 5:8). [And
2.1. Suffering is a part Adam and Eve, who turned away from therefore] we learn Christhood from
of the normal God. Paul later wrote, “For the wages our suffering.”11 God disciplines us
of sin is death, but the free gift of God through suffering (Heb 12:10–11). Just
Christian life is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” as Jesus has experienced our humanity
(Rom 6:23). Their disobedience of the through suffering (Heb 2:18; 4:14–15),
The Bible does not deny that the
Creator’s will and the breakup of their we are also able to grow in Christ-
Christian suffers. Tim Keller rightly
relationship with God have filled the likeness and care for others who are
says:
world with suffering: spiritual suffering, as we suffer. Job acquires a
alienation, inner psychological pain, deep knowledge and experience of God
The Book of Genesis begins with an
social and interpersonal conflict and through suffering (Job 42:5–6). The
account of how evil and death came
cruelty, natural disasters, diseases, and Psalmist writes that suffering is good for
into the world. The wisdom
death (Gen 3:16–19). In addition, us and leads us to have a better
literature of the Old Testament is
Psalms and Proverbs suggest that understanding of God (Ps 119:71; cf.
largely dedicated to the problem of
suffering can be directly related to Jas 1:2–4). Likewise, Paul encourages us
suffering. The Book of Psalms
transgression (Pss 32:1–5; 38:1–4; Prov to be prepared for “an eternal weight
provides a prayer for every possible
12:21; 13:20–21; 22:3; 27:12). of glory beyond comparison” (2 Cor
situation in life, and so it is striking
4:17) and “the glory that is to be
how filled it is with cries of pain and
2.2.2. Suffering as God’s revealed to us” (Rom 8:18). Peter
with blunt questions to God about
mystery and his clearly states we will be restored,
the seeming randomness and
confirmed, strengthened, and
injustice of suffering. The books of good intention established by God in the end (1 Pet
Job and Ecclesiastes are almost
5:10; 4:12–14).
wholly dedicated to deep reflection Trying to discover the reason for evil
on unjust suffering and on the and suffering drives us to consider the
frustrating pointlessness that bigger picture that is God’s plan which 2.2.4. Suffering as a display
characterizes so much of life. The is far beyond our understanding. There of God’s glory
prophets Jeremiah and Habakkuk are hard questions, like the way Joseph
give searing expression to the human was sold by his brothers to Egypt. Jesus came to us and suffered for us
complaint that evil seems to rule However great a setback he suffered, chiefly through his death on the cross
history. NT books such as Hebrews Joseph endured and trusted in God as Isaiah prophesised in chapter 53.

Suffering and Mission Yuzo Imamura 5


Piper meticulously expounds the glory 3. Suffering in Cambodia entered Phnom Penh on 7 January
of God that comes through suffering. and her church 1979, a few hundred Christians were
He summarized the achievements of still alive on that “liberation day.”19
Jesus Christ by his suffering as follows:12 Since the first Protestant missionaries Ellison provides a list of thirty-three
(1) Christ absorbed the wrath of God with the Church and Missionary pastors and church leaders and found
on our behalf (Gal 3:13), (2) Christ bore Alliance arrived in Cambodia in 1923, that twenty-seven of them were
our sins and purchased our forgiveness the gospel has not been received well. martyred or died as part of the policy of
(1 Pet 2:24; Isa 53:5), (3) Christ provided After forty years of work there were enforced starvation. By the end of 1979,
a perfect righteousness for us that becomes just 734 baptized believers in good eighty percent of Cambodia’s believers
ours in him (Phil 2:7–8; Rom 5:19), standing in the Khmer Evangelical had been martyred during the horrors
(4) Christ defeated death (Heb 2:14–15), Church started by the C&MA. Ellison of Pol Pot’s Killing Fields. But even
(5) he disarmed Satan (Col 2:14–15), estimates that there would have been after the Killing Fields, difficult
(6) Christ purchased perfect, final just over two thousand “Christians” situations continued for Cambodian
healing for all his people (Isa 53:5; Rev in Cambodia just before 1965.15 In believers. Following the fall of Pol Pot’s
7:17), and (7) Christ will bring us finally 1965, King Sihanouk expelled all regime, the new government persecuted
to God (1 Pet 3:18). The ultimate missionaries, and evangelical church the Church—confiscating Bibles,
reason that suffering exists in the leaders were ordered to close their refusing to allow church meetings, and
universe is so that Christ might display churches when diplomatic relations keeping known Christians under
the greatness of the glory of the grace with the West were terminated. But, in surveillance—until 1990 when the
of God by suffering himself to overcome 1970–1975, missionaries were allowed Cambodian Protestant Church was
our suffering and bring about the praise to return to Cambodia with the rise of officially recognized by the government.
of the glory of the grace of God. a pro-American regime. In 1972 the It was reported that there were only
Khmer Evangelical Church held two about thirty small churches across the
2.3. Suffering and its five evangelistic campaigns in Phnom Penh. country in the early 1990s.20 The
challenges to the Dr. Mooneyham of World Vision was number of believers has grown
the guest speaker, with music provided significantly in the last twenty-five years,
character of God and it is now estimated that there are
by the Palermo Brothers and also by
the Danibelles. In these two campaigns more than 250,000 believers in over two
While an atheist is free from the thousand churches.21
problem of evil, religious people, more than three thousand people made
including Christians, from ancient times public decisions to accept Christ. Before
the war broke out in 1970, there were There are several other occasions
have struggled to tackle questions arising besides the Pol Pot period when the
from the problem of evil. That is why only three congregations in Phnom
Penh.16 It was recorded that there Cambodian church suffered. In 1946,
the study of theodicy develops. Theodicy after the Second World War, the
is defined as “an attempt to show that were ten thousand believers in thirty
congregations in Phnom Penh in 1975 political vacuum gave rise to the
God is not responsible for evil,”13 or nationalistic movement called the
“the justification of a deity’s justice and when Pol Pot’s regime took control over
the country.17 Khmer Issarak Movement, which was
goodness in light of suffering and evil.”14 an anti-French nationalist movement
There is no space to describe all ideas that quickly split into competing
of theodicy here, but five practical Cambodia experienced a notorious
massacre during the Pol Pot regime factions. By the time of independence in
challenges when we consider suffering 1953 all but one of these were
and God are noted: (1) a suspicion (1975–1979). Today, many tourists pay
a visit to both S-21, a former torture incorporated into Prince Norodom
about God’s omnipotence; (2) a Sihanouk’s political structure,22 but
suspicion about God’s sovereign control center converted from a high school in
Phnom Penh, and the killing fields many Christians were persecuted and
of the future; (3) a suspicion about the first Cambodian Christian was
God’s goodness; (4) a suspicion about across Cambodia, as well as the Angkor
Wat complex, a World Heritage site. martyred by members of the
God’s love and presence with us; and movement.23
(5) a total rejection of the idea of evil More than one million lives were lost in
and suffering. People surrounding us less than four years of the Pol Pot
regime. These four years were the Mr. Taing Chhirc was a high rank
might conclude that “if there is a good military officer, a major in the nation’s
god, there should be no evil. But in darkest period in the history of
Cambodia. Furthermore, its effects are armed forces, and a strong Christian
reality there is evil in this world, so that leader. He was General Secretary of the
a god who is both good and powerful still fresh and can be observed in daily
life. Almost every household lost loved young Cambodian Evangelical Church.
cannot exist.” It is easy for them to miss In the summer of 1973, he spoke at the
the great teaching of suffering and thus ones in that period. Because of Pol
Pot’s systematic elimination of national Keswick Convention in England, issuing
develop a very myopic understanding of a challenging call to raise awareness and
the gospel. All Christians are required to leaders and intellectuals, poverty and
poor education have been major prayer for his country.24 On the way
develop a biblically-sound understanding back to Cambodia, he stopped in
of each aspect of God’s character problems in Cambodia since the 1980s.
Singapore and talked with the directors
through sincere study of the whole of the Overseas Missionary Fellowship
Bible, and then live out the word The situation is improving very slowly
and Cambodia has recently escaped at 2 Cluny Road, assembled in Central
of God. Council, inviting this mission likewise to
from its “poor country” status and
joined the “low-income country” follow him into Cambodia where the
category.18 When the Vietnamese army harvest was great and the laborers all

6 Mission Round Table


too few. To this pressing invitation to Nowadays, qualitative research methods In the early 1990s, the UN encouraged
“come over and help us” from a man of are used in social science, medicine, people in the refugee camps to go back
Cambodia, the mission directors and anthropology, among other to Cambodia. Finding himself an
concluded that God was indeed calling disciplines. orphan, he went back to Phnom Penh,
them “to preach the gospel to them.” was reunited with his brothers and
By early 1974 the first missionaries of I have chosen a narrative research sisters, and stayed with his uncle and
an eventual band of five from OMF method as the suffering that the aunt. But he and his siblings were not
entered Cambodia, wading into a Cambodian people have faced could be welcomed by his uncle and aunt due to
harvest for which they had not labored very different from the suffering I have the shortage of food. In addition, he
but were now privileged to help reap.25 experienced and imagined, and could had to work hard to take care of them
vary between different Cambodian while studying English to get a better
A few days after the fall of Phnom Penh Christians. In addition, I am curious job. His family origins can be traced
in April 1975, Major Chhirc was about their interpretation of their life back to Mainland China—his
standing on the roadside just beyond the experiences as Christians. Qualitative grandparents migrated from there to
city with his colleague Voan and shared research could help us to learn from Cambodia and his father taught
the gospel to all the people who were both their experiences and their Chinese at a Chinese school. His family
unceasingly pressed on their way to the perspective on suffering. One question followed many gods including those
provinces. Chhirc did not hide his that I was most curious about is how worshipped in Taoism, and anything
identity but continued boldly to the Pol Pot genocide affects their that provided merit for their lives. After
proclaim Christ to his countrymen life. While this is a time-consuming his marriage, he moved to his wife’s
whom he so dearly loved, and research method that further challenges province and started to work with a
consequently was soon overtaken by a my linguistic ability of analysis, I Christian NGO.
martyr’s death.26 Just before the fall of have conducted a life story interview
Phnom Penh, he had told a missionary with Cambodian Christians using the Through working with missionaries, he
friend: “Communists are willing to die Khmer language. The whole interview was convinced that Jesus was the only
for what they believe. Is not Jesus worth was recorded with the interviewees’ Savior and got baptized a second time,
more than all these things?”27 In writing permission. After each interview, the this time after a sincere conversion.
of Bonhoeffer, Ajith Fernando could transcripts were typed verbatim. The Looking back on his life, he said that
equally have been referring to Chhirc abstracted stories from my interviews he did not feel miserable during the
when he commented, “Many people are summarized below.31 In this paper, Pol Pot time or while he lived in the
thought his death was the waste of a the interviewees' names, ethnicities, and refugee camp. He said that everyone
great resource for the church. But place names are changed or withheld was in the same situation. Everyone
Bonhoeffer himself remained close to in order to protect their identities. felt equally hungry due to the lack of
God and knew that his death would food. He felt he suffered more after he
only bring him nearer to God.”28 4.1. Cambodian Christians’ became a Christian and was baptized
a second time than during the Pol Pot
life stories
era. He was dejected that his good
4. Qualitative research on
friends left. Their sudden change of
suffering in Cambodian Story 1 is about a Khmer man in
attitude towards him and termination
Christians’ lives his fifties. When he heard the gospel
of their friendship hurt him very
the first time, he was a teenager in
much. His siblings and relatives also
Qualitative research is an approach that a refugee camp in Thailand. He lost
discontinued their warm relationships
allows us “to examine people’s his parents during the Pol Pot era.
with him. Their reasons were his
experiences in detail by using a specific He went to a refugee camp with his
refusal to join them in drinking alcohol,
set of research methods such as in-depth friend when they heard that they might
smoking, gambling, etc. They also
interviews, focus group discussions, life be able to get some means to earn
considered him a traitor to Buddhism.
histories, etc.”29 It can thus provide a living; his four brothers and sisters
But he has been able to stay with Jesus
complex textual descriptions of how were separated from each other while
because he has received much better
people experience a given research travelling from Phnom Penh. At the
benefits from Jesus. He mentioned a
issue. It provides information about the refugee camp, he started attending
couple of passages from the Bible that
“human” side of an issue, that is, the a church on Sunday and joined a
helped him to go through his suffering.
often-contradictory behaviors, beliefs, youth-group activity because many
For him, the greatest news is that he
opinions, emotions, and relationships of people, including his friends, went and
understands his future destiny (John
individuals. Qualitative methods are also many people said that the Christians
14:1–3; Rom 8:31–39; Rev 21:3–4),
effective in identifying intangible factors, helped their daily life more than others,
living with the true God forever with
such as social norms, socioeconomic including government organizations.
eternal life and the incomparable peace
status, gender roles, ethnicity, and After a couple of months, when
from God. He came to understand
religion, whose role in the research issue many people were getting baptized
God’s purpose in his life and has
may not be readily apparent. It helps us he thought that he could gain some
no more fear of death. It is indeed
to interpret and better understand the benefits too, so he also got baptized!
the good news that he needed in
complex reality of a given situation and He looked back to this event later
order to live his life at that time.
the implications of quantitative data.30 and concluded that he neither
had faith in Jesus nor experienced
Story 2 is of a man in his twenties from
any spiritual transformation.
a minority tribe. His family was not

Suffering and Mission Yuzo Imamura 7


affected during the Pol Pot time. He turned to Christ Jesus and wants to from person to person, generation to
never heard of anyone being killed by serve him forever. generation, and tribe to tribe. But the
Pol Pot’s soldiers. The first time he life stories generally seem to focus on
heard of Jesus was from his uncle. It Story 4 is about a Khmer man in his their faith, probably because the
scared him because he heard that he forties.32 He was born to a poor family interviewer was a missionary. Although
would go to hell if he did not believe in and used to work for the military. It these stories are still in the process of
Jesus Christ. He and his family believed was years ago when he first heard of analysis by the author, some prominent
in many gods, both Buddhist and the salvation Jesus brings—through a findings will be presented here.
animistic. Ten years later, he got into Bible school student who came from
trouble when his motorbike was stolen. Phnom Penh to share the good news in There are a couple of key words
He was ashamed as he lost face with his city. After he became a Christian, regarding faith in Christ Jesus,
his family and community. He was he resigned from military service and suffering, and how to endure
helpless and had no more hope to started serving in a church while sufferings. First, regarding faith
restore his face among them. Suddenly working as a night guard for an NGO in Christ Jesus, socio-economic,
he remembered his uncle sharing that office. He has a beautiful wife and two physical, emotional, and/or spiritual
Jesus took his shame on the cross and children. His family faced many crises and sufferings are observed
he could restore him by the power of challenges, especially in the last decade. to be a reason for seeking Christ
the cross. He asked his uncle for more First, he had a difficult relationship Jesus. Because many communities
teaching on this good news. Later, he with his wife, as he was too busy at in Cambodia have a “shame”
got baptized. Since then, he felt no church and with ministries. Their culture, they took the opportunity
more shame. Moreover, he has an relationship had become sour and to seek the ultimate solution from
unshakable hope and peace in Jesus, tense. After reducing his time in church the Savior rather than from within
and is always thankful to Jesus for his and ministries, their relationship their community when they faced
goodness. He boldly shares the good improved. Second, shortly after his trouble with their family members,
news with people in his community. relationship with his wife improved, he close friends, and/or community.
When he shares the good news, he is was taking a shower from the well Suffering could prepare one’s heart
intimidated by others who do not outside his house when a coconut fell and mind to look for the Truth.
believe in Jesus. But he does not feel and hit his head. He was almost killed,
lonely at all, rather he gives thanks to but God saved his life without any Second, suffering is not stereotypically
the Lord that he belongs to the after-effects. Later, his wife got a linked to the Pol Pot era or refugee
community of believers. strange illness that lasted many months. experience. To the contrary,
Local doctors could not help her so she relationship issues (which also trigger
Story 3 is of another man in his traveled to a neighboring country a a seeking after Jesus Christ) were
twenties from a minority tribe. His couple of times, but her symptoms did the foremost cause of suffering
family also had a normal life during the not improve. She ended up unconscious mentioned. Because of their faith in
Pol Pot era. The first time he heard of and they rushed her to one of most Christ, they suffered from conflicts
Jesus was when evangelists came to his expensive private hospitals in Phnom in relationships with family, relatives,
village seven years ago. One year later, Penh without thinking of the medical and close friends. Their friends cut
he joined a church conference at a fee. She was diagnosed with an auto- off their friendship. The community
district town, far from his village, immune disease and slowly improved. ostracized them for being Christians.
because he wanted to see the town. But Every time she visited the hospital after In addition, many mentioned dealing
at the conference he clearly understood her discharge, she had to pay an with the feeling of “loneliness.”
that he was a sinner and received Jesus expensive bill, but God provided for
as his Savior. Then, straight afterwards, them through many miraculous ways. It is interesting to see that the suffering
he started to suffer from an unknown In the same year, his daughter started in their lives is related to their faith. It
disease, which affected the right side of stumbling and falling down and was is also surprising that they did not see
his whole body, causing numbness and later diagnosed with brain tuberculosis. themselves as being pitiful or poor
pain. He got medical help from By God’s grace, she received medical when they experienced the same
missionaries and stayed in a mission treatment and was healed a year later. situation as others during the Pol Pot
hospital in Phnom Penh for one month. Very recently his work-place lost its era. As outsiders, we tend to feel sorry
After he became sick, his family NGO status and came under the for the locals when we see their lives
repeatedly offered pigs and chickens to government. As a result, his salary was are much harder than ours and that
the forest gods. But his disease was not cut by more than half. His family is they have greater problems. When we
healed. He resisted joining their struggling to make ends meet and send are involved in a development project,
“satanic worship” because he believed two children to a middle school. But he it would be helpful to get an insider’s
Jesus would heal him because he is and his family continue to serve the perspective in order to avoid giving too
love. When discharged from hospital, Lord faithfully. much or inappropriate aid, which
his numbness and pain was almost might lead to dependency. However,
healed except for the right side of his this unexpected finding, related to their
4.2. Insightful findings from
abdomen. His family was amazed that experiences during the Pol Pot era,
his disease was healed without any help the stories might have resulted from the depth (or
from their gods, and all of them lack of depth) of the interviewer’s
decided to believe in Jesus as their These interviews show that the relationship with the interviewees. It is
Savior. He is happy that all his family experiences of the interviewees vary rare in Cambodia for people to share

8 Mission Round Table


about the suffering they experienced revival and trauma. Saviour’s birth in their various
under the Pol Pot regime with and sundry meeting places. This
someone they do not yet trust, as they Lastly, it would to be helpful if more represented a near one hundred
might end up getting into trouble, interviews are conducted on people per cent annual increase from the
such as becoming the subject of gossip, from different backgrounds, such as three hundred souls to be found
in the community. Further interviews gender (female or male), ethnicity four years earlier in 1970 ... 1974
with a more established relationship (Khmer or other minorities), and was going to be an even more
with the interviewer will more clearly religion (Folk Buddhism, animism, abundantly fruitful year than 1973
address this point. Islam, or others) and analyzed. ... By mid-year the church in the
capital had increased to upwards
Third, the interviewees shared key 5. Implications for missions of 3,000. A growth rate in those
Bible truths about enduring suffering and church six months alone outstripping
by faith. These include their eternal the entire growth of the church
relationship with God, their Lord and throughout its fifty year history.36
Savior; the power of the resurrection; 5.1. Suffering and church
God’s protection; God’s indescribable growth It was also reported that fewer than
eternal love; eternal life; a clear one thousand Christians survived the
destination after death. Their sharing The second century Church Father genocide during the Pol Pot regime,
suggests that it could be helpful for Tertullian wrote, “The blood of but many people came to Christ in the
them to understand the nature of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”33 It refugee camps until the early 1980s.
Trinitarian God, the work of the Holy is a well-known belief among
Spirit, the theology of suffering, and Christians that suffering helps churches Looking back on Cambodian church
their belonging to the new community grow. We see many examples of this in history, we can also see another period
of believers as their community is a church history. For example, nobody of rapid numerical growth in 1990–
shame-based and relationship-oriented would have imagined fifty years ago 2010 (Figure 1).37 From 1996 the
culture. that there would be more than seventy- Protestant church doubled in size every
five million Christians in China two years until 2010.38
Fourth, it would be impossible to today.34 Cambodia is no exception.
generalize this, yet if the interviewees According to Cormack, Cambodia Estimates indicate that there are now
(e.g. Story 3 and 4) had accepted Jesus experienced two revivals before the more than 250,000 Protestant
Christ as Savior prior to suffering, early 1980s. The first happened from Christians in Cambodia in more than
they could look back on their 1970 to 1975 in Cambodia and the two thousand churches. That
sufferings as God’s means of second took place between 1975 and Cambodia has “the modest two
strengthening their faith and holiness. 1981 in the refugee camps.35 As percent annual growth of Christianity
(See section 2.2.3.) Indeed, they have reported in section 3, there were only from 1910 to 2010 masks the impact of
clung, in the midst of sufferings, to three congregations in Phnom Penh Pol Pot’s genocide in the 1970s.”39
God’s faithfulness and goodness by before 1970, yet more than three Cambodia’s Christian growth rate in
faith and prayers and waited for his thousand people accepted Christ as a 2000–2010 was the fastest in South
glory promised. And after that, they result of the 1972 evangelistic East Asia at 7.28 percent, followed by
have praised him and shared his campaigns. More people came to 4.80 percent in Timor.40
greatness with others. On the other Christ through evangelistic efforts such
hand, those who suffered without as those organized by brother Chhirc. Now, the question of whether
knowing Jesus but came to know Jesus Cormack reported: Tertullian’s phrase could apply to
later (e.g. Story 2) tended to think that the Cambodian church needs to be
their sufferings drove them to thank The year 1973 ended with about one asked. Although there are few analyses
God for his good intentions toward thousand two hundred Christians of the reasons why so many people
them and their family. (See section in Phnom Penh celebrating the came to Christ, suffering is one of
2.2.2.)

Fifth, in view of Cambodian church


history (Section 3 and 5.1), the fact
that quite a few people came to Christ
in Cambodia and in refugee camps
has been recognized as a revival. And
yet, some apparent conversions might
have been insincere as indicated in
Story 1. It could be instructive to
examine when a rapid increase in the
number of Christians takes place
under perilous conditions. A careful
follow-up study on those who came to
Christ in refugee camps would be
beneficial, particularly one that focuses
on the long-term relationship between Figure 1: Christians in Cambodia

Suffering and Mission Yuzo Imamura 9


the key factors which contributed to
church growth. Besides the factor of
suffering, other factors helped to spur
church growth both in 1970–1975
and 1975–1981. First of all, there
was the supreme work of the Holy
Spirit. It has been suggested that
God prepared Cambodia for the
next decade’s suffering when the
Cambodian church grew just before
the Pol Pot regime took over. When
they sensed a very ambiguous and
unstable political situation, many
people sought God. Regarding the
1975–1981 church growth, which
took place mainly in refugee camps,
Figure 2: The number of newly-planted churches in Cambodia
suffering and devastating life situations
stirred the hearts of many to look
related to the prosperity gospel. get tangible, material benefits. As he
for God. But as Cormack honestly
shared, “They always mocked me
shares, “In the context of the dull
5.2. Suffering and the when I explain about heaven, eternal
and uninspiring refugee camps,
life, and the kingdom of God, which
Christianity was very attractive.”41 challenge of the are invisible things.”
As mentioned by the brother in the prosperity gospel
first life story (Section 4), his first
Prosperity theology is very common
baptism that took place when he did The “prosperity gospel” is one of the in Cambodia where churches or
not have faith was a joyous event at biggest challenges in mission today. Christian NGOs, which provide a
the refugee camp. Cormack writes of The Cape Town Commitment defines tangible benefit such as financial
the latest church growth that, “the it as “the teaching that believers have support for the poor, are very popular
direct correlation between the level a right to the blessings of health and in the community. Many people
of Christian philanthropic aid and wealth and that they can obtain these do not come to a church to hear
church growth cannot be allowed blessings through positive confessions the gospel, but only want to get the
to escape our attention here.”42 of faith and the ‘sowing of seeds’ immediate, tangible blessings. As a
In fact, the church prior to 1993 through financial or material gift.”48 If result, it is very hard to share the good
was a handful of isolated, small, we say that we have a right to the news. While there are no statistics,
underground groups, but from 1993 blessings, we reject suffering. If we there is a general feeling that many
onwards, every major denomination, then experience suffering, we face people in Cambodia respond positively
large Christian NGOs, and many problems in our faith. In the second toward Christianity, but very few
missionaries arrived in Cambodia.43 Cambodian life story, when the continue to worship God after several
It was common in the later 1990s brother shares the good news with his years. It surely relates to a lack of
that many young people went to the fellow villagers, he is often asked, discipleship, but the tangible blessings
churches where a western missionary “How much monthly salary can I get could also be a key factor in this. In
worked in order to get free English if I believe in Jesus?” Literally it rural areas, many people respond
and/or computer-skill instruction means, “What kinds of benefits do I to Christianity through experiences
so they could seek a better job.44 get from the Christian God?” It is a of God healing their sicknesses by
big challenge for him to share the prayers or contemporary medical
Another interesting phenomenon could good news with people who want to services provided by Christian NGOs.
be observed in later part of the first
decade of this century. According to
the Evangelical Fellowship of
Cambodia, the number of new church
plants started to decrease after 2008
(Figure 2).45 Their analysis came up
with various reasons, but one strongly-
suggested reason is materialism.46
Cambodia started to enjoy relative
peace and a stable society, which
promotes more economic activities. As
the growth of Gross Domestic Product
(GDP) shows (Figure 3), Cambodia’s
economy has steadily grown since the
last coup d’état in 1999.47 But at the
same time, Cambodian people have
started losing their interest in Figure 3: Gross Domestic Product of Cambodia. Data from World Bank (last updated 18
Christianity. It leads to the next point Sep 2017).

10 Mission Round Table


It would be an important approach area.50 The preparation for suffering is 5.4. Narrative research as
to share the good news with them crucial, as is developing a sufficiently a powerful tool
through healing in this country. deep knowledge of the Bible and a
The Lausanne Movement rightly strong, vital prayer life so that we are
for mission
deals with the prosperity gospel. In not surprised at the fiery trial when it
While interviewing Christians about
particular, the Akropong Statement comes upon us to test us and we don’t
their life stories, I came to realize that
is very helpful for us to defend the conclude that something strange is
narrative research is a powerful tool
biblical teaching on suffering.49 happening to us (1 Pet 4:12).
for opening up a people’s worldview.
Christians need to present their
That is clearly so when it comes to
5.3. Suffering and understanding of biblical truth to those
their perspective on suffering. As noted
evangelization who are suffering. We must proclaim
at the beginning of this study, one’s
and teach “the whole counsel of God”
perspective on suffering is obviously
(Acts 20:27).
5.3.1. Suffering as a subjective, and it is never easy to
understand each person we evangelize
wake-up call to 5.3.2. Suffering as a threat or disciple. While it is wonderful to
lukewarm Christians to gospel workers find many books being published on
suffering, we cannot apply these
The Bible says suffering is a part of Second, failure to develop a studies and findings uncritically to the
discipleship. But those who come theology of suffering could threaten people in our context. Narrative
from relatively comfortable countries the Christian worker’s life. In research provides a strategic tool to
without tangible persecutions and most cross-cultural and pastoral help us accomplish our vision and
sufferings may have overlooked the settings, Christian workers face mission. It helps us to practice
great teaching on suffering in their life. numerous challenges, including incarnational ministry—one of our
In addition, if affected by the secular suffering. If they are unprepared core values. Though it takes time and
worldview which says that comfort for it and do not understand the requires local language proficiency in
and convenience are essential human meaning of suffering biblically, they the case of cross-cultural settings, it is
rights, our perspective on suffering cannot survive and often terminate worth doing for God’s glory.
might be skewed. Suffering may have their service prematurely.
little chance to contribute to our
growth in Christ while we try to ignore
6. Conclusion
John Stott’s classic dictum remains
or view it as a curse to be avoided. relevant. It is critical that every Christian
understands suffering from a biblically
For example, Japan has enjoyed a The place of suffering in service and sound perspective and lives out their
peaceful society for more than seventy of passion in mission is hardly ever faith through the difficult situations
years. Japanese Christians love taught today. But the greatest single they face. By God’s grace, the
religious freedom since it means there secret of evangelistic or missionary Cambodian church continues to grow
is no public persecution of their faith. effectiveness is the willingness to through varied sufferings. Narrative
In accordance with the Japanese value suffer and die. It may be a death to research could address the questions of
of social harmony, many do not popularity (by faithfully preaching what kind of suffering Cambodian
proactively seek opportunities to bear the unpopular biblical gospel), or to Christians face and how Cambodian
witness to their faith in public, as this pride (by the use of modest methods Christians recognize their sufferings
might upset harmony. As a result, in reliance on the Holy Spirit), or to and keep their faith in Christ Jesus.
their presence is often that of the racial and national prejudice (by The battle against the prosperity
“hidden Christian,” as the statistics identification with another culture), gospel is right before us. It is necessary
show the number of Christians is less or to material comfort (by adopting not only to defend the gospel
than 1% of the population. They a simple life style). But the servant apologetically but also to proclaim the
sneak in and out of church without must suffer if he is to bring light to whole gospel effectively in our context.
telling their friends. When they are the nations, and the seed must die if If suffering could be our cross, we
encouraged to share the gospel, they it is to multiply.51 would like to live out our suffering
view themselves as being unworthy to
well. Indeed, if we obey his calling,
tell the good news. They feel that It is important to recognize that we God will glorify his Name through
sharing the gospel brings shame rather are tempted by such things as that cross.
than honor. The church and mission popularity, pride, material comfort,
societies should address this reality. and racial and national prejudice, and I end with the words from the OMF
Interestingly, when faced with that these temptations often challenge General Director’s admonition at
unexpected suffering due to natural us in a difficult and stressful situation Urbana 15.
disasters, Japanese Christians took it as and become a stumbling block for the
a wake-up call to share the gospel. kingdom of God. If dying to these Your talents, your gifts, your
Following the 2011 Tohoku things is suffering, we would like to profession cannot change the lives of
earthquake, even though Christians suffer well. Sunquist rightly sums up, people. That cannot bring hope to
were a bit confused regarding a “Mission is from the heart of God, to the people. It’s only in Jesus. So my
biblical response to such an each context, and it is carried out in encouragement to you is love the
unprecedented disaster, they have suffering in this world for God’s Word of God, the Truth will bring
done much good work in the disaster eternal glory.”52
Suffering and Mission Yuzo Imamura 11
change. Love the Word of God. CO: OMF International, 2012), 12. Report (Cambodia, 2012).
Study the Word of God. And live
18
The Minister of Commerce announced that 38
Evangelical Fellowship of Cambodia, “Mission
General National Income (GNI) for 2015 would Kampuchea 2021,” unpublished Occasional
out the Word of God by your lives be estimated as US$1096. The definition of Low Report (Cambodia, 2012). Updated statistics from
because as you live out the Word of Income Country according to World Bank is one 2011 onwards are not available yet.
God people see that and are with GNI in the range of US$1046–1985. 39
Todd Johnson and Kenneth Ross, eds., Atlas
attracted to Jesus Christ. That will
19
Some sources say that there were 200 of Global Christianity (Edinburgh: Edinburgh
Christians. For instance, Veritas College University, 2009), 148.
change people. Let God be using International. http://www.veritascollege.org/ 40
Johnson and Ross, Atlas of Global Christianity,
you as a change agent. But in the countries/cambodia/cambodia-religions (accessed 147, 149.
end it has to be the Truth that on 12 October 2017). 41
Cormack, Killing Fields, 317.
brings changes. So let the Word of
20
Interserve New Zealand, “The Cambodian 42
Cormack, Killing Fields, 137.
Church,” Go Magazine (Second issue 2012): 18–19, 43
It is interesting to look at the number of
God be in your life as you study, http://www.interserve.org.nz/RESOURCES/ missionaries per capita in Cambodia. For East
meditate, and live out the Word.53 PUBLICATIONS/GO+MAGAZINE/ Asia as a whole (excluding China, North Korea,
MRT The+Cambodian+Church.html (accessed 12 Laos, and Vietnam due to lack of information),
October 2017). the average is twenty-five missionaries per
21
This number of churches is from Keith one-million people. But Cambodia has thirty
Carey, ed., Global Prayer Digest (Pasadena: U.S. missionaries per million people. Yuzo Imamura,
1
Daniel McLaughlin and Elisabeth Wickeri,
Center for World Mission, 2011): 9. Others cite “Approach to the Buddhist and Animist in
Special Report: Mental Health and Human Rights
different numbers of churches. Some say there Cambodia,” Unpublished paper presented at
in Cambodia (New York: Leitner Center for
are 750 churches (e.g. OMF International), OMF Cambodia Training Session, Cambodia,
International Law and Justice, 2012), 12, http://
others mention 5,000 to 7,000 congregations (e.g. 2007.
www.leitnercenter.org/files/2012%20Leitner%20
Interserve), or 1,224 Protestant churches (e.g. the 44
Personal Communication with Rev. Sho
Cambodia%20Report%20(with%20photos).pdf
2010 International Religious Freedom Report Sugaya (OMF worker) in 2003.
(accessed 9 October 2017).
published by U.S. Department of State, http:// 45
Evangelical Fellowship of Cambodia.
2
Oxford Dictionaries 2015, s.v. “Suffering,” https://
www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/irf/2010/148861.htm 46
Rev. Heng Cheng (the then General Secretary
en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/suffering
(accessed on 28 March 2016). Steve Hyde, in his of the Evangelical Fellowship of Cambodia),
(accessed 9 October 2017).
2012 report, suggests that the different numbers Personal communication with author at the
3
The Concise Dictionary of Christian Theology,
of churches given would be caused by “different Annual Congress of the Evangelical Fellowship of
Revised ed., Millard J. Erickson, ed. (Wheaton:
definitions of what a church is or incomplete Cambodia, 24 February 2011.
Crossway, 2001), s.v. “Suffering.”
research”. A nation-wide statistics research by 47
World Bank, “Gross Domestic Product,”
4
Kaizen is the famous core value of Toyota. The
MK2021 is now ongoing. The number of 2,920 https://www.google.com/publicdata/
infamous Toyota Production System (TPS) is
a corporative decision-making process which is
churches is registered as of 25 August 2017. explore?ds=d5bncppjof8f9 _&met_y=ny_gdp_
essential for the success of kaizen.
22
John Tully, A Short History of Cambodia: From mktp_cd&idim=country:KHM:LAO:BRN&hl=
5
C. L. Tieszen, “Redefining Persecution,” in Empire to Survival (Chiang Mai, Thailand: en&dl=en#ctype=1&s false&bcs=d&nselm=h&
Sorrow & Blood: Christian Mission in Contexts of Silkworm, 2006), 119–121; Encyclopaedia Britannica, met_y=ny_gdp_mktp_cd&scaley=lin&ind_
Suffering, Persecution, and Martyrdom, William D. s.v. “Khmer Issarak,” http://www.britannica. y=false&rdim=region&idim=country:KHM&if
Taylor, Antonia van der Meer, and Reg Reimer, com/event/Khmer-Issarak (accessed 25 dim=region&hl=en_US&dl=en&ind=false
eds. (Pasadena: William Carey, 2012), 43. December 2015). (accessed 27 October 2017).
6
Tieszen, “Redefining Persecution,” 43. On the
23
Don Cormack, Killing Fields Living Fields 48
Lausanne Movement, The Cape Town
one hand, extensive hostile actions could include (Crowborough, UK: MARC 1997), 75–79. Commitment, Part 2, Section IIE, 5, https://www.
beating, torture, isolation, or imprisonment. On
24
Cormack, Killing Fieldss, 130–133. lausanne.org/content/ctc/ctcommitment#p2-2
the other hand, mildly hostile actions would
25
Cormack, Killing Fields, 133. (accessed 9 October 2017).
include ridicule, restriction, certain kinds of
26
Cormack, Killing Fields, 169–171. 49
The full text of this Statement can be found at
harassment, or discrimination.
27
Cormack, Killing Fields, 326. https://www.lausanne.org/content/a-statement-
7
Timothy Keller surveys these three areas in
28
Ajith Fernando, The Call to Joy and Pain: on-the-prosperity-gospel (accessed 9 October
chapter 2 of Walking with God through Pain and Embracing Suffering in Your Ministry (Wheaton: 2017).
Suffering (New York: Penguin Random House, Crossway, 2007), 178. 50
“Lessons from the Great East Japan
2013), 35–63.
29
M. Hennink, I. Hutter, and A. Bailey, Earthquake and Suggestions for future” [in
8
The author contributed to the content of this Qualitative Research Methods (London: SAGE, 2011), Japanese.], Disaster Relief Christian Network,
module. 8–9. http://drcnet.jp/lessons_from_311_disaster_and_
9
Keller, Walking with God, 5–6.
30
Natasha Mack, Cynthia Woodsong, Kathleen guidelines_for_future/ (accessed 9 October 2017).
10
Joni Eareckson Tada, “Theology of Suffering,” M. MacQueen, Greg Guest, and Emily Namey, 51
John Stott, The Cross of Christ (Downers Grove:
recorded 11 February 2009 in Dallas Theological Qualitative Research Methods: A Data Collector’s Field IVP, 1986), 322.
Seminary chapel, http://www.dts.edu/media/ Guide (Durham, NC: Family Health International, 52
Scott W. Sunquist, Understanding Christian
play/theology-of-suffering-joni-eareckson-tada/ 2005), 1–2, https://www.fhi360.org/sites/ Mission: Participation in Suffering and Glory (Grand
(accessed 12 October 2017). default/files/media/documents/Qualitative%20 Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013), xii.
11
Dan McCartney, Why Does it Have to Hurt?: Research%20Methods%20-%20A%20Data%20 53
InterVarsity ISM, “Dec 30 Interview
The Meaning of Christian Suffering (Phillipsburg, NJ: Collector's%20Field%20Guide.pdf (accessed 12 with Patrick and Jennie Fung,” Urbana 15,
P&R, 1998), 60. Quoted in Keller, Walking with October 2017). (15 Jan 2016), https://www.youtube.com/
God, 152.
31
In this method, the relationship between watch?v=ATintqZnAhQ (accessed 9 October
12
John Piper and Justin Taylor, Suffering and the interviewer and interviewee is affected by the way 2017).
Sovereignty of God (Wheaton: Crossway, 2006), the interviewee is interpreted.
87–89.
32
His story was published in a different form
13
The Concise Dictionary of Christian Theology, s.v. in Yuzo Imamura, “#Iwitness: Joyful in the
“Theodicy.” Midst of Sufferings: A Life Devoted to Christ
14
Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms, ed. in Cambodia,” EMQ (January 2016). https://
Donald K. McKim (Louisville: Westminster John emqonline.com/node/3454 (accessed 9 October
Knox, 1996), s.v. “Theodicy.” 2017).
15
J. Paul Ellison, A Short History of the Cambodian
33
Tertullian, 50.13, quoted in An Expository
Evangelical Church known in Cambodia as the Khmer Commentary. Vol. 3 God and History, Romans 9–11,
Evangelical Church with Particular Attention Being Given James Montgomery Boice (Grand Rapids: Baker,
to People Movements and Some Factors Related to Church 1991), 1323.
Growth. Paper presented at Cambodian Christian
34
Jason Mandryk, Operation World, 7th ed.
Services Conference, San Jose, California, 1991. (Downers Grove: IVP, 2010), 216.
16
“Cambodia Profile,” OMF International,
35
Cormack, Killing Fields, 371.
https://omf.org/cambodia/cambodia-profile/
36
Cormack, Killing Fields, 135–136.
(accessed 20 January 2016).
37
Evangelical Fellowship of Cambodia, “Mission
17
OMF International, Pray for Cambodia (Littleton, Kampuchea 2021,” unpublished Occasional

12 Mission Round Table


Mission in High-risk Situations
Richard S.
Richard S. served in the Philippines for thirty years. During this time he served first among
the open-access people and then among a restricted-access people. He has spent many years in
leadership roles. He has also given much time in non-formal and informal training. Richard holds
a doctorate in Intercultural Studies. He is married with three daughters and seven grandchildren.

P
aul wanted to appear before This paper seeks to draw out this Our Mission:
the crowd, but the disciples teaching and the relevant principles,
would not let him. Even explore some writings on the subject, We share the good news of Jesus
some of the officials of the and make application for missions Christ in all its fullness with East
province, friends of Paul, today. Asia’s peoples to the glory of God.
sent him a message begging him not
to venture into the theater. (Acts There is a range of kinds of risk that a 1. God and mission
19:30–31) cross-cultural worker may face. Those
listed below are the kinds which will be We believe that bringing glory to
After we had been there a number of addressed in this paper. God is our highest calling. There
days, a prophet named Agabus came are a number of ways that our lives,
down from Judea. Coming over to 1. Physical risk because of being through words and actions, can bring
us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own specifically targeted due to nationality glory to God. Our primary calling
hands and feet with it and said, “The or ethnicity. as a Fellowship is to bring glory to
Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jews God through sharing the good news
of Jerusalem will bind the owner of 2. Being caught up in political or social of Jesus Christ in all its fullness with
this belt and will hand him over to unrest because of being “in the wrong East Asia’s peoples. Much could be
the Gentiles.’” When we heard this, place at the wrong time.” done to unpack that statement, but
we and the people there pleaded in brief, we are committed to speak
with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. 3. Being targeted by a government or words that give understanding to the
Then Paul answered, “Why are you religious community that is unhappy good news of Jesus and to choose
weeping and breaking my heart? I with the discipleship aspect of our actions that further demonstrate the
am ready not only to be bound, but work and either intends physical truth of this good news. Another way
also to die in Jerusalem for the name harm or seeks to facilitate our to put it is that we are to be disciples
of the Lord Jesus.” When he would departure from the country. of Jesus whose faith has impacted all
not be dissuaded, we gave up and areas of our lives and who make similar
said, “The Lord’s will be done.” (Acts 4. Risk to physical, emotional, or disciples of Jesus. Being disciples of
21:10–14) spiritual health whether due Jesus, we live out the teaching of Jesus
to health conditions, medical in all areas of our lives, proclaiming
Then Esther sent this reply to standards, spiritual and moral his teachings, and calling others to
Mordecai: “Go, gather together all climate, or the stresses of cross- become disciples who do the same.
the Jews who are in Susa, and fast cultural disciple making.
for me. Do not eat or drink for three Our vision and passion, as we live
days, night or day. I and my maids As a Fellowship, we serve out and speak the good news of
will fast as you do. When this is done, under very meaningful Vision Jesus, is to see the development of
I will go to the king, even though it and Mission Statements. Indigenous Biblical Church Movements
is against the law. And if I perish, I (IBCMs). If the fruit of our work is
perish.” (Esther 4:15–16) Our Vision: IBCMs, our local disciples will, of
necessity, carry on this work among
Scripture is very rich in examples of Through God’s grace, we aim to their own people and others.
risk and the response of God’s servants see an Indigenous Biblical Church
to risk. What the Bible does not give is Movement in each people group Making disciples of Christ, even in our
a “Concise Guide to Ministry in High of East Asia evangelizing their home country and culture of origin,
Risk Situations.” Even so, we find both own people, and reaching out is by its very nature counter cultural.
relevant teaching and principles about in mission to other peoples. Following Christ always requires that
these situations in Scripture. we “do not conform any longer to
the pattern of this world” (Rom 12:2).

Mission Round Table 12:3 (September–December 2017): 13–17 13


But, as cross-cultural missionaries,
we have the added dimension of
being called to take this counter-
cultural message into nations not our
own. These nations have their own
sets of laws that we must recognize.
They have religious belief systems
that range from somewhat resistant
to violently resistant to our message.
They have cultural norms that range
from some level of accommodation
to complete and sometimes violent
rejection of what is seen to be foreign
and destructive to their way of life.

Our calling is to bring the good


news of Jesus into these settings.
This paper aims to delineate an
appropriate response to the range Group of Shansi Christians, many of whom were massacred by Boxers.
China’s Millions, North American edition (Nov 1900): 131.
of risks mentioned above.
what we have seen and heard’” (Acts “Given the inevitability of risk, would
2. Keeping the balance 4:18–20). The conclusion we draw it not be futile—or even unfaithful—to
is that we do need to submit to the seek to avoid it?”2 We also see from
We fulfill our calling by living in
laws of the land in such cases, and biblical examples and recent history
submission to the sovereign God who
that living out our faith and making that God’s servants do sometimes suffer
brought us into relationship with
disciples may cause us at times to and even die in the line of duty. As an
himself through the blood of Christ.
choose not to obey a specific law. organization, we have to manage these
The last commission of Jesus was to
risks and seek to respond appropriately.
“go and make disciples of all nations,
Within the question of balance is the In today’s world when media coverage
baptizing them in the name of the
question of how strongly we present is often opposed to Christian mission
Father and of the Son and of the
our message in the face of local views. and with many constituencies that
Holy Spirit, and teaching them to
Peter gives a brief but essential answer are quick to pursue litigation, while
obey everything I have commanded
to this question in 1 Peter 3:15–16. managing risk wisely, we must guard
you” (Matt 28:19–20). This clear
against the temptation of being overly
commission and the call to obedience
But in your hearts set apart Christ cautious and excessively risk averse.
to God have led some well-meaning
as Lord. Always be prepared to
Christians to fearlessly make gospel
give an answer to everyone who Hudson Taylor is said to have written,
proclamations no matter what
asks you to give the reason for the “Unless there is an element of risk
the consequences. These consider
hope that you have. But do this with in our exploits for God, there is no
upholding God’s honour and dying for
gentleness and respect, keeping a need for faith.”3 Although that is
Jesus to be their highest calling.
clear conscience, so that those who not Scripture, there is truth in the
speak maliciously against your good statement, and the Fellowship has
But such fervency is tempered with
behavior in Christ may be ashamed at times become overly risk averse.
another set of instructions. “Everyone
of their slander. Reflecting back into our history, a
must submit himself to the governing
snippet is found in Emily Blatchley’s
authorities, for there is no authority
The communication of our message diary in which she records that Hudson
except that which God has established.
needs to be clear, which speaks to Taylor asked, “Are we…prepared
The authorities that exist have been
cultural relevance. It also needs to be to stand firm in the cause we have
established by God” (Rom 13:1). Does
gentle and respectful, spoken out of undertaken at all risks?—thro’ suffering,
this mean that if the government
a life that reflects the message. The slander, persecutions, forsakings, to
says we should not evangelize, we
offence of our message needs to be the characters blackened and believed to be
won’t? That is a big subject, but the
offence of the cross rather than our black, even by those who have hitherto
example of the Apostles indicates
personal offensiveness. been friends?”4 This is still a valid
that when commanded not to speak
question to ask today.
in the name of Jesus, they felt God’s
calling superseded the instruction of 3. Dealing with risk
During our history we have
the authorities.1 We thus read that
While keeping the twin balances of experienced persecution and
“Then they called them in again and
God’s sovereignty with submission to martyrdom. We recall the sad event
commanded them not to speak or
governments and strong persuasion of the Boxer rebellion and the loss
teach at all in the name of Jesus. But
with gentleness and respect, we have of fifty-eight workers and twenty-one
Peter and John replied, ‘Judge for
to grapple with the issue that we children. When writing about the hymn
yourselves whether it is right in God’s
are called to places where there are “Facing a Task Unfinished” in the
sight to obey you rather than God.
real risks. As Anthony Parker writes, recent Canadian OMF Heart for Asia,
For we cannot help speaking about

14 Mission Round Table


Jon Fuller records, “During the civil Acts 20:23 he speaks of being warned have multiple sources of international
war, missionaries had been withdrawn in every city that prison and hardship and local news. In many situations,
from their stations in 1927. Twelve were facing him. To state the obvious, good relations with local government
CIM workers and five associates had Spirit-guided risk taking requires officials is a key source of information.
been martyred.”5 David Garrison, walking very closely with the Spirit. Building relationships with key officials
working with a group of researchers, can be a worthy undertaking. If there
makes the uncomfortable observation There is a simple tool that helps us are local officials who also share
that places where God is working and to assess risk. To use this tool, a list our faith, they often feel a duty, as
the church is growing rapidly are often of potential risks can be identified. A a members of the family of God, to
places where missionaries experience grid can then be created wherein the pass on important insights. Another
suffering.6 Nick Ripken in his workshop group doing the risk assessment plots very important source of information
entitled “The Missiology of Suffering,” the probability of certain risks becoming is local friendships. Friendships with
states, “Expatriate workers need a reality in one of four quadrants. believers are great but, even if the
to embrace a lifestyle that includes The crisis impact is similarly estimated local friend is not a believer, friends
suffering, persecution and martyrdom.”7 and plotted on the grid. Crisis impact are friends and care for each other.
Can we cope with that today? measures the impact on an individual, By bringing together a small group of
team, or the whole organization should workers, each with their network of
4. Understanding our risks the event take place. For example, sources, a reasonable risk assessment
if there were a potential risk that a can be undertaken. We also have the
I do not believe God is honored government would cancel visas for Spirit of God working in our midst,
by unreasoned risk taking. There foreigners, the crisis impact, should prompting information to come to
is a concept of “reasonable risk,” the event take place, would be very us at the appropriate time. With the
which is calculated through the use high. Affected workers would need to risk assessment in hand, well-reasoned
of an assessment tool. Parker writes, relocate. The work would be greatly decisions can be made.
“Missionaries and their agencies should impacted.
… adopt security protocols that limit 4.1. Physical risk and
their exposure to risk.”8 I also believe By charting the potential risks and
impacts on a grid on a scale of one to nationality/ethnicity
there is Spirit-guided risk taking that
sometimes calls us to take risks that go ten, it can be seen which potential risks
have both a high probability and a high We often hear it said that, “missions
beyond human reasonableness. I use today is from everywhere to
the term “Spirit-guided” very carefully. crisis impact. The purpose of going
through this exercise is to take action everywhere,” and I agree. In this
For some, taking risk is the adrenalin context we have to recognize that the
thrill of adventure and may not be God to reduce either the probability or the
crisis impact or both. world we live in is filled with prejudice
honoring at all. and very long memories about the
A risk assessment is only as valuable actions of our forefathers. Even the
In Acts 18:9, when Paul was feeling current actions of our nation of origin
quite insecure and fearful, the Lord as the quality of the information
the assessors are using. How can can create problems. The only time
spoke to him in the night and told him I knew for certain that there was a
not to fear but to speak, and assured an individual or a group of workers
credibly assess a risk? Multiple sources group actively looking to kill me was
him he would not be harmed. In immediately following a US bombing
Acts 21:4, fellow believers, “through of information are available, and
each one provides a key component. mission on a Muslim state. The
the Spirit,” urged Paul not to go to fact that I am not an American was
Jerusalem. Acts 21:10–14 makes it International news allows us to read
about political climates. Local news irrelevant. To the locals, I looked like
clear that the prophesied events were an American. The only time I blocked
a message from the Spirit, so Paul gives another important source and
dimension. It is usually important to a ministry team from visiting our
actually knew the risks involved. In region was when an ethnically Chinese
team was coming from Canada and
Chinese were being randomly picked
up in this ministry location and held
hostage for the purpose of extorting
a ransom. In both of these cases we
either took ourselves out of immediate
danger or kept the target persons out of
the danger zone while the situation was
critical. These were not seen as good
reasons to die or be taken hostage. In
both cases a return to location was
possible when the immediate threat was
reduced. This is an example of how
risk assessment plays an important role.
As we build relationships in our
ministry context, those we relate to
come to see us separately from the

Mission in High-risk Situations Richard S. 15


generally held view of our nationality people, and in particular the local Nation was cancelled because the
or ethnicity. Frequently, friends church. There are two issues we must context was coming under increased
will defend us before the general consider with regard to the local scrutiny by government officials. If the
public who still associate us with people. First, what does it look like to event went ahead and the officials shut
the prevailing view regarding our them if we are always running scared? it down, it would not have been the
nationality or ethnicity. There are Recognizing that we teach more by foreigners who would have suffered
times when the prevailing view is our actions than our words, we need the consequences. It would have been
too strong and the only acceptable to ask an important question: what the local believers and it is not wise
action, often with the encouragement are we teaching the young church for foreigners to put local believers
of close local friends, is withdrawal. when we pull our people out of these at risk of imprisonment or worse.
risks? Example after example could
4.2. Risk and political/social be given of local Christians who 4.3. Targeted by government
expressed appreciation for cross-
unrest cultural workers who stayed through or religious radicals
perilous times. There are more
We are not called just to the safe places. examples of bewildered, disappointed There are some work situations
We need to recognize that God is local believers who watched those where aspects of our faith are seen as
often working very powerfully to call committed to their discipleship leave. blasphemous and extremely dangerous
people to himself when situations are Phil Parshall relates his own experience by either the government or religious
unstable. Political and social unrest are of remaining through the 1971 civil leaders or both. This is most strongly
means the Lord uses to cause people to war between East and West Pakistan. seen in Muslim settings where our belief
look for new answers to the meaning He writes, “the national Christians in the deity of Christ is the ultimate
of life and God’s people need to be simply could not believe their spiritual blasphemy and the community must
there to provide the biblical answers. leaders would so quickly leave them to be guarded from this belief at all costs.
Being in such places has an element face the crucible alone.”9 Again, risk Much has been written about the
of risk. Foreign governments are very assessments are important, but I believe best approaches and the avoidance of
quick to call their citizens out. There we are in greater danger of leaving unnecessary offence and I am in full
are many reasons for their quick action too soon than of staying too long. support of that. The fact remains that
and some of their purposes are not at there are people in these contexts who
all in line with ours. If we lived only The second consideration with regard would kill the messengers of Christ with
by these governmental calls, we would to local believers is when our presence the same understanding the Jews had
not be able to get our work done. as foreigners could endanger them. when they killed Jesus. Jesus warned us
We would be safer, but ineffective. While this paper was being written, a that the servant is not above his master.
conference, which included teaching As he was persecuted, so will we be.
There is also the matter of the local by foreigners, in a Creative Access Are we prepared for that? Again, I am

Minka and Margaret: The Heroic Story of Two


Women Missionaries Martyred by Bandits
Phyllis Thompson (Thailand: OMF, 1976)

OMF missionaries Margaret Morgan and Minka Hanskamp were captured at gunpoint by
guerrillas in April 1974 while attending to leprosy patients in a rural clinic in Thailand. It was in
March 1975 that their bodies were found in the jungle. Thompson traces the two very different
lives—Margaret’s, unimpeded by major calamities; Minka’s, tumultuous and varied. The account
also vividly portrays the life of leprosy patients in Thailand and the ministry among them.

The Triumph of John and Betty Stam


Geraldine Taylor (OMF, 2013)

A moving account of the influence of a young missionary couple on others before they were
martyred in the 1930s. It was a tumultuous time in China with the civil war between the ruling
Nationalist Party and Communist forces. In December 1934, Communist forces unexpectedly
overran the city where the Stams were living. They did not have enough time to flee the city
and were captured. Taylor’s account includes personal writings from John and Betty that reveal
the foundations that enabled them to face their final hour with calm and joyful assurance in
God's will.

16 Mission Round Table


concerned about our risk aversion. I • Where those who have the in community is essential. Having
do not write this lightly, having been role of keeping law and order adequate accountability is also
sought out for execution, suffering the are in some way involved in necessary. Accountability partners need
pain of burying two co-workers, and the majority of crime, making to have the right to confront or propose
dealing with the loss of more colleagues the context very unsafe. the withdrawal of a worker when
after both events because they chose there are signs of probable failure.
not to continue for fear that they • When the moral decadence in
would be next to die for their faith. the setting can provide a strong Conclusion
draw towards moral sin.
Following such events, a ministry Our highest calling is to bring glory
review is essential. Should we have These are very different kinds to God. Our primary task is to share
pulled out sooner? In both cases we did of risk, but real all the same. the good news of Jesus in all its fullness
a thorough review. In the case of the with East Asia’s peoples. The greatest
first murder, there were no particular Risk assessments are still a valuable risk we face is that we do not fulfill our
warning signs. Although the context first tool. When the risks are known, calling and do not carry out our task.
was very opposed to our faith, the what are the probabilities of sickness,
murder may have been a lawless group failure, or harm? What is the crisis Cross-cultural workers need to be wise
just experiencing the thrill of killing a impact? What can be done to reduce as serpents and harmless as doves.
foreigner. The local community and the probability, impact, or both? Can Risk in all the areas stated above is
the officials grieved with us. Some we operate within acceptable risk? a part of the mission enterprise. It
offered to arrange an extrajudicial is right to manage risk with quality
execution but we believed we needed Space does not allow for a full information. Appropriate precautions
to seek justice within the legal system, exploration of the range of risks need to be put in place. Our workers
even though we knew the system clustered in the physical, emotional, need to be prepared spiritually,
might not produce results, which and spiritual realms. A few overriding physically, emotionally, and mentally
proved to be the case. In the case of guidelines will have to suffice. Physical for the challenges they will face. We
the second murder, the warning signs health needs to be guarded. The need to work within the boundaries
were there and were taken seriously. Fellowship does well in implementing of reasonable risk and Spirit-guided
The risk assessment was done. The two-yearly health reviews. Indicators risk taking. Above all, we must bring
appropriate actions were taken. But in of chronic sickness need to be this life-giving message to those who
human terms, a significant factor had responded to. But we accept that live in the dark and difficult places,
changed which was unknown even to many of us will have shortened our life empowered by the Spirit of God,
our local advisors in the community expectancy by the health risks we face. and guided his wisdom. MRT
and among the law enforcers. These I believe this is an acceptable risk.
local people were as shaken as we
were when the murder took place. When workers with health conditions 1
Though much more could be said, this big
are called to areas where the medical subject has been broached in a recent article by
David Koyzis, “Is it time for American Christians
Under conditions like these we did system cannot respond adequately,
to Disobey the Government?” Christianity Today
not belittle those who chose to leave the risks should be assessed. If the (April 2016), http://www.christianitytoday.com/
the ministry context for fear that they worker believes God has called them ct/2016/april/why-all-christians-should-consider-
might be next. But we did applaud the to live with known risks, Fellowship civil-disobedience.html?start=4 (accessed 6
November 2017).
courageous group that went back after leaders should prayerfully consider 2
Anthony Parker, “In Harm’s Way: Reflections
a period of debriefing and emotional allowing risks that go beyond on Missionaries and Risk,” EMQ 52, no. 1 (2016):
healing. New and stringent guidelines conventional medical wisdom, while 19, https://emqonline.com/node/3433 (accessed
and procedures were put in place based putting in place adequate responses 6 November 2017).
3
OMF International, “Voices of the Past,”
on new information and we praise God that recognize the possibilities.
https://omf.org/us/about/our-story/quotes/
there has been no further incident. (accessed 6 November 2017).
When law and order is known to be 4
A. J. Broomhall, Hudson Taylor and China’s
4.4. Risk to physical, inadequate, cross-cultural workers Open Century, Book Four: Survivors’ Pact (London:
Hodder and Stoughton and Overseas Missionary
emotional and should follow practices of personal
Fellowship, 1984), 291. Note: Blatchley was the
safety, at least to the level of the governess of the Taylor children.
spiritual health local people. Beyond that, prayerful 5
Jon Fuller, Canadian OMF Heart for Asia 57 (April
risk taking may be appropriate. 2016).
There are contexts in which we 6
David Garrison, Church Planting Movements
work that we know are unhealthy. Where moral decadence provides
(Richmond, VA: Office of Overseas Operations
International Mission Board of the Southern
continual temptation, safeguards Baptist Convention, 1999), 16.
• When you cannot see across the street should be put in place. Paul thus 7
Nick Ripken, “The Missiology of Suffering,”
in Beijing because of the pollution. gave the following exhortation, “So Manila Workshop, 3 February 2005.
8
Parker, “In Harm’s Way,” 20. Italics his.
I say, live by the Spirit, and you will 9
Phil Parshall, “Missionaries: Safe or
• Where health systems are known not gratify the desires of the sinful Expendable,” EMQ 30, no. 2 (April 1994): 166,
to be far behind world standards nature” (Gal 5:16). Part of living by https://www.emqonline.com/node/745 (accessed
and potential workers have health the Spirit is putting ourselves out 6 November 2017).
conditions that, if they flare up, of temptation’s way. Nurturing our
need quick and highly skilled care. spiritual lives both individually and

Mission in High-risk Situations Richard S. 17


Faith, Risk-taking, and
Suffering in Mission
Ian C. H. Prescott
I
n 2003, the world was hit was, “Ian, I am ready to die for the
by Severe Acute Respiratory Lord in Beijing.” Her husband, who
Syndrome, commonly known was inclined towards leaving, later
by its acronym SARS. SARS described this in a prayer-letter as her
was a viral disease that quickly infected “irrational martyrdom mentality.” My
more than 8,000 people and caused response was, “I would prefer that you
nearly 800 deaths in 37 countries. left for a few months and then returned
The majority of cases were in China to live and serve the Lord for a further
where there were more than 5,000 twenty or thirty years in Beijing.”
cases, resulting in 349 deaths.1 The Who was right? Was she being
largest outbreak struck Beijing in irrational or faithful? How would we
Spring 2003, where more than 2,500 decide? Who should make the final
probable cases of SARS occurred.2 decision? What should they do?
The authorities responded by placing In looking at risk, we need to ask
thousands of people in quarantine ourselves: Are we overly risk-averse
in a military camp and closing all or naively risk-foolish? What risks
Dr Ian Prescott has served primary and secondary schools. should we take and what risks should
in Asia for more than we avoid? How should we decide?
thirty years. He started in At the time, although I was not based Who should make the final decision?
the Philippines during the in China myself, I was responsible And when it goes “wrong,” how
tumultuous years following for a small team in Beijing. What should we react? Who is responsible?
the People Power Revolution. should the team members do in
He has since been involved these circumstances? One couple’s 1. The context of our
in a number of East Asian work was with students but, because risk-taking
countries with a particular of SARS, the students had either
focus on the development been sent back to their homes in the Risks are not taken in isolation. Jesus’
of work in creative access countryside or confined to campus words in Luke 21 remind us of the
contexts and among with makeshift brick walls preventing context and nature of our risk taking
under-served peoples. anyone from entering or leaving for the gospel:
the campuses or their housing area.
As this couple was due to return to 10
Then he said to them: “Nation
their home country in a couple of will rise against nation, and kingdom
months anyway, we agreed that it against kingdom. 11 There will be
made sense for them to return early. great earthquakes, famines and
pestilences in various places, and
Another family from another country fearful events and great signs from
lived in an apartment with their two heaven.” 12 ‘But before all this,
small children. Schools were closed and they will seize you and persecute
people were afraid to meet. The streets you. They will hand you over to
were empty and those daring enough synagogues and put you in prison,
to go outside mostly wore masks and and you will be brought before kings
kept their distance from others. This and governors, and all on account
couple, who were largely confined to of my name. 13 And so you will bear
their apartment with their kids, wrote: testimony to me. 14 But make up your
“although [our kids] are adorable as mind not to worry beforehand how
ever, we are going crazy at home.” you will defend yourselves. 15 For I
will give you words and wisdom that
What should they do? They were none of your adversaries will be able
gifted mobilizers and, as they did not to resist or contradict. 16 You will be
seem to be able to do much of value betrayed even by parents, brothers
in Beijing where they were at the time, and sisters, relatives and friends, and
I suggested they should return home they will put some of you to death.
for a few months and then come back 17
Everyone will hate you because of
to continue their work after the SARS me. 18 But not a hair of your head
crisis was over. The wife’s response

18 Mission Round Table 12:3 (September–December 2017): 18–24


will perish. 19 Stand firm, and you will China; the Korean War; and the three In the first century, Peter had to write
win life (Luke 21:10–19, NIV). Indo-China wars which raged from to new believers telling them not be
1946 until 1989. surprised “at the fiery ordeal that has
1.1. We live in the time come upon you to test you, as though
However, until Christ returns and something strange were happening to
between the times: a time reigns, we have no promise that peace you” (1 Pet 4:12). That exhortation is
of change, uncertainty, and prosperity are inevitable. In East still needed today.
and suffering Asia, some of the threats to peace and
prosperity are increasingly evident. I remember asking a leader of a
Jesus’ words remind us what to expect These include the situation in North group in North Africa that had
in the times in which we now live. His Korea with the increasingly strident been particularly effective in seeing
words are not just about the very end rhetoric between North Korea and Muslims come to faith what their key
times immediately before his return. the USA, an increasingly assertive approaches had been. I was expecting
They are about the time between the China with the USA playing a much a discussion on different approaches
times: the time between Jesus’ presence diminished role in the region, more to contextualization. His answer was,
on earth in human form and the time militant Islamization, and ethnic “teaching them to suffer and being
when he returns to reign. In that time— violence—probably ethnic cleansing—in ready to suffer ourselves.”
the time in which we now live—things Myanmar resulting in the displacement
will be chaotic. They will be chaotic of more than half a million Rohingya. Our discipleship in Asia needs to include
on the political front, and they will be Are the storm clouds gathering? preparing new Christians for suffering.
chaotic on the natural front. As much In some of our contexts, the churches
as we may try to predict the times, 1.2. Risk and suffering seem overrun with imported approaches
they will be times of uncertainty. I was are unavoidable to discipleship developed in the West.
amused to receive an email a couple of These approaches rarely have very
months ago which said “we have reliable In the times in which we live—the times much to say about suffering. In much of
data on what the world will look like in between Jesus’ ascension and return— East Asia, suffering is a reality that new
2030.” Do we? This passage reminds risk and suffering are unavoidable. As believers need to be prepared for, not
us that until Christ returns, we live in I noticed in a friend’s Skype status at a surprised by.
changeable and uncertain times. time when he was being forced to leave
China, “Life cannot be made secure.” Jesus addresses that preparation here in
We are fortunate to currently live in Luke 21:14, where he says, “Make up
East Asia in relatively peaceful and John Piper has written an excellent your mind not to worry beforehand”
prosperous times. It may not feel like book called Risk is Right: Better to Lose (NIV). He wants us to know about the
that everywhere, but the broader Your Life than to Waste It,4 in which he difficulties ahead so that we are not
picture across East Asia today is peace reminds us that “Risk is woven into surprised but trusting God, not fretting
and prosperity. This is particularly the fabric of our finite lives. We cannot or worrying about them, nor expecting
evident if you compare East Asia to avoid risk even if we want to. Ignorance that we can always make detailed
other parts of the world. Consider, for and uncertainty about tomorrow is preparation for the unknowns.
example, Syria, where half a million our native air.” He says he wants
have died and 11 million have been to “explode the myth of safety” and It is worth noting that in the bigger
displaced by war. Or Afghanistan, “deliver you from the enchantment picture of church history, prosperity has
which is still in chaos following the of security. Because it’s a mirage. It often been more fatal to the life of the
US-led invasion in 2011. Or a number doesn’t exist.”5 church than persecution.
of countries in Africa which are almost
entirely dysfunctional: Southern Sudan, 1.4. In this context,
Somalia, Yemen, Congo, etc. The 1.3. Followers of Jesus
will experience we bear testimony
Fund for Peace publishes an annual
index of fragile states (previously called additional suffering It is in this context of change,
“failed states”). In their 2017 index, uncertainty, and suffering that we are
you have to go to number 30 before Are Christians surprised when they to bear testimony to Jesus. Thus Luke
you find an East Asian state—North suffer? Nearly always! However, as 21:13 tells us that “This will be your
Korea. Myanmar is next at number followers of Christ, we are not promised opportunity to bear witness” (ESV).
35. Many parts of the world are that we will escape this turmoil and
much more fragile than East Asia.3 suffering. Rather, in Luke 21:12, we Situations of risk and uncertainty are
are promised additional suffering that also situations of opportunity. When I
East Asia’s current peace and prosperity comes to us because of our testimony taught at All Nations Christian College,
is also emphasised if you compare the for Christ. one of my students was a former officer
last forty years with the disruptions in the Royal Gurkha Rifles who had
that took place earlier in the twentieth But before all this, they will seize you also served with a mission in Nepal.
century. These include: World War II— and persecute you. They will hand He did his MA dissertation on risk.6
when an East Asian country, Japan, was you over to synagogues and put you He complained that most documented
a major aggressor and most of East Asia in prison, and you will be brought approaches to risk, including those of
was affected; the rise of communism, before kings and governors, and all the large Christian organizations he
civil war, and the Cultural Revolution in on account of my name. studied, viewed risk almost entirely as
Faith, Risk-taking, and Suffering in Mission Ian Prescott 19
something negative—“the probability the sake of carrying the gospel cross- When I reflect on this quotation,
of something negative happening in the culturally with a high probability of I want to know more. When did
future which will cause suffering, harm experiencing great loss.” All Christians Taylor say or write this? What was
and loss.”7 Risk, from their position, was are called to suffer for Christ but “only the context? What risk was he facing?
to be removed, reduced, or mitigated. some Christians are chosen to risk their What lack of faith concerned him?
lives for the sake of the gospel.”13 It is However, I have not been able to track
Godwin analysed Paul’s approach helpful to recognize that this “cross- down the original statement or any
to risk and concluded that “Paul’s cultural risk” is part of our calling. information on the original context.
understanding of risk includes the
traditional concept of risk as threat, In fact, a number of times in the New Is this quote that helpful? The
but is not limited to it. When facing Testament, those who took risks are important thing is not to take risks to
situations of physical danger, Paul mentioned and honoured. In Antioch, prove our faith but rather to do what is
analyses the situation not only in terms the church chose for leadership those necessary to be faithful to our calling,
of the threats they present but also “who had risked their lives for the name even if it involves risk. Pursuing risk is
in terms of opportunities.”8 Godwin of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 15:25). not our calling, reaching East Asians is.
concluded that “risk [is] defined by both Paul makes a point of naming Priscilla
threat and opportunity in a relationship and Aquila, who “risked their lives” for 2.2. CIM statement on risk
of creative tension.”9 Godwin’s him as a fellow worker (Acts 16:3) and
conclusion was that, as Christians, our also Epaphroditus, who “almost died for I am much happier with a CIM
risk assessment should not be limited the work of Christ” (Phil 2:25–30). statement on risk: “While we do not
to threat assessment but should also court danger, we are committed to a life
include opportunity assessment.10 2. Our history: CIM, OMF, which may involve it.”
and risk
As we face change and uncertainty, When I was introduced to this
we need to ask: “What opportunities What about OMF’s history as statement by my student, William
is God creating in the turmoil of a Fellowship? Godwin, I thought it expressed a much
the 21st century in East Asia?” For more balanced approach, but again, I
example, the Rohingya, an East Asian When Hudson Taylor started the wanted to know who said this and why.
Muslim people, are being forced out China Inland Mission (CIM) in 1865,
of a country where it was exceedingly China was not a safe place to go. By The context was China in 1948. CIM
difficult to reach them. Is there 1860, of the 214 male missionaries missionaries were scattered throughout
more opportunity to share the love in China since the arrival of Robert inland China. A civil war was raging
of Christ with them in Bangladesh Morrison in 1807, forty four had lost and advancing communist forces were
than there was in Myanmar? their lives and fifty one had lost their steadily taking over more and more
wives. The average life expectancy was of the country. A missionary with
As the missiologist Max Warren seven years.14 Yet Taylor refused to be another mission had just been tried by
reminded us: “For effective obedience satisfied with settling in the safer treaty a People’s Tribunal and executed. This
to the great commission the one ports but pressed to go inland. He also was a shock because “such a thing had
thing supremely needed in every sent single women, to the horror of never happened before. Missionaries
age is a lively response of Spirit- many. There were many risks and at had been killed in riots, murdered by
inspired opportunism, ever alert times missionaries paid the cost, to the bandits, and died as prisoners of war,
to the certainty that God will extent that the CIM once published a but this execution ‘by the will of the
provide different opportunities book titled Martyred Missionaries of the people’ was new.” In the face of the
in different circumstances.”11 China Inland Mission with a Record of the threat of communist rule, CIM policy
Perils and Sufferings of Some who Escaped.15 had been to withdraw CIM members
1.5. Called to take risks when a territory was about to come
for the gospel Taylor was also ready to take under clear communist control.18
organizational risks in the development
What will be the cost and the risks of the Fellowship. One that initially The General Director, Bishop
of taking those opportunities to bear filled him with fear was allowing North Houghton, proposed a change of policy,
witness to Jesus Christ? Americans to join OMF: “I had not the that instead of withdrawal in the face
remotest idea of our visit to America of communist advance, “the mission
One of the most helpful books about affecting the China Inland Mission be prepared to remain on in China,
risk is Anna Hampton’s recently thus…I was much concerned—I might even under a Communist government.”
published Facing Danger: A Guide Through almost use the word frightened—at Thompson records:
Risk.12 It is both pastoral and practical, the thought. It soon became clear,
coming out of her and her husband’s however, that God was working.”16 The outcome of the meeting was
experience of serving and being the unanimous decision to withdraw
responsible for people in Afghanistan. A favourite quote on risk, often no more workers from areas in
attributed to Taylor, is: “If there is not danger of Communist invasion and
Hampton talks about “cross-cultural an element of (extreme) risk in your occupation. Those in the provinces
risk for the sake of the gospel” which exploits for God, there is no need for next in line of attack would be
she defines as: “risk entered into for faith.” (Sources vary as to whether or advised to remain at their posts.
not the word “extreme” is included.)17
20 Mission Round Table
If they wished to withdraw, they 2.3. Our values 3. Our example: Paul
could do so, but it would mean and risk
resigning from the mission. Our OMF values express that
we are willing to take risks: How should we respond to risk? The
All members were informed of the risk management literature typically
new policy. As they read the message, We are passionate to reach identifies four ways to respond to risk:
they came to the words: “If the the UNREACHED risk avoidance, risk transference, risk
conditions made it impossible to do limitation, and risk acceptance. There
effective work, or if the degree of risk • Keeping a sharp focus on is not enough space to look at all the
to life was high (it is not our business the neglected frontiers biblical material, so I will concentrate
to carelessly throw our lives away) on the example of Paul in Acts.
we should think differently.” Then • Constantly evaluating and
came the challenging reminder that innovating in line with our vision Hampton is quite negative about people
“while we do not court danger, we using Paul’s example in discussions
are committed to a life which may • Taking prayerful risks on risk because they tend to pick one
involve it.”19 and persevering with the incident and then generalize from that.21
task God has given us I think her caution is justified if we
In 1949, forty-nine new missionaries take any one incident on its own and
were welcomed to China (the 49ers) However, our value is not that we try and generalize. It is important that
at a time when most missions were must take risks to prove ourselves or we look at the variety of ways in which
rapidly downsizing the numbers of their to prove our faith. The statement Paul responded to risk. We actually
personnel. Only 185 members of the on risk is an expansion of our value have a number of examples in Acts.
CIM were advised to withdraw. The of being passionate to reach the
year 1949 ended with 737 adults and unreached. Our primary value is not
many children still in China, as well as
3.1. Paul often avoided
that we take risks but that we reach
119 in associate missions.20 the unreached and we are willing to danger and took the
take risks prayerfully when effectively path of risk avoidance
reaching the unreached requires it.
• Acts 9:23–25: In Damascus, there was
a conspiracy among the Jews who
were watching the gates to kill him,
so his followers took him by night and
lowered him in a basket through an
opening in the wall.

• Acts 9:29–30: In Jerusalem, where


Paul was “speaking boldly in the
name of the Lord” (v 28), the Jews
tried to kill him and so some believers
took him to Caesarea and sent him to
Tarsus.

• Acts 14:5–6: In Iconium, there was a


plot to mistreat and stone Paul and
Barnabas, so they fled to Lystra and
Derbe where they continued to preach
the gospel.

• Acts 14:19–20: In Lystra, Paul was


stoned and left for dead ... so he
left for Derbe to preach there. (Paul
later returned quietly to Lystra, to
encourage the believers, not for public
preaching.)

• Acts 17:5–10: In Thessalonica, his


opponents formed a mob, which
dragged his companions before the
officials. As soon as it was night, Paul
and Silas were sent to Berea. On
arrival in Berea, they went to the
Memorial Tablet erected by fellow workers in loving memory of martyred missionaries and synagogue to preach the gospel.
their children in 1902. China’s Millions (March 1902): 39.

Faith, Risk-taking, and Suffering in Mission Ian Prescott 21


• Acts 17:13–15: In Berea, the Jews on and preached the gospel in the next that, if he goes to Jerusalem, Paul
stirred up the crowds. In response, the place, while looking for opportunities will be arrested and handed over
believers immediately sent Paul to the to continue to support what had been to the Gentiles (Acts 21:10–11).
coast and on to Athens. In Athens, he started in the previous place. At times,
was soon debating in the Aeropagus. such as on his journey to Jerusalem, he The people’s response is to plead
went ahead despite the clear knowledge with Paul not to go to Jerusalem (Acts
• Acts 19:23–20:1: In Ephesus, that trouble was sure to come. 21:12). Paul’s traveling companions (see
there was a riot and he Luke’s “we”) also join in the plea. The
moved on to Macedonia. I notice that for Paul, risk and people weep as they try to persuade
perseverance went together, as they do Paul (Acts 21:13a; see 20:37). Paul’s
• Acts 23:12–22: In Jerusalem, Paul in our values: “taking prayerful risks answer that they are breaking his heart
learned of a Jewish conspiracy and and persevering with the task that God shows how hard all this is on him
obtained a guard of 470 soldiers has given us.” His decisions were also (21:13a). But he explains his stand:
(200 soldiers, 70 horsemen, and motivated by a concern for the impact he is not only willing to be bound
200 spearmen) to protect him as he on fellow believers. His refusal to go but also to die for the cause (21:13b).
traveled to Caesarea. quietly in Acts 16:37 was for the sake Finally, the people give up, resigning
of others. And his moving on was often themselves to “the Lord’s will” (21:14).
• Acts 27:9: There was a serious to give them peace. Thus, it was only
risk of shipwreck, so he tried— after Paul was sent to Tarsus that “the Why were the warnings given? The
unsuccessfully—to stop the journey. church throughout Judaea, Galilee and believers and Paul’s companions
Samaria enjoyed a time of peace”… clearly believe that they were given
3.2. Paul sometimes and church growth! (Acts 9:31). so that Paul could change his plans
embraced danger and and avoid danger (as he had done
3.4. Embrace risk or in Acts 20:3). Paul believes that the
took the opportunities warnings have been given so that
despite the risks avoid risk?
he can prepare for the trials ahead
How do we decide whether to embrace but not so that he can avoid them.
• Acts 14:2–3: In Iconium the Jews
stirred up some Gentiles and risk or avoid risk? Hampton writes,
“Mature courage helps us know Who is right? A big challenge is
poisoned their minds against Paul to understand what God is saying
and his companions. In the face whether we need to stand firm, move
forward, or retreat to fight another when different believers come to
of this, we might have expected different conclusions. This difference
them to leave but instead they day. There is a difference between
courageous retreat and cowardly of opinion is very clear here. The
“spent considerable time there, believers “through the Spirit urged
speaking boldly for the Lord.” retreat, between courageously
remaining and cowardly remaining.”22 Paul not to go to Jerusalem” (Acts
But how do we discern the Spirit’s 21:4b) and again (including Paul’s
• Acts 16:16–40: In Philippi Paul and own team): “We and the people
Silas were mobbed, flogged, and speaking to us in a high-risk situation?
There is an interesting example in pleaded with Paul not to go up to
thrown into prison. An earthquake Jerusalem” (Acts 21:12). In contrast,
broke open the prison doors but Paul’s journey towards Jerusalem.
Paul says “compelled by the Spirit, I
they saw this as an opportunity for am going to Jerusalem” (Acts 20:22).
evangelism, not for escape. The next In Acts 19:21 Paul decides to go to
day, the magistrates sent officers to Jerusalem and then on to Rome.
When he hears of a Jewish plot against It is notable that the believers urging
release them without charge. But they Paul not to go to Jerusalem did so
refused to go quietly and insisted on him, he tries to avoid unnecessary
danger by changing his route (Acts “through the Spirit” and Paul’s decision
a public apology and escort before to go to Jerusalem was “compelled by
they would leave. This was most 20:3b). However, he knows that going
to Jerusalem means possible trouble the Spirit.” How do we reconcile the
likely done to protect the emerging two? Some commentators struggle with
church by clearly establishing that and tells the Ephesian elders: “I am
going to Jerusalem, not knowing what the theology of this. For example, Ajith
they had done nothing wrong. Fernando writes “The Spirit could not
will happen to me there. I only know
that in every city the Holy Spirit possibly have given two contradictory
• Acts 20:22–23; 21:11–13: In messages in such quick succession.”23
going to Jerusalem, Paul is warns me that prison and hardships
repeatedly warned about the are facing me” (Acts 20:22–23).
It is certainly a theological conundrum
dangers ahead but goes anyway. but it is also a practical reality. In
As he continues his journey and
reaches Caesarea, the Lord sends the my experience it is quite common
3.3. Principles prophet Agabus to warn of what is for deeply committed, Spirit-filled
ahead for Paul. Agabus is a prophet Christians to come to different
Paul clearly refuses to give up on the of proven reliability, having predicted conclusions about what God is saying.
overall mission of taking the gospel to the famine in Judea that prompted a The way forward is not usually to try
the Gentiles while being ready to be collection from the church in Antioch and decide who has the Spirit and
flexible about how that is worked out. (Acts 11:28–30). In a graphic warning who doesn’t. But these are not abstract
In the face of danger, he was ready to vividly acted out before Paul and the theological discussions in which we
relocate but not to relent. He moved believers, Agabus delivers the message can compare our views and agree to

22 Mission Round Table


differ. These are real-life situations • Higher risks of arbitrary arrest (e.g., • Risks to our families because of
where a decision has to be made. North Korea) the stress of separation, limited
educational options, etc.
There are usually many different 4.2. Risks because of our
parties who are seeking the Lord and testimony to Christ and 4.4. Organizational risks
have a stake in such decisions and
their outcome. In mission that usually opposition to it (arrest,
There are risks that arise as we
includes: the member, their immediate expulsion, attack, become part of a large and complex
family, the church in the context, field abduction, death, etc.) organization.
leadership, homeside leadership, the
home church, and family at home. There are other risks that are more • Risks in the legal and fiscal realms,
specific to our ministry. They arise which get increasingly complicated
With the certainty that we will face because of opposition to what we are as we operate in many different legal
practical situations where Christians doing. Hampton states that “The trends and fiscal jurisdictions.
differ but a decision has to be made— of the twenty-first century appear to
sometimes urgently—it is important be leading to increasingly severe risk • Risks of legal action because going
to establish in advance how such to Christians wherever they are, but into a high-risk situation for the
decisions will be made and who has the especially for those purposefully moving reasons we do looks irresponsible and
authority to make the final decision. into cultures hostile to those following irrational from a secular risk analysis
the teachings of Jesus the Messiah”.24 standpoint.26
4. Our present context: One could make a long list of examples;
OMF, faith, and risk in the following are just a few. • Risks of organizational change. If we
the 21st century don’t change, we will die. But the
• Risk of trouble, even violence, because wrong change can also be damaging,
we share the gospel. even fatal.
The risks that we may face in our
present context fall into four main • Risk of governments criminalizing
areas. • Risks of unpredictable government
our work. For example, Meng Lisi action: for example, recent decisions
and Li Xinheng, two young Chinese by the US government has severely
4.1. Risks because we are missionaries, were recently killed affected ministries in North Korea.
called to serve in a in Pakistan. They were abducted
more dangerous context by armed men masquerading as 5. Our vision:
(health, personal safety, policemen. Initially, they were
assumed to be some of the thousands Worth the risk
medical care, violence, of Chinese workers. When it was
natural disasters, etc.) learned that they were missionaries, When we look at all the different
the Chinese government’s response risks that we face, it is important that
Pursuing our calling often requires us to was to crack down on the churches we do not only focus on the risks to
come alongside people who live in more that sent them.25 ourselves, or to our family, or to our
risky situations than we are privileged organization. The reason that we
to come from, though this is not always • Risk of increased antagonism to exist is because of the bigger risk, the
the case. A Filipino relocating from our work in previously “Christian” risk that: Asians will not hear the good
Manila to Japan, or an American countries. For example, in the UK it news of Jesus Christ (in all its fullness).
relocating from Chicago to Singapore is is increasingly unacceptable to seek
moving to a less dangerous context and to change someone else’s view about We believe this is a danger with eternal
reducing many risks. However, often we God, but it has become a government consequences and puts into perspective
are asked to serve in more dangerous imperative to change their views the other risks that we need to take. We
contexts than those we come from. about marriage. mustn’t make the mistake of making an
Those risks are because of our location absolute priority of our personal safety
rather than our testimony; they may or our organizational security, over and
4.3. Risks because of the above the needs of the peoples of East
include:
stresses of cross- Asia who do not have the good news.
• Higher risks of traffic accident (e.g., cultural service (mental We need to be willing to take risks for
Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam) health, stress on the sake of opportunities for the gospel.
families, etc.)
• Higher risks of violent robbery (e.g., As Ralph Winter often said: “Risks
Philippines, Cambodia) Some risks arise mainly from serving are not to be evaluated in terms of the
in cross-cultural situations. probability of success, but in terms of
• Higher risks of illness due to air the value of the goal.”27 Our goal is
pollution (e.g., China) • Risks to mental health because of the to share the good news of Jesus Christ
extra stress of cross-cultural living. in all its fullness with the peoples of
• Higher risks to health because of East Asia. Doing so will not always
poorer healthcare be safe. We need the courage and the
guidance of the Spirit to know what

Faith, Risk-taking, and Suffering in Mission Ian Prescott 23


risks to take and which ones to avoid org/pdf/books_dwyl/dwyl_full.pdf (accessed 6 16
“Hudson Taylor’s mind was at that time
as we seek to be faithful to that. If we November 2017). The “Risk is Right: Better to definitely set against any international
Lose your Life than to Waste it” chapter is also development of the work, but in consequence
are aware that “it is right to risk for published as a separate book and also available of this and other invitations, one being from D.
the cause of Christ” but do not do so, for free download at: http://www.desiringgod. L. Moody, he promised to visit North America
we may miss God’s purpose for our org/books/risk-is-right (accessed 6 November on his way back to China. This he did in the
lives and might even waste them.28 2017). summer of 1888. At Northfield, at Niagara,
5
Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life, 81. and at Chicago, he spoke with power, and
6
William Godwin, “Redeeming Risk” (MA great blessing attended his ministry. The result,
The Luke 21 passage that we started Dissertation, All Nations Christian College, 2013). unexpected and undesired at the time, was that
with ends with Jesus saying two 7
Bob Hansford, Reducing Risk of Disaster in our money was contributed for the sending out of a
apparently contradictory things: “You Communities, ROOTS (Resourcing Organisations North American contingent.” Marshall Broomhall,
with Opportunities for Transformation and By Love Compelled: The Call of the China Inland
will be betrayed…and they will put Sharing) 9, 2nd ed. (Teddington, UK: Tearfund, Mission (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1936), 44.
some of you to death.... but not a 2011), 16, quoted in Godwin “Redeeming Risk,” 17
E.g., Marvin J. Newell, Expect Great Things:
hair of your head will perish. Stand 9. Mission Quotes That Inform and Inspire (Pasadena,
firm, and you will win life” (Luke
8
Godwin, “Redeeming Risk,” 21. CA: William Carey, 2013).
9
Godwin, “Redeeming Risk,” 43. Emphasis his. 18
Phyllis Thompson, China: The Reluctant Exodus
21:16–19). This is a reminder that for 10
Godwin did find a slightly broader view of (Littleton, CO: Overseas Missionary Fellowship/
the Christian, death is not the end. risk as “uncertainty” rather than just “threat” Fort Washington, PA: CLC Publications, 2000,
God’s victory in the long-term is assured in the international standards (ISO 31000:2009) First published 1979), 10.
but what will happen in the short- and argues that “the ISO risk management 19
Thompson, China, 18.
process makes room to accommodate the biblical 20
Broomhall, The Shaping of Modern China, 778.
term is something that we must trust conception of risk [as opportunity as well as 21
Hampton, Facing Danger, 68.
God for. However, the life that really threat], but does not go so far as to advocate its 22
Hampton, Facing Danger, xiii.
matters is the life lived for God, which application in terms of the need for opportunity 23
Ajith Fernando, Acts, The NIV Application
is the life lived with God and which analysis in risk management processes.” Godwin, Commentary Series (Grand Rapids. Zondervan,
“Redeeming Risk,” 27–28, 37. 1991), 551.
will continue with him whether that 11
Max A. C. Warren, I Believe in the Great 24
Hampton, Facing Danger, 4.
is during our time of service here on Commission (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976), 92. 25
BBC News, “Risky Road: China’s Missionaries
earth or eternally with him in heaven. 12
Anna E. Hampton, Facing Danger: A Guide through Follow Beijing West,” (4 September 2017),
Risk (New Prague, MO: Zendagi Press, 2016). http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-41116480
13
Hampton, Facing Danger, x, 29. (accessed 6 November 2017).
As Paul said: “I consider my life 14
A. J. Broomhall, The Shaping of Modern China: 26
For example, a fireman goes into a burning
worth nothing to me; my only aim Hudson Taylor’s Life and Legacy, Vol. 1 (Carlisle, building to rescue someone and we give him a
is to finish the race and complete UK: Piquant Editions and Pasadena: William medal. That’s risky but the risk makes sense. We
the task the Lord Jesus has given Carey, 2005), 478. Originally published as Hudson risk ourselves and our families by moving to a
Taylor and China’s Open Century (Sevenoaks, UK: more dangerous situation in East Asia and we
me—the task of testifying to the good Hodder & Stoughton and OMF, 1981–1989). may be criticized. The risk does not make sense
news of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24). 15
Marshall Broomhall, ed., Martyred Missionaries to the world—and “the world” may include
of the China Inland Mission with a Record of the our families back home who don’t share our
Now we are in a new order, a new Perils and Sufferings of some who Escaped (London: commitment to sharing the gospel with East
Morgan & Scott and CIM, 1901), https:// Asians.
history. We must assume that our archive.org/stream/martyredmission00broogoog 27
Tim Stafford, “Ralph Winter: An Unlikely
strategy and tactics will, in some (accessed 6 November 2017). A follow-up Revolutionary,” Mission Frontiers 6 (October–
respects be very different from those volume is: Marshall Broomhall, ed., Last Letters December 1984): 12, http://www.missionfrontiers.
of the past. The commission remains. and Further Records of Martyred Missionaries of the org/issue/article/ralph-winter (accessed 6
China Inland Mission (London: Morgan & Scott November 2017).
Our duty is faithfulness. I do not and CIM, 1901), https://archive.org/stream/ 28
Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life, 81.
forget the conviction from which I lastlettersfurth00unknuoft (accessed 6 November 29
Warren, I Believe in the Great Commission, 147.
stated that God is uncontrollable. 2017).
What he may do in our present
history, only God knows.29 MRT
Facing Danger: A Guide through Risk
Anna E. Hampton (New Prague, MO: Zendagi, 2016).
1
The World Health Organization reported 8,096
cases, resulting in 774 deaths (based on data as of This book offers a practical theology of risk
31 December 2003). World Health Organization,
“Summary of Probable SARS Cases with Onset
forged out of decades of field experience and
of Illness from 1 November 2002 to 31 July research. Hampton shares breath-stopping
2003,” http://www.who.int/csr/sars/country/ personal stories of difficult, risky choices in
table2004_04_21/en/ (accessed 6 November the complicated, hostile contexts of living
2017).
2
and ministering in Afghanistan and Central
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
reported 2,521 probable cases. Wannian Liang,
Asia. She presents insights about risk from
Zonghan Zhu, Jiyong Guo, Zejun Liu, Xiong the Old and New Testaments, essential
He, Weigong Zhou, Daniel P. Chin, Anne elements of cross-cultural risk assessment
Schuchat, and for the Beijing Joint SARS Expert and management, risk myths, and practical
Group, “Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome,
Beijing, 2003,” Emerging Infectious Diseases 10, no.
application on developing endurance strategies,
1 (January 2004):25–31, https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/ shepherding in a time of risk, and balancing
eid/article/10/1/03-0553_article (accessed 6 the tension between the leading of the Holy
November 2017). Spirit, wise stewardship, and God's invitation
3
Fragile States Index, http://fundforpeace.org/ to risk. She also includes an insightful section
fsi/ (accessed 6 November 2017).
4
on raising children in risk environments.
John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life (Wheaton,
IL: Crossway Books: Wheaton, 2007). Available
as a free download at: https://cdn.desiringgod.

24 Mission Round Table


Mental Health and Mission
Lightyear
Lightyear is a social researcher working in Southeast Asia, training governments
in good practice and churches in cross-cultural mission.

Introduction

M
ental illness remains agrarian societies.3 This is significant the differences are less stark than
widely misunderstood, and in an era of both increasing and sometimes presumed. Even within
yet represents a significant changing industrialization (sometimes the evangelical tradition, perspectives
issue for missions in termed Industry 4.0)4 where job and of and approaches to mental health
the twenty-first century. income insecurity, migration, cyber- vary, from seeking medical help to
There are two reasons for this. Firstly, threats, and rapidly changing identity applying spiritual disciplines, dealing
because of the prevalence and effects politics represent emerging threats with hidden sins, and exorcisms.
of poor mental health amongst the to mental and social well-being. Evangelicals remain divided on the
people whom we serve; and secondly, validity of some approaches, such
because of the prevalence and effects of The role of culture in mental illness as psychotherapy, drug treatment,
poor mental health amongst those who is significant, both in terms of how or casting out demons.13
serve cross-culturally. I will argue here mental illness is defined and managed.5
that mental illness represents to mission However, increasingly, the construction The first point, then, is an appreciation
work, in some ways, the twenty-first of culture is undergoing change, again of the historical and cultural rootedness
century equivalent of communicable largely due to technological advances of concepts of mental illness. But
diseases of the nineteenth and enabling globalized communication. at the same time, this should not
twentieth centuries such as leprosy and Thus, whilst understandings of discourage us from engaging—“Well,
tuberculosis, as it is poorly understood, culture based on widely understood depression means something different
highly disabling, socially stigmatizing, norms may have validity, people ‘over there’ so there’s not much we
and often a chronic condition which from different cultures interact, can do”—but rather encourage us
has profound impacts on sufferers consume, and produce “culture” to respond. An approach to mental
and their families. Moreover, where which represents fusions of different well-being which has its rooting
communicable diseases represented a strands.6 As cultural constructs change, in identity in Christ and in the
major threat to the lives and well-being so the understanding and classification createdness of human beings provides
of cross-cultural (and local) workers in of mental illness also change.7 a starting point which can enable
previous centuries, it is arguable that engagement with different perspectives
mental health represents the single Religious beliefs inform understandings on mental health and illness without
biggest threat to prolonged and effective of mental health8, from mental well- descending into meaningless relativity.
service of mission workers today. being approaches found in Buddhist An understanding of worldview is a
meditation9, to more behavioural critical element to our understanding
1. Mental health and illness: perspectives found in Islamic teaching.10 of mental health. In other words,
a brief history (of what In most traditions, definitions are cross-cultural workers who engage
highly varied and frequently include deeply with worldview issues are
we mean) the involvement of evil spirits and other well positioned to engage with the
supernaturally attributed phenomena.11 complexity of mental illness.
Michael Foucault1 and others2
describe the conceptualization of Within the Christian worldview, too,
mental illness through time, showing 2. Mental illness globally
a diversity of perspectives exist on (and where you live and
how the forms and behaviour, and mental health, with some perspectives
subsequent “categorizing and policing” more rooted in Enlightenment- work) and missionally
of mental illness have changed based biomedical models, and others
through history. Industrialization functioning almost exclusively in The World Health Organization
plays a key role, in that increasing the spiritual domain.12 Whilst much describes mental illness as the leading
universalization of rights, roles, and is often made of the dichotomy cause of ill health and disability
expectations also defines the boundaries between “Western” and “Eastern” worldwide.14 Promoting mental health
of normality, in terms of behaviour, perspectives on mental illness, careful and well-being, and the prevention
which previously were defined and analysis of popular beliefs reveals that and treatment of substance abuse,
managed more locally in rural,
Mission Round Table 12:3 (September–December 2017): 25–28 25
are integral parts of the Sustainable The historical example of leprosy Thus, the second point: how should
Development Agenda adopted by the demonstrates that a concern for people we respond to the issue of our day,
United Nations General Assembly affected by leprosy drew upon the an issue which potentially represents
on 25 September 2015 to transform biblical examples of Jesus healing a far more serious and widespread
our world by 2030.15 In much of lepers and gave rise to a significant missional challenge than even leprosy
East Asia, signs of declining mental mission movement which embraced did in previous centuries? How does
health are expressed in a variety of a multi-dimensional approach, with our mission outreach acknowledge and
ways: increasing suicide rates and medical, social, and spiritual care.20 respond to the rapidly emerging yet
drug and alcohol abuse.16 Moreover, The early responses to what was a unmet needs of people with mental
social trends—including changes poorly understood and much feared illness, where a holistic approach—
in technology—paradoxically may condition left a legacy whereby much like that towards leprosy—is not
contribute to new forms of mental mission groups contributed to the only possible, but required?
illness, such as gaming addiction.17 global elimination of the disease
and, in many places, brought lasting 3. Mental illness and
When described using standard change to the way affected persons are mission workers
medical definitions, the forms or treated. In the context of the twenty-
categories of mental illness differ first century, mental illness, in its Recent surveys indicate that mental-
based on the approach, but broadly various forms, in many ways reflects health related issues are amongst
speaking encompass conditions such the challenge to missions that leprosy the top seven reasons for what is
as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, was in the nineteenth and twentieth known as “missionary attrition”.22
manic-depressive disorders, personality centuries: poorly understood, highly Analysis of medical records of early-
disorders, addiction, and mental stigmatizing, often chronic, widespread returned LDS (Latter-day Saints)
illness associated with other medical but equally largely ignored, and missionaries by Drake and Drake
conditions.18 Again, however, how needing a very holistic approach. In indicated that mental illness alone
these are defined and managed is those days, it was people with leprosy was responsible for premature return
often contingent upon the particular who were frequently characterized in 38 percent of early returnees.23
context—cultural, religious, and as the “least, the last, and the left Mental illness “is overrepresented
economic. What we can say, however, behind.” In our day, and perhaps as in early returned missionaries
is that mental health issues, however has always been, the least, last, and (ERMs) compared to their peers who
they are defined and managed, left behind are increasingly likely to complete their full term of expected
represent an increasing problem in include people with mental illness missionary service…the challenges
East Asian and other countries that or learning disabilities—and where and hardships missionaries face may
is not matched by a corresponding women are often disproportionately overwhelm their coping resources
increase in resources available to stigmatized and excluded.21 and exacerbate the turmoil, anxiety,
address the issue.19 and crises of emerging adulthood.24

Expectations and Burnout: Women Surviving the


Great Commission
Sue Eenigenburg and Robynn Bliss (Pasadena: William Carey Library, 2010).

This book presents insights both from personal experiences and findings of research and surveys
from the field. Eenigenburg and Bliss write with realism and honesty to demonstrate how
burnout can happen and discuss ways to develop realistic expectations and yet maintain faith in
God to accomplish the impossible. Even though it was written specifically to women, the practical
ways it offers for recognizing expectations will help cross-cultural workers in general, whether new
or experienced.

Embodied Hope: A Theological Meditation on


Pain and Suffering
Kelly M. Kapic (Downers Grove: IVP, 2017).

Built upon strong theology and his family's experience with prolonged physical pain, Kapic
journeys with readers through different levels of the struggle to understand suffering. Beyond
addressing questions that often accompany sorrow, he invites readers to a renewed understanding
of embodied hope in the incarnation, cross, and resurrection of Christ. Drawing from Luther and
Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together, Kapic calls us out of isolation into the consolation of the communal
life in Christ. The practical aspects he includes offer wisdom, guidance, and consolation for the
hurting, the healers, and the helpers.

26 Mission Round Table


Thomas and Thomas25 draw parallels unsuited”) or an event (which is said 4. Increase awareness of
to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to be “stressful” or “traumatic”) to administrators to identify situations
and suggest a “mission-related stress viewing mental health as an outcome of high-risk or early signs of mental
disorder” (MRSD) as a “framework of more complex interplays between illness. This links to point (1) where a
for understanding and assisting people, circumstances, beliefs, and culture of openness is needed, as well
missionaries with the effects of stress expectations. This has the potential to as increased understanding of what
during and after their missions”.26 lead us to articulate better questions mental illness is.
However, lack of specific inquiry on how to reduce the degree to which
into mental-health-related issues in mental health issues impair the work of 5. Integrate approaches to address
surveys such as ReMAP27—possibly missionaries. Here, we come back to the issues of mental health which take
reflecting the paucity of awareness or point made in the introduction, where into account differing belief systems
acknowledgement of specific mental we appealed to a parallel understanding and needs. This argues neither for
health issues—means that the issue between the threat posed by tuberculosis the primacy of a biomedical or a
of mental health is often approached in the nineteenth and twentieth supernatural epistemology, but rather
either through more well-known and centuries to missionaries, and the threat that people are likely to benefit
well-accepted forms (such as post- posed by mental illness in the twenty- from more than one approach.
traumatic stress disorder)28 or using first century. It is not just the size of Integration includes specific attention
non-specific euphemisms of processes the threat, nor the degree of ubiquity: to development of awareness and
(such as “Burnout”)29. This illustrates ultimately, where the incidence of skills, such as how to communicate
the first of three problems: the lack of tuberculosis has been reduced it has with others (concerning mental illness),
a reasonable common understanding been achieved by addressing the illness coping mechanisms, and dealing with
of mental health, fueled by the social from multiple angles—better nutrition issues of shame and guilt.
unacceptability of mental health and housing (the basic circumstances
in Christian society, which leads of living), vaccination, identification of Conclusion:
to imprecise terminology which people at higher risk, early and effective Wounded healers
paradoxically makes it more difficult to treatment, and public campaigns of
recognize and render assistance. The awareness. Arguably, a similar approach The concept of the “Wounded
inability to properly “name” what is is needed with mental health—careful Healer”42 may be apt, and leads us
happening may hinder attempts to help. attention to the circumstances of living, to two conclusions. Firstly, when
preparation (including identifying people looking back into how the challenge
Secondly, the lack of a common and situations of higher risk), and of leprosy-affected persons inspired
framework for understanding potentially early intervention—all done against a a particular mission movement in
limits the kind of help that can be backdrop of increased public awareness. the previous two centuries, accepting
received. Those defining mental illness What could that look like for a mission the conceptual relevance of mental
from a purely biomedical perspective organization? Here are five suggestions: health in our context can potentially
may shy away from interventions drawn give rise to new forms of integral
from a more spiritual/supernatural 1. Develop an organizational culture mission to socially excluded people
epistemology; yet evidence would which allows proper naming and across the world—of which there
suggest the need to consider multiple discussion of mental health issues. are already numerous examples.
perspectives in the approach to This should not be satisfied with
mental illness.30 A substantial body using convenient euphemisms, but Secondly, when looking at addressing
of research gives insights into specific acknowledge the wide range of forms the issue of mental health amongst
considerations for longer and short which mental illness takes. workers, we may well find it harder
term workers31, female workers32, to separate this from outreach; and
third-culture kids33, and those in more 2. Analyze the “conditions of living” perhaps the outreach is best done
traumatic circumstances34, as well as and working for workers. This by organizations which have a deep
practical ways to help early returnees.35 should include not only the obvious self-understanding of the issues of
The concept of resilience building36 stressors—war, poverty, culture mental health and experience in
forms part of a three-fold area of focus: stress—but organizational issues such enabling rehabilitation of people
preparation37, prevention—largely as conflict, poor communication, with mental health issues. In other
through awareness and understanding unrealistic expectations, and isolation. words, our outreach is linked to our
of stressors and the development of The question is then asked “How can internal understanding of mental
systems which promote good mental we develop more healthy working health, so that the issues need to be
health38—and early identification conditions in these circumstances?” considered simultaneously. MRT
and management39, with an emphasis
on building awareness, coping and 3. Address issues of resilience from
communication skills40, identity issues, the beginning. Again, this should 1
Michael Foucault, History of Madness (New York:
and resilience.41 not only try to locate resilience in Routledge, 2013).
the individual, but in groups and 2
Mary De Young, Madness: An American History
Thirdly, and linked to the first two structures. This should include paying of Mental Illness and Its Treatment (Jefferson, N.C.:
McFarland, 2010).
points, is the shift in approach away attention to maintaining healthy 3
J. Cooper and N. Sartorius, “Cultural
from locating mental illness or mental spiritual and emotional well-being and and Temporal Variations in Schizophrenia:
health primarily in the person (who providing resources to facilitate that. A Speculation on the Importance of
is labeled “weak,” or “mentally Industrialization,” The British Journal of Psychiatry,

Mental Health and Missions Lightyear 27


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M. H. Thomas and M. P. Thomas, “The LDS

28 Mission Round Table


Those Who Seem to Be Weak:
The Role of Disability within a Missional Framework

Donna Jennings
A
lmost ten years ago, our treated those with a disability pointed
long-prayed-for son entered to an overwhelming disparity between
the world and, with him, theology and practice.
an involuntary rerouting
on a long and steep journey which We observed that the attitude of
my husband and I would never have our churches towards those with a
chosen. Two years later, with our disability—particularly a learning
newborn daughter in our arms and disability—is subtly but potently
toddler son on our knee, we sat in the informed by and tinged with that of the
consultant’s office holding the words world. Specifically, we experienced:
“Autism Spectrum Disorder” and
“Profound Learning Disability” in our • The lack of personal engagement by
heads while their implications slowly the church family with these boys,
filtered down to our hearts. girls, men, and women as individual
people in genuine friendships,
Words in a label which carried the
Donna has worked with her force and weight of profound loss for • The low priority given to bringing
husband as OMF UK Area me, my husband, and our lives in these people to Jesus as seen in the
Representatives for Ireland Southeast Asia. Forced to relinquish allocation of effort and resources,
since 2011. She previously the lifestyle we enjoyed, the friendships
worked in Bangladesh we had cultivated, the work in which • The attitude of paternalism in which
with SIM, which formed we had partnered, and the lifelong the “strong and able” minister to the
the context for her Masters dreams we had envisaged together, we “weak and disabled,”
in Missiology. Married reluctantly left our home in Southeast
to Nathaniel, they have Asia and began a very new flavour of • And the failure of orthodox Christian
two children and live in life, family, work, and ministry in the theology to engage with the type of
Belfast, Northern Ireland. United Kingdom. humanity experienced by those living
with a learning disability.
The challenges of “re-entry” for us
were engulfed and drowned out by Re-reading Scripture
being plunged into the underworld through a new lens
of learning disability, autism, and
challenging behaviours. We grappled The scope and perspective of my
daily with society’s prevailing familiar, tightly held Christian
intolerance of and belittling attitude theological framework was no longer
towards those with such a disability, sufficient to answer my plethora of
but perhaps the most painful was the questions about Micah: How do we
struggle we experienced in our local identify imago Dei in his humanity that is
Christian communities to see Micah intermingled with such complex needs?
embraced and included. How does a boy who understands few
words engage with “the Word” unto
Our vision, thinking, training, salvation? How do we perceive the role
experience, and work had revolved of such a profoundly disabled individual
around contextualised ecclesiology, and with his obvious dependencies as an
as we observed the integration of our integral and indispensable part of the
son’s disability in church life through Body of Christ?
this missional lens we could only
perceive huge gaps. We held to our Reading familiar texts through the
biblically framed understanding of what lens of disability shifted my focus from
church could and should be among a an objective, detached theological
local community, particularly to the agenda, to a more subjective, relational
vulnerable, but our personal experience engagement with the narrative and
and observations of how church

Mission Round Table 12:3 (September–December 2017): 29–34 29


characters of the text. My story became However, writing in the Journal of and disability theology to blend
one with the mothers who brought their Disability and Religion, Conner regrettably in response to “one of the major
children for Jesus to bless, only to be states that, “notably absent in this opportunities and challenges for
excluded by the disciples (Mark 10:13– discussion have been contributions missiology in the twenty-first century”
16); or with the father who travelled a from the field of missiology.”2 and form a disability missiology?7
long and challenging journey to bring
his son to Jesus for healing, but the The Cape Town Commitment, endorsed Against this backdrop, church leaders
disciples argued over their failure to heal by many mission agencies, urges and missiologists must jointly ask: What
(Mark 9:14–29). the engagement of church leaders is the biblical perspective of disability?
and mission partners with the global How should the Christian faith and
Additionally, reading Scripture with community of those living with various our Christian communities impact and
the families outside the church who disabilities. It is not surprising that an include the local disabled community?
walked the path of Autism and Learning estimated 15 percent of the world’s What biblical message about disability
Disability with us, highlighted the failure population, living with one or more must we convey to our society?
of the church to missionally speak with disability, have been referred to as
relevance to those “on the outside” “an unreached people group,” 90 to The Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life and
whose lives are dominated by disability. 95 percent of whom have no access ministry, relationships, and priorities are
to the gospel. More poignant for heavily dominated by his engagement
Disability theology the work of OMF is the assertion with those living with some form of
that “over the next quarter century disability. Indeed, he defined his own
During this time, I began to investigate it is likely that the Southeast Asian identity and mission with reference
disability theology, which is described as countries will experience the greatest to releasing humanity from various
international growth in the number forms of disabilities (Matt 4:18; 11:5).
the attempt by disabled and of disabled people.”3 Research carried Working towards an informed response
nondisabled Christians to understand out by Chaney in ten Southeast Asian to the questions above, requires that
and interpret the gospel of Jesus countries refers to the huge challenges we adopt a new hermeneutical stance
Christ, God, and humanity against faced by people with disabilities from which we reread Scripture, no
the backdrop of the historical and in the areas of poverty, education, longer to those with disabilities, but
contemporary experiences of people healthcare, access to public services, alongside them, rereading passages in
with disabilities … [resulting in] a justice and law, and employability.4 a new light. Understanding passages
variety of perspectives and methods through the lens of disability, we are
designed to give voice to the rich and What efforts are being made to move enabled to see real people with real
diverse theological meanings of the towards those commonly labelled issues, move beyond our tendency to
human experience of disability.1 as “the disabled”, in our church spiritualise references to disability, or
communities, field strategies, and to read a healing passage and solely
These writings transformed my grief leadership discussions? How will we extract a proof of the divinity of Christ.
and despair to joy and hope, and I begin to listen to their voices, so
recognised that my son’s value, purpose, long silent in our missional thinking A divine encounter
and potential could be realised not only and outside of the scope of our
despite his disability, but because of the ministry? What place have we given For the purpose of this discussion, it is
same. However, as my understanding to the disabled experience in our helpful to take two passages of Scripture
of Micah from the divine perspective missiological hermeneutics and analysis and merge the two incidents together.
grew, the greater was my frustration at of gospel, culture, and church? Mark 10:46–52 and John 9:1–41 record
the failure of the church to engage with episodes in which Jesus encounters and
these truths and demonstrate them in From Belfast to Bangkok to Beijing, heals a man with visual impairment—a
community. those who bear any responsibility man described as “blind”. How do
for the formation, growth, and we carry that one word? Factually
Thus, while the implications of reading leadership of the global Christian and objectively with a theological
Scripture in the light of disability community, must begin to engage detachment, or do we perhaps jump
theology centre on the person (and with the barriers in our communities directly to the spiritualisation of
those closely associated) affected by the for those living with disability, both being blind, as Jesus himself uses the
presence of disability, the ramifications structural and attitudinal.5 Barriers experience of blindness to highlight our
of disability theology are such that their which create the prevalence of an “us inability to perceive what God is doing?
full value cannot be unleashed until they and them” scenario, which devalue Or can we pause, listen, and attempt
are embraced by and embodied in the individuals because of their disability. to enter in to the weight of that one
whole Christian community and applied word for the individual man whose total
to a wider set of issues in society. Missiology offers the opportunity of existence has been defined and shaped
identifying and addressing cultural by its implications.
A missiological opportunity barriers to disability within local
cultures, local church contexts, Held within this dramatic episode
Disability theology has exchanged and to cross cultural boundaries by are four main players. Three of
formative dialogue with various strands suggesting a contextual ecclesiology, these players will be discussed now
of theology, particularly ecclesiology, inclusive of those with disabilities.6 Is and the fourth player will become
soteriology, and moral theology. it time for the strands of missiology evident in the conclusion:

30 Mission Round Table


Mainstream Society: Those who belong than a helpful illustration of spiritual breadth of their humanity? The narrow
on the inside of the city walls, those blindness, Jesus presents, in word and criteria by which we understand the
who create the buzz of city life, those deed, a radically different perspective, a wholeness of the person leads to a
holding value extending to the business new truth about a humanity flavoured limited understanding of healing that,
and relational networks within it. by disability—a truth which ripples out in turn, fails to engage with shalom—the
and impacts each player: “it is not that wellness of physical, intellectual, mental,
The disabled man: Excluded from the city this man sinned nor his parents, this emotional, social, and spiritual aspects
networks, is a sub-section of society, happened that the works of God might of personhood.
wherein the blind, lame, deaf—the be displayed in him.”
disabled—belong together, condemned Pivotal in my own search for theological
to the roadside, outside the city gates. Blind man: Those with understanding was to seek out the
Perhaps this man, hoping that one disability: Image of God shape of imago Dei integral to Micah.
individual in the busy crowd, having Arguably, orthodox Christian theology
made a lucrative business transaction, Central to Jesus’ engagement is the man limits our understanding of the person,
might fulfil the Mosaic law of born blind. Whereas others ignored character, and capacity of God, which
almsgiving in his direction. and silenced him, Jesus notices him is formulated according to the criteria
and creates a place for his voice. For and experience of an able bodied, able
In the Southeast Asian city where we this man who was excluded, on the minded humanity (e.g. humanity has
lived, men and women, with similar periphery, Jesus brings him near and strength, but God is infinitely stronger;
needs from families without state draws him into a personal interaction. humanity can love but the love of God
benefits and with restricted capacity While he was previously devalued, is infinitely purer and broader).
to provide, were literally transported dependent, the recipient of obligatory
to the edge of the marketplace early almsgiving, Jesus gives him dignity, by Within this framework our systematic
each morning where they were left to asking “what do you want me to do for theology volumes generally locate
procure whatever means of charitable you?” Finally, Jesus heals the man by the “image of God” in humanity
income they could manage. removing the impairment, allowing him under the categories of being logical/
to see, and transforming his life. rational, having capacity and desire for
The disciples and the “great crowd following”: relationship, and enjoying a level of
Jesus’ followers walk past this man and This incident also deeply impacted creativity—none of which can be easily
his associates, hear his cry for mercy the man’s family, those ‘disabled by defined in my son! By limiting imago Dei
directed to Jesus, but silence him. There association’. The disciples’ question to criteria experienced in a humanity
is no place for this man in the city, reflects the perception of societies and exclusive of disability, the Christian
and there is no time for his voice in cultures around the world which seek church effectively implies that the
their agenda for Jesus. The disciples, to attribute blame, point out fault, image of God can be diminished in the
unwilling to engage with this man as a and label with sin. Cultures shaped presence of profound disability.10
fellow human being, fail to appreciate by honour-shame, in which the
the experience of being blind, place community’s response to the stigma From this stance, the Christian church
him as nothing more than the object of disability is as burdensome as the “assumes that getting rid of…disabilities
of a theological discussion, asking the disability itself. is the chief concern of people who are
question: who sinned—was it this man disabled and the ideal for all people.”11
or his parents—that he was born blind? Had Jesus’ focus been limited to this Is our subconscious hermeneutic for
man, had his interaction with this man understanding disability too closely
In our post-Enlightenment cultures, been a direct and discreet removal of bound up with sin, lack of faith, and
the prevailing question of disability is the disability, the medical model of disability “the Fall”? Does the lack of engagement
“how”: a focus on the neurological, might have been embodied. This model with disability in our churches reflect
genetic, physiological, and behavioural of disability focuses on the individual our unwillingness to grapple with
causes and cures of disability. This is and the impairment in which treatment these theological issues? How do
accompanied by Western individualism’s of the disability is channelled in a single we understand the image of God in
more nuanced cries of “why me, why direction.8 my son, Micah, who can be more
must I suffer”? Yet, for many hearts destructive than creative, whose mind’s
in our Asian contexts, the question of Eiesland describes the parallel attitude logic we fail to understand and in
disability is phrased, Why am I being of the Christian Church as being shaped whom the traits of Autism form barriers
punished this way? Who has cursed me? by the goal of “normalisation” of those to him forming meaningful, two-way
Or, Who sinned, that this man would with disabilities: “Our bodies have too relationships?
be born blind? often been touched by hands that have
forgotten our humanity and attend Could it be that Micah’s vulnerability
Against this cultural backdrop, Jesus only to curing us…Healing has been points us to another aspect of the
cuts through the fatalistic ambience the churchly parallel to rehabilitative divine character and modus operandum,
of devalued exclusion, the barriers medicine.”9 Have we focussed so highlighting that God chose to make
to society, and, in one statement, heavily on the labelled diagnosis, the himself vulnerable, in creation, in
verbalises the nucleus of a theology impairment, the deficiency, the atypical the cross and in the church?12 Can
of disability. In this divine encounter, shape of their bodies, or behaviours Micah’s high level of dependency
which encompasses so much more than that we fail to see and appreciate the point us to an understanding of the
a proof of Christ’s divinity, and more boy, girl, man, and woman in the divine beyond independent, perfect,

Those Who Seem To Be Weak Donna Jennings 31


powerful transcendency, and towards disciples to know and follow him to a affirm and facilitate the missional
his character of dependency outlined deeper level. calling of believers with disabilities
in the Triune community?13 Inclusive themselves, as part of the Body of
Christian communities become the By shaping the engagement of Christ.”18 Our missional engagement
context for the recognition that “rather his disciples with this man, Jesus’ with this “unreached people group”
than being inequitable with the image management of the situation is has a two-pronged motivation:
of God, it turns out that the lives comparable to the social model of both to bless those with disabilities
of people with profound intellectual disability.17 This model highlights and to be blessed through them.
disabilities actually reveal God,”14 that the actual impairment is only
highlighting some forgotten aspects of one strand of suffering associated Each person, with or without disability,
theology. In doing so we formulate a with disability. It is hugely has been assigned a role to bear the
broader understanding of who God is. augmented by the barriers imposed image of God within the body of Christ.
on the individual due to society’s As we reread Scripture and revise
The image of God has traditionally perceptions of his or her disability. our theologies, missional structures,
been interpreted within an and traditions alongside those who
anthropological and a creationist Integral then to any discussion on offer us the lens of disability, it is
framework, but a theology of disability disability and the church are the worth exploring how the church can
may extend our understanding of imago Pauline reflections on the Christian perceive and empower each member’s
Dei through the lens of Christology, church as the body of Christ (Ephesians contribution to the body of Christ not
soteriology, and ecclesiology, wherein 4 and 1 Corinthians 12). No longer only despite any disability, but also through
“the image of God begins to be restored holding an attitude of “them and us,” any disability.
in the body of Christ when each leading to division and exclusion, the
individual is affirmed for that they have Christian church embodies a new The human default veers towards
to attribute to the total image.”15 Within community, wherein each member power, strength, and ability and yet
this framework, the type of healing is part of the divine arrangement, the biblical metanarrative reiterates
advocated by Yong occurs in inclusive connected and interdependent. that God’s strength is made perfect in
Christian communities when “people Paul, understanding our natural but weakness. Shifting to such an attitude of
with disabilities find redemption from fundamentally flawed default towards inclusion requires “our own conversion,
disability, not when they are healed, but the strong, extends this image with so that our eyes can truly see, our ears
with the removal of societal barriers.”16 the radical statement that “those who can really hear, and our other senses
Yong’s use of the term “redemption” seem to be weak, are indispensable” (1 can be fully activated to receive and be
points to the vision that God is active in Corinthians 12:12–27) and require a transformed by what such people have
creating something beautiful from that special honour, dignity, and respect. to offer.”19
which society perceives as defunct and
broken. Even where Christian communities and Our focus within OMF must not only
missional enterprises have responded include the geographical spread or the
Disciples: Church: to include those with a disability, the theological depth of the church, but
Body of Christ ministry is generally directed from also carefully consider the shape of the
the strong and able to the weak and church in our various Asian contexts.
In light of this, we return to Jesus’ disabled, based on the one-sided Conner asserts, “the expansion of the
encounter with the man born blind. It premise that people with disabilities gospel, in terms of ‘missio dei’ is more
is vital to note that in this (and many need the church. Engagement with the about the Gospel expanding toward a
other occurrences in the Gospels), Jesus world of disability has been one strongly fuller expression” and “what is at stake
did not act alone; this was no discrete, shaped by paternalism, denying the in contextualising is the fullness of the
direct interaction solely focused on individual any contributory role in the body of Christ, the very diversity of
one man. Jesus chose to mobilise his body of Christ, any responsibility as an Christian humanity is necessary in order
disciples, instructing them to engage image bearer, defining them merely as for the church to be complete.”20
with this man, commanding: “call him the recipient of others’ strength.
to me.” Consequently, it is not an option
Missiologically, we must acknowledge for our Christian communities, our
The disciples’ response to Jesus’ and act on the recognition that missional strategies, and our theological
command required them, as individuals the global disabled community is discussions to opt out of efforts to
and as a group, to turn their attention largely “unreached”. However, the include people with disabilities. Jennie
to this man, formulate appropriate engagement envisaged under The Weiss Block highlights that this is an
words, move towards him, place their Cape Town Commitment acknowledges integral characteristic of the church
hands on his arm and guide him the reciprocal relationship that exists which is the “quintessential inclusive
through the crowd towards Jesus. By between the church and people with community” because “the gospel of
engaging the disciples in this way, disability. This document, key to Jesus Christ is a call to a new world
Jesus effectively shifts the position of missiological strategies and discussions, where outsiders become insiders” and
this man from being the object of their outlines a mandate to “minister to our identification with Jesus Christ, as
detached discussions, to the focus of people with disabilities and to receive our “copious host”, necessitates our
their personal interactions. In doing so, the ministry they have to give…to role as his “co-hosts.”21 Inclusion of
Jesus used his intentional commands think not only of mission among those those with a disability in our churches
of inclusion to teach and shape his with a disability, but to recognise, is a natural outworking of the Great

32 Mission Round Table


Commission. As we “go out” missionally is imperative for the church to model community is called to work towards
towards “panta ta ethnē,” we should its Christian faith and life both within justice, but according to its own
expect the result to be the cultivation of its own community and in the wider criterion.”26 As the Christian church
a diverse and pluriform church. social setting of other communities.”22 speaks into the social order of the local
community, the national government,
City: Society: Kingdoms The Great Commission itself implies and on the global level about the
an integrated, active approach to issues affecting people with disabilities,
Returning to our Gospel passages, proclaiming and demonstrating we do so to point to, to reveal, and to
we focus now on the general public kingdom values, for “When we are identify with the coming kingdom—
who tolerated this man in exclusion, expected to teach to obey everything our ultimate vision. Consequently,
overlooked, and largely ignored him. he has commanded us, we are we are missionally empowered as
He, in turn, was wholly dependent on certainly expected to do everything our Christian witness to the world
them. Jesus steps into this social order he has commanded us.”23 How can is enabled. An intentional, effective,
and demonstrates the kingdom values OMF empower and mobilise Christian and inclusive church community (in
he proclaimed, values which radically communities to missionally fulfil the Belfast, Bangkok, or Beijing) can
challenged values prevalent in the actions encouraged by the Cape Town “cut through cultural assumptions
wider, observing society. Commitment to “rise up,” “stand and reveal how the church in its
alongside,” “resist prejudice,” “fight theology and practice has become
While Hudson Taylor’s model of the for,” and “advocate for” the needs of acculturated in ways that prevent
contextualised gospel is celebrated in individuals and families who live with it from functioning faithfully.”27
OMF structures and strategies, less disability, not just in the church, but
prominent is the question of how we in the “wider society”?24 Correspondingly, Conner states
demonstrate kingdom values in issues that “in this missiological way of
which confront local society and How does OMF’s vision for “church thinking, people with disabilities are…
oppose local culture. At the interface planting movements” embody Jesus’ necessary contributors to the calling
of gospel, church, and local culture, proclamation and demonstration of the of Church to bear witness to the
we are called to expose beliefs and kingdom? Do we need to adapt our ongoing redemptive work of God in
practices which stand opposed to the processes and structures to facilitate this world—proclaiming the Kingdom
rule and reign of God. Specifically, the sending of skilled workers to of God is at hand.”28 Without the
how can we challenge the negative support local churches and ministries vital role of individuals with disability,
social constructs surrounding the in key areas relating to disability?25 the church’s witness is diminished.
perception of, provision for, and How can we be instrumental in Conner quotes Newbigin who argues
treatment of those with a disability? rewriting the narrative of society in that, “without that witness from its
regard to disability as we pray “Your own membership, the Church’s witness
Understanding the church in the light Kingdom come”? is distorted and deceptive, and the
of the kingdom provides an important Church’s discipleship is irrelevant
reminder that “the Christian Swinton points out that “the context to the real world in which men and
community does not exist simply for of Jesus’ acts for justice was focused on women live and suffer.”29
its own ends. In the Asian setting, it the coming Kingdom” and this “new

Vulnerable Communion: A Theology of Disability


and Hospitality
Thomas Reynolds, (Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2008).

Reynolds presents disability from a theological perspective combined with the experiential perspective of
bringing up a son who has multiple disabilities. He argues that the biblical story is about strength coming
from weakness, redemption resulting from God’s vulnerability, and disability as a way to explore vulnerability
with others and with God. Bringing together a diverse body of literature with arguments drawn from
theological, philosophical, and sociological perspectives, the book includes resources to help individuals and
churches to foster hospitality toward people with disabilities.

The Bible, Disability, and the Church: A New Vision of the


People of God
Amos Yong, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2011).

Yong develops a theology of disability drawn from insights of biblical scholarship on disability and his
experience of caring for and engaging with a brother with Down syndrome. He rigorously examines Old
and New Testament passages to highlight how disability has often been misconstrued and reinterprets the
passages from the perspective of the disabled with the aim of dismantling the bias held by the non-disabled.
Yong calls the church to remove the underlying stigma towards the disabled and to become healing and
truly inclusive communities that value people with disabilities.

Those Who Seem To Be Weak Donna Jennings 33


Conclusion 1
John Swinton, “Disability Theology,” in 14
John Swinton, “Who is the God We Worship?
Cambridge Dictionary of Christian Theology, Ian Theologies of Disability; Challenges and New
McFarland, David Fergusson, Karen Kilby, Possibilities,” International Journal of Practical
In conclusion, we return to the Gospel and Iain Torrance, eds. (London: Cambridge Theology 14, no. 2 (2011): 296, https://www.
passages to identify a fourth party University, 2010), 140–141. abdn.ac.uk/sdhp/content-images/Who_is_the_
whose presence and purpose was 2
Benjamin T. Conner, “Enabling Witness: God_We_Worship.pdf (accessed 24 October
intrinsic to Jesus’ encounter with this Disability in Missiological Perspective,” Journal 2017).
blind man: God—the One to whom of Disability and Religion 19, no. 1 (March 2015): 15
John Swinton, “Building a Church for
15–29. Strangers,” Journal of Religion, Disability
our image bearing points, the One 3
Paul Chaney, “Comparative Analysis of Civil & Health 4, no. 4 (2001): 29, https://
who makes himself manifest in his Society and State Discourse on Disabled People’s www.abdn.ac.uk/sdhp/documents/
body, the One who reigns as King Rights and Welfare in Southeast Asia 2010 buildingachurchforstrangers.pdf (accessed 26
throughout his kingdom on earth. Jesus –16,”Asian Studies Review 41, no. 3 (June 2017): October 2017).
states that this man and his experience 406–423, http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full 16
Amos Yong, “Disability and the Gifts of
/10.1080/10357823.2017.1336612 (accessed 24 the Spirit: Pentecost and the Renewal of the
of being blind, was ultimately “that October 2017). Church,” Journal of Pentecostal Theology 19, no.
the works of God be made known.” 4
Countries in focus were East Timor, 1 (2010), 175 quoted by White, “People with
In this divine encounter, God’s Philippines, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Disabilities,” 20.
transformative power and overarching Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, and 17
Rieser sees the “loss or limitation of
purpose were potently displayed. Laos. opportunities to take part in the normal life of
5 the community on an equal level with others due
George White, “People with Disabilities
in Christian Community,” Journal of the to social barriers.” Rieser, “Disability Equality,”
In light of this, we move towards those Christian Institute on Disability (JCID) 3, no. 1 135, quoted by Chaney, “Comparative Analysis”,
who experience disability, hoping to (Spring/Summer 2014): 11–35, https://www. 411.
facilitate more divine encounters of joniandfriends.org/media/uploads/jcid/jcid_3.1_ 18
Lausanne Movement, The Cape Town
the same. We move forward carefully, white_people_with_disabilities_in_christian_ Commitment (The Lausanne Movement, 2011),
community.pdf (accessed 24 October 2017). 44, https://www.lausanne.org/content/ctc/
progressively formulating a disability
White outlines how “the Christian community ctcommitment#p2-2 (accessed 17 October 2017).
missiology on the journey we share with has a history of devaluing attitudes towards 19
Yong, “Disability,” 185 quoted by White,
men, women, boys, and girls living with people with disabilities,” through which they are “People with Disabilities,” 33.
disabilities. largely relegated to “the outside.” White, “People 20
Conner, “Disability Theology,” 19.
with Disabilities,” 12.
21
6
Stanley Skreslet, Comprehending Mission: The Jennie Weiss Block, Copious Hosting: A Theology
The parable of the great banquet of Access for Those with Disabilities (New York:
Questions, Methods, Themes, Problems, and Prospects of
depicts the Master’s servants urgently Missiology (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2012) quoted Bloomsbury, 2002), 28–29.
“going out” towards those on the by Conner, “Enabling Witness,” 18.
22
Warren Beattie, “Evangelical Paradigms
margins. We also, must “go out” and 7
Conner, “Enabling Witness,” 15. of Mission in Asia: The Influence of Biblical
Foundations in Shaping a More Integrated
cross boundaries so as to “bring in” 8
Rieser outlines that the medical model Theology of Mission,” Mission Round Table 4, no.
those who because of their various of disability “sees the disabled person as 1 (August 2008): 11.
disabilities are excluded. Why? Not the problem…The focus is usually on the 23
impairment…with the medical and associated Samuel Wunderli, “Criteria and Key
primarily for the benefit of those on professions’ discourse of cures, normalisation and Components of an Integrated Approach to
the outside, but so that the Master’s science.” Richard Rieser, “Disability Equality: Mission,” Mission Round Table 5, no. 1 (June
house—the global church—will be Confronting the Oppression of the Past,” in 2009): 5.
24
“full”, complete, and mature, inclusive Education, Equality and Human Rights, Mike Cole, Lausanne Movement, The Cape Town
ed. (London: Routledge, 2006), 135, quoted by Commitment (25 January 2011), Part II, IIB,
of all men, women, boys, and girls from Chaney, “Comparative Analysis,” 411. 4, https://www.lausanne.org/content/ctc/
all people groups, whatever their ability 9
Nancy Eiesland, “Sacramental Bodies,” Journal ctcommitment#p2-2 (accessed 17 October 2017).
or disability. MRT of Religion, Disability and Health 13, no. 3/4 (2009):
25
Support in the areas of Education, Health,
243. Therapy: teacher training, therapists (speech
10
Could it be that the low priority and lack of and language, occupational therapists,
resources given to missionally engage with the physiotherapists, behavioural therapists), the
In partnership with other development of diagnostic procedures and
profoundly disabled is due to a subconscious
organisations, OMF (UK) is hoping belief that they do not bear imago Dei? understanding; Missional Business: using local
to co-host an academic conference 11 resources to produce disability aids (wheelchairs,
Craig A. Satterlee, “‘The Eye Made Blind by walking frames, feeding aids, communication
in 2019 that would bring together Sin’: The Language of Disability in Worship,” aids); enterprises that provide sustainable means
disability theologians, missiologists, Liturgy 25, no. 2 (2010): 34, quoted by White, of providing income for families affected by
and practitioners to facilitate “People with Disabilities,” 13. disability; Christian voices into the shaping of
12
the interface between disability “The God we Christians must learn to public policy; engagement with government
worship is not a god of self-sufficient power, legislation regarding disability and ensuring its
theology and mission. If you would a god who in self-possession needs no one; implementation.
like to be kept informed about this rather ours is a God who needs a people, who 26
Swinton, “Who is the God We Worship?”
initiative please write to needs a son. Absoluteness of being or power is 304.
UK.ND@omfmail.com. not a work of the God we have come to know 27
through the cross of Christ.” Stanley Hauerwas, Swinton, “Who is the God We Worship?”
“Suffering the Retarded: Should We Prevent 293.
If you are involved in this area of Retardation,” in Critical Reflections on Stanley
28
Conner, “Enabling Witness,” 24.
ministry and would like to be part Hauerwas’ Essays on Disability: Disabling Society, 29
Lesslie Newbigin, “Not Whole without
of a Fellowship-wide network of Enabling Theology, John Swinton, ed. (New York: the Handicapped,” in Partners in life: The
Haworth Press, 2005), 296. Handicapped and the Church, Gecko G. Müller-
practice, please email 13
“If God is trinity; if the Son is begotten and Fahrenholz, ed. (Geneva: WCC, 1979), 24,
donna.jennings@omfmail.com. quoted by Conner, “Enabling Witness,” 24.
dependent on God; if God is a God of self-
communicating love, then perfection is different.
It is not comprised of independence, power
or transcendence.” Hauerwas, “Suffering the
Retarded,” 105.

34 Mission Round Table


Worshipping God through Suffering

Walter McConnell
L
ife does not consist of nothing and materials to be used by those who
but warm sunny days and grieve or otherwise experience trouble.
peaceful ease. Suffering, in
some form, affects us all, The Bible nowhere disguises the reality
causing us to cry out in pain or scream that life can be difficult. In the beginning
that life is unfair. Many things—the loss Adam’s sin forced him from the blissful
of a spouse through death, divorce, or garden to face an existence of painful,
dementia, inability to find a marriage sweaty toil in order to have food to eat.
partner or conceive a child, failure to His son Cain, after killing his brother
find or keep a job, psychological or Abel, was driven from the land and
sexual abuse, physical pain, depression, forced to wander from place to place as
etc.—rob us of the joy we desire. the ground refused to yield its crops to
Equally they impact our relationship him. In these examples, suffering came
with God, particularly with regard as the result of one’s sin. But this is
to worship. How can we worship not always so. Noah, the righteous and
God in and through our suffering? blameless man, was required to build
Walter directs OMF If worship is all about celebration an ark in order to rescue his family and
International’s Mission and praising the Lord for all the the animals of the world from the great
Research Department. good things he has done, how can I depravity of other people in his time.
An American, he has approach him in my grief and pain? Though chosen by God, Abraham and
previously served in Taiwan Do I have to “fake it” and pretend Sarah lived a nomadic existence and felt
as a church planter and that things are OK when they’re not? the pain and shame of not being able
theological eduator, taught Do I need to quit attending Christian to bear a son until old age. Concluding
Old Testament at Singapore activities until I can get it together that Joseph had been torn apart by wild
Bible College where he also again and I feel like praising God? animals, Jacob refused to be comforted
directed the Ichthus Centre and cried out that he would descend to
for Biblical and Theological These questions show how difficult Sheol in mourning for his son. Hannah’s
Research, and served as it is for many of us to come to God inability to bear a child, compounded by
pastor at the Belfast Chinese in worship in the midst of personal the provocation of her rival, prompted
Christian Church. This suffering. They also show that our her to cry out to God that he might give
article is adapted from a understanding of worship is often her a son. David experienced the sting of
chapter in his forthcoming inadequate. Worship is not merely a sin when his adultery with Bathsheba was
book, An Introduction matter of singing from a joyful heart uncovered and when the child she bore
to Biblical Worship. about the wonders of who God is and died despite his fervent prayers. Later in
the marvelous things he has done. At its life he had other reasons for calling out
most basic, worship—as it is developed to God due to personal attacks from his
in the Bible—consists of bowing down associates and family members. Many
before God in submission to his will, of the writing prophets were caught up
fearing him for his majesty and power, in the sin of their people to the extent
and serving him in our daily lives that they were carried off into exile,
whether by specific acts of worship or or, in the case of Jeremiah, to Egypt.
by simply doing that which pleases
God. As our relationship with God These Old Testament stories are but a
encompasses all of life, it is possible, small sample of the Bible’s instruction
indeed essential, that we learn how to on how people respond to difficulties
worship God through the rough times in life. Far from exhausting the
when mumbling, “Praise the Lord, biblical testimony about trouble and
anyway,” simply won’t do. Thankfully lamentation, they are supplemented by
the Bible not only alerts us that we can numerous New Testament accounts of
worship in times of pain, it also helps broken people seeking Jesus for healing
us along the way by telling stories of and of the apostles suffering for their
people who called out to God in their testimony that Jesus was the Christ.
need and preserving literary forms According to Paul, the apostles faced
designed to be used by those bringing pressures that were so far beyond their
laments to God. It thus provides models ability to cope that they despaired of

Mission Round Table 12:3 (September–December 2017): 35–39 35


life (2 Cor 1:8; cf. Rom 9:2). As he about the nature and use of lament, intrinsic to the very nature of faith.6
saw it, this situation had a positive particularly in the psalms of lament.
angle that forced them not to rely Since more than one-third of all the
upon themselves but turn to the God What is a lament? psalms fall into this category, we
who answered their prayers and the are presented with a tremendous
prayers of the churches they founded. As used in the Bible, a lament can be challenge. Why would God place
an action associated with mourning such an emphasis on lament in the
Not even Jesus was preserved from (such as wearing sackcloth or beating Bible? Could it be that they were
life’s pressures and trials. Indeed, the one’s breast) or a poetic or musical included simply because Israel specially
“man of sorrows” (Isa 53:3) faced composition (e.g., a dirge) that would needed this type of psalm due to their
rejection throughout his earthly ministry be recited or sung during a period of regular persecution and because they
and ultimately suffered the cruelest of mourning. In Old and New Testament frequently fell under God’s wrath
deaths after his agonizing vigil in the times laments were practiced by all due to sin? What is true for the Old
Garden of Gethsemane during which people in society and were commonly Covenant community is equally true
he informed his closest disciples, “My led by the king and prophets, both for the church. The New Testament
soul is very sorrowful, even to death” of whom might write the dirges that testifies that Jesus, his apostles, and the
(Mark 14:34). As he hung on the cross would be sung (2 Sam 1:17–27; early church faced major opposition
Jesus cried out to the Father, not with 3:33–34; 2 Chron 35:25). Any situation and persecution. As Jesus told his
praise, but with words drawn from that causes a person or group to mourn disciples, “In the world you will
one of the lament psalms: “Eloi, Eloi, can prompt a lament. Even potential have tribulation” (John 16:33). He
lama sabachthani?…My God, my God, tragedies can be seen as a reason to similarly informed them that, “If they
why have you forsaken me?” (Matt bring a lament to God. Although persecuted me, they will persecute
27:46; Mark 15:34; cf. Ps 22:1). His the Hebrew words are immediately you also” (John 15:20). And whether
final words were likewise drawn from associated with the actions of lament, trouble comes from without or within,
a psalm of lament: “Father, into your the composition is more important for lament, as a God-given resource,
hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46; our purposes as we study the biblical empowers us to present our needs
cf. Ps 31:5). The hour in which Jesus texts. The biblical laments, however, to God and ask him to resolve our
performed his greatest act of worship exist to guide us through the actions. difficulties and bring us back to praise.
was marked by sorrow, suffering, and
prayers of lamentation to God. The most accessible biblical resource One other thing we should learn
for those facing difficulties is the psalms from the amount of space given in
That both testaments frequently of lament.4 The psalmists experienced the Bible to lamentation is that, “The
acknowledge that people face pain and all the seasons of life. They knew what lament itself is a form of worship.”7
distress1 and that they bring them before it is to rejoice and they knew what While many will find this contrary
God through prayer in open worship it is to grieve. In every experience to everything they have heard about
contrasts greatly with the way many they would turn to God, let him worship, the prominent place lament
Christians face it today. While everyone know what they felt, and ask him to has in biblical narrative and its key
suffers grief and disappointment, many help them through. No matter that position in the Psalter make it clear
apparently believe that followers of suffering was God’s punishment for that saints have long considered
Jesus should only express joy and praise. personal sin or the result of someone lament to be an important means of
This common reaction is deceptive, as else’s sin, the psalmists acknowledged worshipping God in difficult times.
it downplays our personal experience that life can be extremely difficult and It is our way of entreating him for
of pain and contradicts the biblical that it is right for a believer to bring mercy in times of difficulty. It is our
testimony of how the saints of old their pain, confusion, and frustration means of reassessing our situation
and the Christ responded to their to God. Their psalms of lament in light of God’s power and grace.
troubles. As Brueggemann has pointed provide models of the right way to It is how we should approach God
out, in the modern church “we have complain to God. Lest someone think with honesty and hope that he will
believed that faith does not mean to that these psalms were a rarity, it is meet us in our pain, sympathize
acknowledge and embrace negativity.”2 commonly noted that around sixty of with us in our confusion, and enable
This may be because we have been the 150 biblical psalms are laments, us to praise him again. Note that
inordinately influenced by a success making it the largest grouping of the connection between lament and
driven and forward looking culture that psalms by genre.5 Moberly states, worship gives us grounds for reassessing
thinks all negatives can and should be our understanding of what worship
overcome.3 Or it may spring from a Such predominance of laments at the is and does. Far from being limited
misplaced conviction that followers of very heart of Israel’s prayers means to singing songs of praise, worship
Jesus should experience no problems that the problems that give rise to takes hold of all of life as we live it
in life. However, where our experience lament are not something marginal out in humble service before God.
and the testimony of Scripture differ or unusual but rather are central
from our practice, we must ask some to the life of faith…. Moreover The psalms of lament are, from an
penetrating questions that will help they show that the experience of emotional point of view, the opposite
us get back on track. To help us find anguish and puzzlement in the life of a hymn of praise, as they are
our way to worship God in the midst of faith is not a sign of deficient experienced as “psalms in a minor
of suffering, loss, and disappointment, faith, something to be outgrown key” that provide words for those in
this paper addresses biblical teaching or put behind one, but rather is trouble or despair so that they can

36 Mission Round Table


raise their complaints and petitions helps those who use the psalms as they in my heart all the day? How long
to God.8 Though commonly divided can be adopted to suit many different shall my enemy be exalted over me?”
into individual psalms of lament and circumstances. This allows modern (Ps 13:1–2). When trouble and grief
corporate psalms of lament, there worshippers to read their problems into continue without end, it is imperative
is an additional distinction between the psalm as they use it for prayer. that one confesses his feelings of
them, as some locate the source of abandonment and unease to God and
difficulty in one’s circumstances and The psalms of lament—particularly then expresses his trust that, despite
seek God’s deliverance while others the communal laments—also benefit his circumstances or feelings, God
identify God as the one who brings the worshippers by showing them that will surely intervene (Ps 13:5–6).
trouble and entreat him to withhold his the psalmists could feel that God was
hand. No matter what circumstances absent. They express their experience The place of lament in the Psalter
prompted their composition, these that God has rejected (Pss 43:2; 44:9), indicates that God is interested in pain
psalms acknowledge that life can be abandoned (Lam 2:7), or forgotten (Ps as much as he is in joy. This should
most troublesome and that the affairs 42:9) them. At times it seems that he give us hope to approach him for help
of life often make it difficult if not has hidden his face (Pss 13:1; 44:24) or during a time of difficulty. Even more,
impossible for God’s people to express fallen asleep (Ps 44:23). God’s perceived we should be encouraged that even as
joy and sing his praises. Laments are failure to help prompts them to ask the God has helped people in the past he
therefore primarily intended to help questions “Why?” and “How long?” will help us now. The words written
people present their needs to God and “Why, O LORD, do you stand afar by the psalmists encourage us that
ask him to resolve their difficulties off? Why do you hide yourself in times we too can dare to approach God in
and bring them back to praise. of trouble?” (Ps 10:1). “O God, why anger, fear, and doubt because that is
do you cast us off forever? Why does how we feel at the time even if it does
Lament psalms are prayers addressed your anger smoke against the sheep not reflect our reasoned theological
to God as the one who understands of your pasture?” (Ps 74:1). By asking beliefs. One who comes to God in
our difficulties and who is entreated “Why?” the psalmist demonstrates grief or pain does not have to pretend
to intervene. By praying these psalms his feelings that God is in some way everything is alright or come up with
we are directed to identify the source responsible for his trouble. Could it the “right words” that God will accept.
of pain and to look beyond it as be that God doesn’t care about his Rather, they can know that they can
God leads us through our trials and plight? Is he impotent to deal with trust God to accept their feelings even
heartaches and restores our ability the problem? Or is he punishing when they don’t know what to say.
to praise. They thus become models the lamenter for some reason? And even though we may not receive
to follow, guides that lead us from a speedy answer to our questions, the
pain to praise, from fear to faith. The same thing happens when the fact that we address God as the one
Indeed, as the believing community psalmist asks “How long?” The who hears and will answer indicates
acknowledges that life is fraught with difference is that this question “implies that the light of faith has already begun
danger and disorder, these prayers distress of some duration.”10 The to penetrate the clouds of despair.
become “an act of bold faith.”9 No difficulties keep going on and on. In
matter what brings our difficulties, spite of the passing of time, it seems Even so, simply praying a psalm of
these prayers give us the opportunity that God will do nothing to deal with lament does not ensure an instant
to express tremendous confidence in the problems his people face. “How solution to all problems so that God’s
God. The way the laments restore us long, O LORD? Will you forget me people will only experience praise.
to praise anchors them in communal forever? How long will you hide your Those who have lost a loved one
worship, for it is only in the presence face from me? How long must I take cannot, by prayer, bring them back
of others that one can rightly praise counsel in my soul and have sorrow or be rid of the grief that will ever
God. Though most Christian worship
is bereft of lamentation, we would
benefit from its rediscovery. Suffering and the
Psalms of lament make it clear that Sovereignty of God
pain and difficulties come from many
John Piper and Justin Taylor, eds., (Wheaton: Crossway,
sources. Enemies (whether military or
2006).
political) threaten (Pss 13:2; 22:6–8,
12–13, 16–18, 20–21; 44:10–16), rulers This book offers both theology and the practical
abuse their authority (Ps 58:1–2), outworking of applied theology as its contributors—
illness weakens, and death seems John Piper, Joni Eareckson Tada, Steve Saint, Carl
imminent (Pss 38; 41; 88). Even so, Ellis, David Powlison, Dustin Shramek, and Mark
lament psalms do not identify the Talbot—speak out of their first-hand experiences
enemies or illnesses with any detail. of suffering. The anthology of essays, written in
In this they contrast greatly from different styles presenting different experiences, offer
laments found in the historical books a compassionate biblical and pastoral examination
of the Bible that expressly state the and urge readers on to look to Christ in suffering to
circumstances in which they were find the greatest confidence, deepest comfort, and
uttered (e.g., Josh 7:7–9; Judg 21:3). sweetest fellowship they have ever known.
Even so, their lack of specificity greatly

Worshipping God Through Suffering Walter McConnell 37


pursue them. Raising a lament to are designed to lead us from despair to to personal sin. Such a psalm should
God does not free a person entering joy as we acknowledge that in spite of be used in a case where sin is present
the early stages of Alzheimer’s from our sins, God forgives us and assures us but perhaps exchanged for another
facing a future of fear and forgetfulness. that we receive pardon through Jesus when sin is not an issue. Another
A woman who cries, “How long, O Christ. In many services, the prayer caution in the use of these psalms is
Lord?” as she agonizes over an abusive of absolution is followed by a hymn that the words uttered should never
relationship may not be instantly of praise to emphasize the joy that be considered a magical formula for
freed from her assailant. It is therefore one should feel after being forgiven. physical healing. Long ago the Jewish
essential that we never consider Rabbis warned that the Psalms were
lament psalms to be magical formulas Although the words used in these only for spiritual healing and that those
that ensure praise will immediately prayers are often taken from the New who used them for physical healing
fill the lives of those who pray them. Testament, they reflect themes that were guilty of sorcery and should be
As the crisis that leads to the lament reverberate throughout the psalms but considered heretics.14 While they may
may last for a long period of time are most closely related to the seven be overstating the case here, their
before it is resolved, we may need to psalms of penitence which have been warning should be heeded lest we
pray the psalms of lament over and recognized from the early Christian descend into sub-Christian practice.
over again as we face our trials.11 centuries—Psalms 6; 32; 38; 51; 102;
But as the form of biblical lament 130; and 143.13 Although the early While psalms of lament should be
indicates, those in trouble need to be church often reserved these psalms used when praying for the sick, to
steered in the direction of hope. God for those who were sick or dying, limit them to that function implies that
hears our prayers, cares about our they quickly became an integral part those suffering from other problems
situation, and will come to our aid. of personal piety of those seeking are less significant. The welcome that
Since God will certainly intervene, we deliverance from sin and guilt. Modern Jesus showed as he embraced the
can be sure that praise will follow. Christians who are burdened by sin world of his day should impel us to
can similarly employ this ancient welcome everyone in need to come for
Lament and the church biblical pattern. If one of these psalms prayer. “Come to me, all who labor
was read and commented on during and are heavy laden, and I will give
Lament is rarely given a substantial confession, the congregation could you rest” (Matt 11:28). The weary, the
place in the church, as worship more intelligently adopt the words burdened, the abused, the ignored, the
is usually equated with joy and of the lament while bringing their unemployed, all need Jesus and all can
celebration. Expressions of pain, needs to God. Similarly, a sermon be strengthened by praying the psalms
fear, or grief are regularly viewed as based on one of these psalms could of lament and searching for God’s hope
symptoms of unbelief or treated as help a congregation understand its that is an integral part of the prayers.
embarrassing abnormalities that should purpose in ancient Israel and how to
be politely ignored. Strangely, this use it today when confessing sins. Reaching beyond the individual, when
sidelining of the hurting is similarly a church, a nation, or the world is
present in many modern funerals which In addition to serving as an aid in facing a crisis of some sort, services of
have replaced ministry to the grieving confession, psalms of lament can be lament are in order. People throughout
and proclaiming the gospel message used in many other ways. Since God is the world are suffering for any variety
that death has been overcome in Jesus the great physician, prayers for the sick of reasons—natural or manmade.
Christ with a simple recounting of can be meaningfully incorporated into Earthquakes, typhoons, tsunamis,
what made the deceased special. This worship. Individuals who are ailing can wildfires, and volcanic eruptions strike
situation is unacceptable because it come forward so that hands can be laid without regard for one’s religious
marginalizes suffering and those who on them and prayer offered up for their orientation. The same can be said with
suffer and because it ignores a great healing. As many of the lament psalms regard to war and social disorder. In
body of biblical material that was were written for those experiencing other cases, Christians can be singled
written to help people through difficult physical illness, there is great pastoral out for direct attack by governments
times.12 When we leave no room for value in making them part of our or other members of society. When
lament in our worship we may well give prayers. Not only do they provide the disasters of this kind hit, it is only right
the impression that people struggling suffering with words to express their to demand of God, “Why?” When
with grief, trauma, and abandonment feelings and fears to God in faith, evil is constantly perpetrated, how
are either substandard Christians or they also point them to the hope that can one not ask the Judge of heaven,
that they have been left to plough God will hear their prayer, intervene “How long?” and then plead that he
through their difficulties on their own. for them, and give them reason to put the evildoers in their place and
praise his name again. Learned in destroy their works? When trouble or
Few Christians have experienced relief public worship, these words from the disaster hits a large body of believers,
from grief or pain through a liturgical Bible can be taken home so that a the appropriate response is to bring
use of biblical lament. The closest that person can address God again when a corporate lament to God whether
most of us have to experiencing relief praying for oneself or someone else. during the main weekly service of
from grief or pain through lament a church or a special service.
comes through praying prayers of Psalms that can be prayed for the sick
confession and absolution. While some include Psalms 20; 38; and 41. One Services of lament are particularly
may simply mouth the words and fail should be careful in the use of these needful when it becomes impossible
to experience any change, the prayers psalms as some of them relate illness to take part in a service of praise that
contradicts personal and corporate
38 Mission Round Table
feelings and experience. At such times, of sin, and allow us to experience Lamentations, and Habakkuk (1:2–4).
bringing heartache and confusion to the resurrection life for ourselves.
5
Bernhard Anderson lists forty-eight individual
laments, thirteen communal laments (with
God may be the only thing that makes two more questionable), and several psalms of
worship possible. Joining their brothers Conclusion mixed genre that include lament. Bernhard W.
and sisters in lament gives sufferers Anderson, Out of the Depths: The Psalms Speak
an opportunity to take hold of the for Us Today, 3rd ed. (Louisville: Westminster
Restoring lament to our worship clearly John Knox, 2000), 219–23. Evidently using
faith of others who are grieving along benefits the church in numerous ways. slightly different criteria, Broyles finds roughly
with them or have grieved in the past. In recognition that life is not always thirty-nine individual laments and twenty-three
When the group has worked through joyful, it allows us to live through the corporate laments in the Psalter. Craig C.
the time of trouble by bringing it to Broyles, “Lament, Psalms of,” in Dictionary of the
difficult times in God’s presence. This Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry and Writings, Tremper
the Lord of all mercy and receiving his is true whether the difficulty is the Longman III and Peter Enns, eds. (Downers
answers, it becomes possible for them result of a natural disaster, traumatic Grove: IVP Academic and Nottingham: IVP,
to return to God with words of praise. experience, or chronic illness. The 2008), 388–9, 391.
6
R. W. L. Moberly, “Lament,” in New
inclusion of lament may allow those
International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and
The use of lament in worship need not who may have felt marginalized due to Exegesis, Willem A. VanGemeren, ed. (Grand
be reserved for exceptional times of their problems to enter into worship in Rapids: Zondervan, 1997), 4:879.
tragedy. It can, and arguably should, a new way. It can help us come to a 7
Roland Murphy, “The Psalms and Worship,”
become part of our regular worship new perspective about sin and the hope Ex Auditu 8 (1992): 25. See also Michael Jinkins,
of God as we traverse the seasons of In the House of the Lord: Inhabiting the Psalms of
we have that Christ has sufficiently Lament (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical, 1998), 33.
the year. One of the best ways that dealt with it on the cross. As we follow 8
Though generally categorized as psalms of
this can be done is to integrate lament the pattern set out in the psalms of lament, some scholars refer to them as psalms of
into our celebration of the Christian lament, we learn that we can boldly complaint or psalms of petition. It can also be
Year. As this cycle of feasts developed reasonably argued that they could be categorized
bring all of our troubles before the as psalms of prayer. See Broyles, “Lament,”
in early church history, two penitential Lord who will hear us, intervene for us, 386–87. Since all of these motifs are present in
seasons—Advent and Lent—took and give us the hope that we will praise some but not all psalms that follow the genre, the
prominent place. Sadly, for many him again in this world and be freed use of one term as a label should not diminish the
churches today the penitential longing importance of the others.
from trouble in the next. MRT 9
Brueggemann, The Message of the Psalms, 52. His
of Advent and Lent has been eclipsed italics.
by the glory of Christmas and Easter 10
Claus Westermann, Praise and Lament in the
1
For an argument that distress is a dominant
(and often obliterated by the glitter of Psalms (Atlanta: John Knox, 1981), 177.
motif in the book of Psalms, see Philip S.
commercialism). Even so, our desire 11
John D. Witvliet, Worship Seeking Understanding:
Johnston, “The Psalms and Distress,” in
Windows into Christian Practice (Grand Rapids:
to experience the joy of Christ’s birth Interpreting the Psalms: Issues and Approaches (Downers
Baker Academic, 2003), 46–47.
and resurrection should not deprive us Grove: IVP Academic, 2005), 63–84. 12
Allen Verhey, Reading the Bible in the Strange
of time to consider the wonder of the
2
Walter Brueggemann, The Message of the Psalms:
World of Medicine (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,
A Theological Commentary (Minneapolis: Augsburg,
incarnation that brought on our Savior’s 1984), 52.
2003), 123.
suffering. By becoming man, the
13
Of these, Psalm 32 is usually categorized as
3
Brueggemann, The Message of the Psalms, 53.
a psalm of thanksgiving rather than a psalm of
Creator faced obscurity, the Almighty 4
In addition to the lament psalms, other biblical
lament. According to Broyles, only Psalms 32;
experienced rejection and ridicule, the examples of lament include various passages in
51; and 130 are chiefly concerned with sin and
Job (especially 29–31), Jeremiah (11:18–12:6;
Righteous One endured temptation 15:10–21; 17:12–18; 18:18–23; 20:7–18),
forgiveness. Broyles, “Lament,” 389.
without giving in to sin, and the
14
Shevuot 15b; Rambam, Hilchot Avodat Kochavim
11:12.
eternal Lord died for the sins of others.
These sober realities require somber
reflection. As the seasons of Advent
and Lent are designed to give us time A Sacred Sorrow:
to consider these themes, we should Reaching Out to God
avail ourselves of this opportunity.
This does not mean that the seasons in the Lost Language
should only focus on fasting and solemn
thoughts. Advent and Lent, while not
of Lament
designed to follow the structure of the Michael Card (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2005).
psalms of lament, work in a similar
direction since they begin by focusing Card draws from laments of Job, David,
on sin, suffering, and weakness, and end Jeremiah, and Jesus to encourage recovery of
with celebrations of hope and joy. Like the lost language of lament as the pathway to
the laments, both seasons are imbued worship in the wilderness of pain and suffering.
with eschatological hope. As the Old Appendices include selected extra-biblical laments.
Testament saints remembered God’s The companion book, A Sacred Sorrow Experience
past salvation while awaiting deliverance Guide, leads readers through fifty days of Scripture
from their times of trouble, those readings and reflective questions to write their
who celebrate Christmas and Easter own laments. The theme of lament amidst fear
remember what God accomplished and pain is also captured in beautifully written
by sending Jesus as they await the songs with thought-provoking lyrics in Card's
second coming when Christ will fully album, The Hidden Face of God.
establish his kingdom, judge the world

Worshipping God Through Suffering Walter McConnell 39


The Axe and the On the night of June 23rd 1978, eight
British missionaries and four of their
development of the Elim Church over
the next thirty years. The most poignant
Tree: How Bloody children were massacred in an isolated moment in the book describes the impact
mission school in Vumba, Northern on those who committed this atrocity of
Persecution Sowed Zimbabwe. This book tells the story of the message of forgiveness in Christ and
the Seeds of New the events leading to this massacre, the
response of the mission community, and
the willingness of Christians to forgive.

Life in Zimbabwe the subsequent impact of this tragedy on This book is based on many years of
the growth of the church in Zimbabwe. study and meticulous research. It is a
By Stephen Griffiths. Oxford, UK: Monarch, significant contribution to the history
2017. ISBN 9780857217899. 368 pp. From one perspective it is not an of Christian mission and provides a
Reviewed by David Harley easy book to read, for it speaks of the vivid illustration of the tensions faced by
heartbreak of those who lost friends Christians living under persecution and
and colleagues, and of their struggle to caught up in a war of liberation. The
understand the purposes of a sovereign author is not afraid to address the difficult
and loving God. At the same time it is political and theological questions raised
an inspiring book, providing as it does a by this tragedy.
model of faith, love, and perseverance.
Peter and Brenda Griffiths, who Many people can write. A few have
built up this mission school, were not exceptional descriptive powers. Steve
present on the day of the massacre, but Griffiths is one. Every chapter reflects the
had to cope with its aftermath. They mood and tensions of the period about
believed that forgiveness was the only which he writes. Many passages evoke
appropriate Christian response to what the beauty of southern Africa in which
had happened. Through their willingness he grew up. This book is well written,
to forgive and their determination to informative, and inspiring. I found it
persevere in their God-given calling, they challenging and informative. It moved
were able to play a critical role in the me to tears. It may do the same to you.

It’s OK to be Pastor Rico Villanueva is concerned


that negative experiences are rarely
Christians by revealing a different
side of our faith and hope.
Not OK: The expressed in church activities. Rarely, if
Villanueva mentions the benefits of
Message of the ever, do Christians mention our “bad”
emotions, weaknesses, or failures. Instead, expressing our difficulties. It can give us
Lament Psalms we sing happy songs and give victorious and others more realistic expectations
about the Christian life. It can help
testimonies. As a result, we are ill-
By Rico G. Villanueva. prepared to face difficulty and tragedy. us name our struggle which can both
Manila: OMF Literature, 2012. To counter this situation, Villanueva prevent it from becoming something
ISBN 9789710091294. 263 pp studied the lament psalms for his PhD darker and lead to healing. It opens the
doors for others to suffer with us. In
Reviewed by Andy Smith dissertation. His research led to It’s Ok
addition, it grants them the permission to
to be Not OK, a book that shares his
discoveries with lay Christians. express their difficulties. Plus, many who
face their struggles get to know God in
The titles of the book’s eight chapters new ways.
give a clear idea of its message: It’s OK
to be down…to be sad…to cry…to By urging Christians to lament, the book
be afraid…to struggle…to be angry… prepares us to respond to tragic events.
to question God…and to fail. In each Thus it can help us deal with the loss of
chapter, Villanueva names biblical a loved one, prodigal children, health
characters who experienced the above. challenges, natural disasters, manmade
He notes times when Jesus was down, disasters, and crime. It can also help
sad, and angry, cried, struggled, and missionaries respond to disappointments
questioned God. To supplement the such as lack of fruit in mobilization
biblical references, he includes modern efforts, being under-appreciated, or,
examples and quotes from recent writers harder yet, opposed, and working
on these subjects. towards but not yet seeing a movement
of any kind.
Villanueva assures us that it is not
sinful to experience these feelings. We Read this book. Preach its message. Give
are, after all, engaged in a serious copies to others. Study and discuss it in
The book is available in print form
battle. Occasionally, things do not go groups. Learn to lament together. For
in the Philippines and in digital form
as we expect. God will not punish lamenting will help us face hard times in
from most e-book providers. healthier ways and it will make it possible
us for pouring out our emotions to
him. Further, expressing our feelings for us to minister to each other in new
could improve our witness to non- and important ways.

40 Mission Round Table


The Role Christian Values Play in
Motivating International Christian
Ministries’ Collaboration in
Disaster Relief Work
Sng Bee Bee 1. Introduction

D
isasters like earthquakes and the region for many years and are
tsunamis devastate whole committed to sustainable, long-term
communities of people, community development. Therefore,
resulting in a large number the disaster relief work of Christian
of fatalities and the displacement of ministries has significant long-term
many people. In the past, when a impact on communities in which
disaster has shattered a community, local people can witness Christian
churches and other Christian ministries love and values in action through
have been among the first to respond the professional work of Christians.
by providing humanitarian aid and
have often played a significant role The social engagement of Christian
in disaster relief. Their humanitarian organisations shows that they are
effort—consisting of medical aid, participating in the wider shared
rebuilding of infrastructure, providing interests, goals, and values of
Bee Bee is currently an equipment for purifying water, society. Their motivation for social
independent Lecturer in rebuilding houses, counselling those engagement lies in their sense of duty
Communications and suffering from trauma, and teaching and moral obligation towards the
Writing Skills with the local children—provides visible, practical, needy.4 In addition, the church’s social
universities and a Bible and influential witness of the love engagement is a phenomenon that
college in Singapore. She of Christ for the affected people. In has historical significance. For these
has been involved in mission addition, Christian organisations are reasons, it is important to examine the
work relating to education in concerned about holistic development perspectives of Christian professionals
several East Asian countries and their involvement takes place at regarding the impact their professional
for a number of years. She both international and local levels work and accompanying Christian
has also been involved where they have operated on a long- values have made on communities that
in organizing seminars term basis.1 have been affected by natural disasters.
for Christian teachers in The outcomes of this study will show
Singapore. She graduated Christian ministries have also been the impact of an authentic Christian
with an EdD specializing known to have close contacts with and life on one such community.
in education management a good working knowledge of disaster-
from Leicester University, affected communities and are able
2. Research questions and
in the UK. Her research to provide sustainable development
interests are educational work in the form of education and methodology
change, English Language, medical services. In terms of social
and the internet and Christian engagement, Christian ministries often The questions this paper addressed are:
faith. She can be contacted act as an intermediary body between
at beesng@gmail.com. the government and the people, in 1. What is the nature of the disaster
the sense that they offer social and relief work performed by the
voluntary services in society.2 In many Christian organization?
countries, Christians also provide 2. How do Christian values and beliefs
social welfare by running private motivate and shape the professional
hospitals, drug rehabilitation centres, work of the Christian relief workers?
and HIV relief programs.3 Christian 3. What are the effects of Christian
ministries also play a significant role disaster relief work in the
in disaster and post-disaster recovery affected community?
work as they are prepared to stay in

Mission Round Table 12:3 (September–December 2017): 41–44 41


This paper involves a case study of a communities. It will also show that He elaborated that the emphasis of
Christian ministry which is involved in Christian professionals are motivated their community development work lies
disaster relief work in East Asia. This to cooperate with the government in building relationships.
study utilized in-depth, semi-structured to provide urgent medical attention
interviews conducted with professionals to the people in these areas by their The relief team needed to overcome
who worked in the disaster affected Christian values and biblical teaching geographical and cultural barriers to
area. These professionals include a that their faith should be shown by facilitate the relief effort. Callie is a
businessman, an engineer, an English their actions of helping the needy. Canadian who has been taking teams
teacher, a physiotherapist, and a project of teachers from North America to
coordinator. The engineer and English 4. The nature of Christian teach English to the children in the
teacher made short trips into the professionals’ involvement schools in the earthquake affected
area and were involved with intensive area. Like Peter, she was motivated by
Summer English programs for the in the Christian ministry: the relationships she has established
youths who lived in the epicenter of the Responses from interviews with the local people. However, she
earthquake, while the physiotherapist conducted confessed that while she initially found
worked in the physiotherapy clinic set planning the English teaching programs
up by the Christian ministry for a year. IMC’s involvement in the disaster relief and procuring materials difficult, as
Pseudonyms have been used for all work maintains two main foci: medical she made more trips to the area and
participants and the Christian ministry work in the areas of physiotherapy built relationships with the students she
involved in this study in order to and training of the indigenous doctors became more familiar with their needs.
maintain confidentiality. and physiotherapists, and English She became better equipped to adjust
teaching. Their Christian medical the teaching program to match their
3. Background of the personnel aimed to develop the skills learning needs.
Christian professional of the local professionals so that they
would be more able to contribute to Christian professional ministry has an
ministry the development of their community. advantage over international NGOs as
Those who were involved in community they have a better working knowledge
A few years ago a major earthquake development were motivated by the of the culture and needs of local people
wrecked whole cities near the epicenter biblical understanding that they should than the larger organizations whose
and resulted in the loss of tens of show compassion to the needy. As presence and work in the community
thousands of lives. This disaster drew Psalms 145:9 states that “The Lord last for a much shorter period of time.
large numbers of Christians from is good to all; he has compassion on James, a Singaporean businessman who
both local churches and international all he has made,” they believed they has worked in a factory in the country
Christian NGOs who volunteered their should demonstrate his compassion. At that was affected by the earthquake, was
medical, counselling, and educational the same time, they maintained that responsible for recruiting counsellors for
expertise to help the victims. Soon their role was not to proselytize the the affected people. He highlighted the
after the earthquake happened, IMC (a locals but to demonstrate their Christian importance of counselling, explaining
pseudonym for an international NGO) compassion through their unconditional that the rapid economic development
began to work with local officials to professional service. of the country has resulted in growing
provide international aid workers such materialism and individualism which
as trauma doctors, physiotherapists, Peter, an engineer, joined a small threaten community bonds and has
occupational therapists, counsellors, team of Singaporeans who went to the led to emotional problems. In the
and youth workers to help the victims. area to conduct an intensive Summer earthquake-affected parts of the country,
The local government provided the English program for students who were counsellors are needed to help the
overarching management of the NGO’s affected by the earthquake. Even before indigenous people overcome post-
voluntary projects in this earthquake this trip, Peter had worked with IMC to traumatic syndrome disorder. As James
relief work and allocated the sites for the develop a prototype business in a rural says,
various NGOs to share their expertise community that was part of a poverty-
in helping the victims. From the time alleviation program. This business The area needs social workers and
of the earthquake, IMC continued to venture enlisted members of the local counselors, because, as it grows
run English programs for children who population to produce clothes, cushion economically, people focus on
were affected by the earthquake. It also covers, and other gift products based on personal growth and materialism.
provided medical services and training indigenous tribal designs. This results in broken relationships,
for local doctors who lived near the causing pain and hurt to people. So
epicenter of the earthquake. Peter explained that his belief in God the needs are changing from seeking
and his love for the people led him to basic survival to seeking money, 向钱
As this paper will show, the ministry participate in community development 走, 向钱看, seeking material wealth
of Christian professionals, operating work. He also explained that this and all that. When people were only
through an international NGO, plays organisation is not confrontational striving to quench their basic thirsts
a significant role in cooperating with in preaching the gospel. Instead, and survive personally, people’s
local governments to provide training the Christian ministry believed that relationships were more of a support.
of local doctors and teachers, and Christians can influence the indigenous But since people are 同苦不能同富,
to assist the sustainable recovery people by demonstrating their Christian as your neighbor grows richer, you
and development of disaster hit values and the way they live their lives. become jealous and all that. You start

42 Mission Round Table


to have problems and all that. So we training to the doctors in the area. economy and rapid urbanization
have to help them to be reconciled of the country in East Asia.5
since their needs have changed. Of 5. Analysis: The role
course, the increasing focus is on of Christian ministries The multi-national and multi-cultural
attending to their emotional and nature of IMC Christian teams serves
spiritual needs, while not minimizing in disaster relief and as a model of interdependence and
their need for basic physical survival. development work community building for indigenous
So the role has increased from one communities. They also provide
of providing basic healthcare to According to the interviewees in a model of how foreign personnel
providing other needs. I see three this research, Christian professional can work with local communities.
words, what do you call it, 第一是生 ministries provide needed resources in Furthermore, Christians work towards
存 (survival), 第二是生活 (living), 第 disaster-affected areas such as medical sustainable development, with the
三是生命 (life). From 生存 to 生活 to equipment, medical and education goal of supporting the local culture,
生命, emphasizes one’s relational life, services and training, volunteers, and developing existing trade and skills,
one’s quality of life. leadership models. In addition, the and improving the self-esteem of the
interviewees explained that through people by helping them to be effective
The changing needs of the area have the relief work of IMC, the local in their current type of economy. The
motivated Christians who minister community witnesses how a team tagline of Christian ministries like
there to review their strategy to made up of people from different IMC is: “Give a man a fish and you
ensure that they meet the needs of the cultures can work effectively. This feed him for one day. Teach him to
local community. Tight regulations exposure to multicultural teams helps fish and you feed him for a life.”
led IMC to focus on building the the community to become more open
capacity of local professionals so that to external resources, training, and Cooperation of multi-stakeholders in
the State can see the validity of their exchanging ideas. These ingredients working towards culturally sensitive
work in equipping the local people are needed for the development and sustainable development is crucial.6
to help themselves. Sally, a program of the community, so Christian Greater collaboration from well-
coordinator who recruited teams of workers need to be sensitive to the resourced and committed agencies
professionals from Singapore and local cultures. Furthermore, the such as those of Christian ministries,
facilitated the coordination of their Christian relief teams are careful not “could lead to an increase in cohesive,
programs in the area, reiterated to present a different standard of well-informed and grassroots-orientated
the need to meet the needs of the living to the people in the sense that development policies and service
community. they can afford more material things delivery.”7 In addition, “one of the
than many of the local people. strengths of faith-based organisations
The resources that IMC provides for is their longstanding presence and
the community have evolved. While In addition, the local government commitment to humanitarian work
previously, hospitals regularly requested officials acknowledged that Christian in developing countries.”8 Having
medical equipment, rapid economic humanitarian work provides crucial said this, the key criteria of effective
development means they can now resources to disaster-hit areas in humanitarian work are sustainable
afford to purchase such equipment the form of medical equipment and development, cultural sensitivity, and
themselves. However, they do not treatment, trauma counselling and partnerships with local authorities.
necessarily have the expertise to use this education, and that the commitment of
equipment. IMC’s role was therefore to the Christians leads to more sustainable 6. Challenges
provide medical expertise to train them community development in affected
to use the equipment. Sally says: communities. Social harmony is an According to the interviews conducted
important aspect in the local people’s in this study, the benefits that IMC
The needs of the rural places where worldview. IMC’s volunteers received brings to the local community are
we are working in have not changed. the feedback from local officials that tremendous. However, the interviewees
There is a lot of development in they clearly recognise the benefits revealed that the international nature
the area. So, the hospitals stopped that Christian work brings in the of Christian work can result in gaps
requesting equipment like CT areas of community development and in coordination and facilitation. The
scanners which they used to ask for humanitarian efforts. Historically, the labour-intensive nature of humanitarian
ten to twenty years ago. Now, what literature on the work of Christian work means that IMC has to engage
will happen is they will probably NGOs in China shows that Christian in massive recruitment. In addition,
show you their CT scanner and they ministries have been responsible for its dependence on multi-national
will confess that they don’t really improving education and medical volunteers requires coordinating the
know how to use it. “Can you send services in the rural communities. schedules of the volunteers with the
someone to help us?” So, what we They have proven to be effective schedule of the recipient communities.
can do now is to provide the expertise in improving elementary education, This means that coordinators are
to train them to use the medical health care, media, and social welfare, needed both in the country that
equipment. So, we still have a niche all of which have long-term effects receives the relief and the countries
in sending specialists. We are very on society. The social engagement that send the relief workers. Close
privileged in Singapore to have a lot of Christian ministries provides communication is needed among these
of specialist doctors who are believers solutions to problems resulting from coordinators so that expectations and
and are willing to go to provide the the rapid decrease of the agricultural needs can be clearly communicated

The Role Christian Values Play in Disaster Relief Work Sng Bee Bee 43
in order for them to be met. and needs of the affected community 1
Josef Boehle, “Religious NGOs at the UN
above themselves. Colossians 3:12 and the Millennium Development Goals: An
Introduction,” Global Change, Peace & Security 22
In addition, the interviewees admitted describes the attitudes and spirit that no. 3 (October 2010): 275–296.
that the immense cross-cultural Christian workers, like those in IMC, 2
A. A. An-Na’im, “The Politics of Religion
differences and the sheer load of should have: “Therefore, as God’s and the Morality of Globalization,” in Religion
coordination needed often results chosen people, holy and dearly loved, in Global Civil Society, Mark Juergensmeyer, ed.
(Oxford: OUP, 2005), 23–48; Peter Berger,
in lapses of communication and clothe yourselves with compassion, “Religion and Global Civil Society,” in Religion
coordination. This is not to say that kindness, humility, gentleness and in Global Civil Society, Mark Juergensmeyer, ed.
international NGOs in general do patience.” The IMC Christian workers (Oxford: OUP, 2005), 11-22.
not face such problems. Rather, it believe that they show this kindness,
3
Xiaheng Xie, “Religion and Modernity in
China: Who is Joining the Three Self Church
means that the IMC teams need to compassion, gentleness, and patience and Why,” Journal of Church and State 52 no. 1
undergo cross-cultural and team- through their professional work and (January 2010): 74-93.
building training so that the diversity the way they relate to one another 4
Boehle, “Religious NGOs.”
of the cultures and giftings of the both in the teams and with the local 5
Gerda Wielander, Christian Values in Communist
China (London and New York: Routledge/Taylor
team members become the strengths people. Through this long-term and
& Francis Group, 2013).
and assets of the teams. Ultimately, sustainable work and presence in the 6
Boehle, “Religious NGOs,” 275–296.
it is the commitment and faith of the community, the local people have 7
Boehle, “Religious NGOs,” 286.
Christian members that motivate them been touched by the unconditional 8
Boehle, “Religious NGOs,” 291.
to work towards filling such gaps. love of the IMC workers. This is also
the incarnational model of ministry
Conclusion that Jesus himself showed us in the
New Testament. As a result, the local
In summary, the nature of IMC’s people witness Christian values in
disaster relief work is marked by the work, actions, relationships, and
an emphasis on professionalism lives of the workers. Gradually, this
and commitment to skills, attitudes, situation has the effect of transforming
and values of work. The interviews the whole community from within
indicated that team members are as they observe the difference in the
also committed to overcome both lives of Christians. In conclusion, this
challenges in the disaster hit areas and research demonstrates that Christian
coordination of the teams. This entails ministries can bring significant benefits
that they place their calling from God to disaster-affected communities. MRT

Killing Fields Living Fields: Faith in Cambodia


Don Cormack (Tain, UK: Christian Focus, 2011).

This is an inspiring account of the history of the Cambodian church starting from the 1920s
when it was first planted among rice farmers of North-West Cambodia. Its slow and painful
growth was followed by fifty years of nearly fruitless toil culminating in a period of spiritual
awakening amidst indescribable devastation under the Khmer Rouge. Cormack recounts
poignant stories of individuals he knew personally and testimonies passed on to him to tell
the heart-breaking and hope-inspiring story of God’s work and intervention on behalf of
Cambodian believers amidst suffering.

Left: Believers at the Aranya Prathet Cambodian refugee camp reading the Bible and Khmer literature reprinted by OMF; Don Cormack
on the right in the front row. Centre: Cambodian refugee housing at Nong Samet, Thailand. Right: Don Cormack ministering to a Khmer
Rouge soldier dying of celebral malaria. East Asia Millions (Oct/Nov 1981): 98, 100.

44 Mission Round Table


Surrounded by So Great
a Cloud of Witnesses
Claire McConnell
Claire is the Archivist at the International Center and contributing Editor of the Mission Round Table.

T
he later part of the 1920s was real choice and Christians and non- limitations, but not of loyalty; the end of
a time of great turbulence in Christians together suffered under these pain, but not of praise.”2
China. Wracked by civil war, city horrendous conditions.
and countryside alike suffered “A Perilous Journey
under the fighting. Added to this was The missionaries were not immune to
by Raft”
suffering through the earthquake at this suffering and the pages of China’s
Kansu1, plague, and famine. And then Millions from 1927 recount many stories,
Orders to evacuate the stations in the
there were the frequent violent raids by two of which will be mentioned briefly
far northwest province of Kansu came
brigand bands, some hundreds strong, along with a fuller account of a third.
in April 1927, and so fifty gathered,
which occupied cities and towns for days
thirty-eight adults and twelve children,
on end, pillaging and carrying off food, An Ultimate Sacrifice in Lanchow to begin the journey down
possessions, and often men, women,
the Yellow River on eight specially built,
and children to be held for ransom or Dr. G. Whitfield Guinness arrived in small, light sheep-skin rafts. Apart from
killed. In this mayhem, which in some China in 1897 and mainly worked in having to navigate the natural hazards
areas was heightened by anti-British the province of Honan where he saw of rapids and whirlpools, these travelers
and anti-Christian sentiment that at two hospitals established in the capital had to dodge the bullets from local
times led to riots, missionaries had Kaifeng. It was here in March 1927 that pirates who demanded a toll for safe
to make the decision to stay at their numbers of wounded soldiers came for passage of each raft. Having paid the toll
stations or evacuate to the coast. Many treatment. One of these had typhus and once, the frightened raftsmen insisted
mission stations were commandeered Dr. Guinness took on his case. The call it was safer to travel only by night. The
by the soldiers as billets or hospitals, to evacuate came just as Dr. Guinness Yellow River is notorious for sandbars
as they were usually among the larger went down with fever. While they were and inevitably one night all eight rafts
compounds. Consular pressure resulted able to evacuate him along with the were grounded. The next morning (5
in most leaving the interior stations. others to Peking, he died of typhus June), having freed his own raft, the
But for some leaving where they were four days later. D. M. Gibson writes: leader of the party, Dr. George E. King,
known and trusted to make a journey of “The end, yes, faithful unto death, an went to the aid of the other five rafts still
thousands of miles through treacherous honourable end, a soldier’s end, and yet grounded. After all but one of the rafts
territory was not a viable option so they not the end of life: rather the entrance were free, he waded into the river to help
stayed at their posts. Of course for into life more abundant. The end of with this last one but was carried away
the Chinese themselves there was no weakness, but not of worship; the end of by the swift current and drowned in a
whirlpool. His body was never recovered.
Dr. King had been born in China to CIM
missionaries and had come back to
China as a medical missionary in 1911 at
the age of twenty-three. He spent most
of his missionary career in Lanchow at
The Borden Memorial Hospital. Today
at that hospital, now the Number Two
Hospital in Lanzhou, there is a museum
which tells the history of the hospital.
This story is recounted in full and so
the witness of Dr. King and the King he
served continues.3

“In Perils of Robbers”4


Typical goatskin raft for 2 or 3 people. Photographed by Rev. Claude L. Pickens Jr. (1933) On 8 April, 1927, C.I.M. missionaries
© President and Fellows of Harvard College. Digital image from https://www.hpcbristol. Mr. and Mrs. Slichter, their son John
net/visual/hv45-32 (6), and daughter Ruth (3) and a fellow

Mission Round Table 12:3 (September–December 2017): 45–47 45


missionary Miss Mary Craig, travelling
from Anshun in Kweichow to Yunnanfu,
left the town of Loping in the province of
Yunnan under the protection of armed
Militia and soldiers. A day into their
journey they were attacked by a large
band of robbers with tragic results. The
following is a letter to the Deputy Director
in China, George W. Gibb, written by
Mary Craig a few days after her release
by the robbers.

Letter from Mary Craig:

Having but to-day secured pen


and paper, I want to take this first
opportunity of writing you of the
brigands’ attack upon us and our
subsequent captivity… Borden Memorial Hospital, Lanchow. Administration and operating room unit.
Photographed by Rev. Claude L. Pickens Jr. (1933) © President and Fellows of Harvard
On Friday morning, April 8, we College. Digital image from https://www.hpcbristol.net/visual/hv45-39
left the city of Loping under escort
of one hundred armed Militia and bullet struck the child in the head, and On our daily moves in and out and
soldiers. About noon of that day it was passing through tore an ugly gash in over the hills during the next week, I
decided we should not go on, but wait Mrs. Slichter’s left wrist, as it fell to the need not dwell. There were terrible
until more soldiers could be sent to ground. Another robber stabbed Mr. days filled with suspense and terror.
strengthen our escort. By next morning Slichter in the back with his bayonet, Food was given us, but we could eat
these had come, and we set forth again. evidently piercing the heart, killing him little, and sleep came in fitful, troubled
It was reported that there were two instantly. He fell without a sound. The naps. But God was always near us,
places where the robbers were bad, child lived for about fifteen minutes, but and His comfort and strength were
and the first of these we succeeded in was entirely unconscious all the time. unspeakably precious.
passing in the course of the morning. Thus God graciously spared them any
This was Saturday, April 9. It was conscious suffering. On the Friday…after our incarceration
about 2 o’clock, I judge, when only began the soldiers from this city came
about ten miles from this city and our Another group of robbers coming to seek our release, but after a short
journey’s end for that day, our escort upon us robbed Mr. Slichter’s battle with them the robbers became
became quite excited. They had sighted dead body, snatched Mrs. Slichter’s frightened and turned and fled with
a number of robbers on a knoll some and my glasses and my hat and us. The soldiers pursued, much to our
little distance beyond us to the right sweater which I was wearing. fright and terror, as we had to run up
of us. There must have been some of over the hills with the bullets flying
them in hiding in the thickets through After this we were left alone with all round us and very near us. After
which we were passing for, in a few our dead and our sorrow for perhaps retreating for a distance of ten miles
moments, when we came out into a half-an-hour, while the robbers ran we came upon a little deserted village,
clear place and began to ascend a small on to fight our escort, of whom, we where we spent the night.
hill the robbers opened fire on us. Our learned later, twenty odd were killed
coolies became terrified, dropped our and a number taken captive. Returning Next morning I was released. At
loads and chairs and ran. So did our from the battle the brigands took day break the robbers rode off with
escort take to their heels and run. Being Mrs. Slichter, John and me off with Mrs. Slichter and John and left me
left alone our party got down and ran them to a near-by village. After much behind, telling me to go with a letter
too. For a time, I lost sight of Mr. and agonized pleading on Mrs. Slichter's they had written, to the soldiers and
Mrs. Slichter and the children, but by part, the body of Mr. Slichter was say to them that if they continued
crawling on my hands and knees I was brought into the village and tossed to pursue them and fight they would
led—by the Spirit of God, I believe—to into a stable. They refused to bring kill Mrs. Slichter and John. I found
where they were, crouching down in a Ruth’s body, but Mrs. Slichter and the soldiers and they promised they
rice field—this to avoid being struck by I succeeded in carrying her thither would not fight. They then sent me
flying bullets. ourselves. Next morning when we here to this hsien city, where I'm
saw Mr. Slichter’s body it had been being kindly looked after by the
We summarize only the painful details robbed of all clothing. Under the cruel, magistrate and his wife in the yamen.
of the shooting and stabbing. Three of unsympathetic and evil gaze of these
the robbers attacked the missionaries, terrible men and with a little dirty Nothing definite has been heard of Mrs.
and heedless of their cry for mercy, tub, which held still dirtier water, we Slichter and John since I left them.
one of them took aim and fired at managed to bathe and reclothe the About a thousand soldiers hold the
Mrs. Slichter, who was holding little body and place it, with that of Ruth’s, passage round about the robbers about
three-year-old Ruth in her arms. The into a coffin obtained in the village. twenty miles from here, and the officials

46 Mission Round Table


are hopeful of securing Mrs. Slichter’s
release in a day or two now. The family
of the leader is being held until he
releases Mrs. Slichter.

Comfort in sorrow

Mr. Allen came from Yunnanfu,


reaching here last Wednesday. What
his presence means to me in this time
of grave uncertainty none but our
Heavenly Father knows. All day he is
busy seeing officials, sending telegrams
and attending to any number of smaller
details which have to do with Mrs.
Slichter's and my welfare.

The coffin which we got out on the


A group of Kweichow Missionaries, with Mr. W. H. Warren (seated in front row) from
hills was sent here last week and Shanghai. They had met for Conference from 30 May to 1 June 1926. The group include
Mr. Allen has been busy to-day Mr. & Mrs. Slichter and their two children. Mr. Slichter, with little Ruth in his arms, is
purchasing a better one, and having the standing in the back row, second from the right, and Mrs. Slichter is seated in the front
bodies transferred to it under proper row, also second from the right, with her son John at her feet. China’s Millions (July 1927):
conditions, so it can be taken with us 110.
to the capital for burial. Greatly has he
strengthened and encouraged me by yields uncomplainingly to the will of Editor's comments:
his clear exhortations on the Word and God, and is trusting Him for all that
prayer. Truly I praise God for giving is to come. I am sure none of us can On 25 April 1927, Mrs. Slichter and
John were rescued by Colonel Chang
me the blessing of his presence and help conceive of the hardness of her lot now
Ch’ung.
at this special time. that she is alone with John among those
Morris Slichter was born on 30 June
evil men. But one thing we can all be 1884. He worked as a flourist in
Our intention is to wait here until Mrs. sure of is that God knows all about Toronto Canada before going to China
Slichter and John are released, which it and never leaves her. We trust her to join the CIM at the age of 31,
we trust in God’s good providence will implicitly to Him, believing He will arriving there on 19 October 1915. In
not be long now. carry her through. When I left them she Chongking on 4 November 1919, he
and John were both well. MRT married Miss Irma L. Newcombe, an
I might say that Mrs. Slichter’s American from Morganfield, Kentucky.
wound in itself is not serious. It She had arrived in China to join CIM
1
The names of places in this article follow the on 11 November 1915 at 21 years of
is quite superficial and, unless it spelling used in the China's Millions. age. They worked together in Anshun,
becomes infected from lack of care 2
D. M. Gibson, “A Brief Tribute to my ‘Chief’,” Kweichow and had two children, John
which, since I left her, she may have China’s Millions (June 1927): 92. and Ruth. After Morris and Ruth were
difficulty in securing, it should heal
3
Info from “Refugees from Kansu,” China’s
murdered by bandits on 9 April 1927,
Millions (August 1927): 123–124; T. W. Goodall,
all right. We are praying that God “In Memoriam: George E. King,” China’s Irma remained in China until 1931,
may keep her from all untoward Millions (September 1927): 134. resigning from the CIM in April 1932.
effects from the bad environment 4
Mary Craig, “’In Perils of Robbers’,” China’s Miss Mary Isabel Craig, a nurse from
she is forced to be in these days. Millions (July 1927): 110–111. Philadelphia, arrived in China in 1913
and joined the CIM on 5 January 1925,
All we had is gone, save a few of the aged 36. After the events recorded
China’s Millions 1927–1928 is above Mary remained in China,
children’s clothes and a little bedding. available for download at marrying Robert G. Walker, a British
But what are things? Gladly do we http://findit.library.yale.edu/ CIMer, in Chefoo on 5 December
let them go, and happy will we be catalog/digcoll:221343 1932. After Robert’s death in 1949
without them, when once again our Mary continued in China, leaving in the
dear friend is with us. “Our God is For readers who are interested in early 1950s when all missionaries had
able to deliver thee” are words that other volumes of China’s Millions to leave China. She then worked in the
filled my thoughts all the day and published by China Inland Mission: UK office until 1956. She died on 18
night before my release, and to-day January 1969.
Searchable PDF copies of volumes
they have taken hold of me again. God of China’s Millions are available at
grant that we may see them fulfilled the Internet Archives and Yale
on behalf of our sister very soon. University Library Digital Collection
at https://archive.org/search.
P.S. On reading over this letter, I find php?query=%22China%27s%20
I have said nothing of how wonderfully Millions%22 (Internet Archives) and
Mrs. Slichter is being sustained through http://findit.library.yale.edu/ (type
all her sorrow and grief. While she is ‘China’s Millions’ in the search field).
greatly stunned by the blow, yet she

Surrounded by So Great a Cloud of Witnesses Claire McConnell 47


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48 Mission Round Table