O be a worker for God in any capacity is a wonderful privilege and blessing. He who has been chosen as an ambassador for Christ, and as a representative of His cause in the world, has had bestowed upon him a tremendous and sacred responsibility. Especially is this true of the men and women who arc called to serve in the mission field. It means much for a person to accept a call as a foreign missionary, and the Mission Board makes a heavy investment in every person selected for such service. This can easily be appreciated when we think of the amount of money necessary to bring a family from the homeland and maintain that family for a year or more while the members are engaged in language study and preparation for work.
It is usually thought necessary that a major portion of the first term of service be spent in getting acquainted with the language, customs, and habits of the people. Many testify that it is really not until the second term in the field and onward that the missionary is able to accomplish what he feels is effective and efficient service. But the years he has spent in study and in getting acquainted have not been wasted. If he continues in the field, these years will prove to be of inestimable value to him and to his work.
On the other hand, if for any reason a missionary leaves his post at or before the close of the first term of service, it is easy to see that all the money spent in bringing him to the field, supporting him while there, and bringing him to the homeland again, in addition to the time and human energy expended, is to a large degree wasted. If another has to be sent out, it means that the same ground must be gone over again.
How important it is, therefore, that men and women who accept service in a foreign field should consider the call a permanent thing. Service in a mission field should be looked upon as a lifework. Going to a mission land should not be considered as a sort of temporary transfer from one field to another.
We all recognize, of course, that many earnest workers have been compelled to leave the field because of ill-health, or for other unavoidable reasons. On the other hand, many have left because they did not like the country, or the people, or because they felt that their people at home needed their help, or for some other reason which seemed urgent to them. We sometimes wonder whether all look upon the matter of being selected by the Mission Board, and being sent to a mission field at tremendous expense to the cause, as seriously as they should.
If modern missionaries could sec in mission service what David Livingstone saw in it, and would relate themselves to the situation as he did, very few would be satisfied to return home to stay at the close of the first or second term of service. They would want to stay as long as God gave them life. This is what David Livingstone once said regarding his attitude toward mission service:
For my part, I have never ceased to rejoice that God has appointed me to such an office. People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa. Can that be called a sacrifice which is simply paid back as a small part of a great debt owing to our God which we can never repay? Is that a sacrifice which brings its own best reward in healthful activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind, and a bright hope of glorious destiny hereafter ? Away with the thought in such a view, and with such a thought !
"It is emphatically no sacrifice. Say, rather, it is a privilege. Anxiety, sickness, suffering, or danger now and then, with a foregoing of the common conveniences and charities of this life, make us pause and cause the spirit to waver and the soul to sink, but let this be for only a moment. All these are nothing when compared with the glory which shall hereafter be revealed in and for us. I never made a sacrifice."
If all would take this attitude, what a difference it would make ! Surely we ought to consider this important question seriously and look upon our appointment as a "missionary for life," unless the Lord very clearly indicates that our program should be otherwise.