So, you have been called to a foreign field! The reading of the letter from the General Conference secretary brought a thrill to your heart. Here it is. This is the real thing! The letter, recited how the General Conference Committee had been searching for someone of your capabilities to fill a certain position in a specific field, and, after prayer and study, the choice fell upon you.
The General Conference Committee believed that God directed them in placing this call with you. Now what are you going to do about it? The decision rests with you.
There are many around you who are ready and anxious to give advice. Without any consideration of the needs of the field to which you have been called, they can tell you at once that you should not go. But why should you not respond and go?
First, says one, you are needed more at home. Someone who has never seen a foreign field, and who knows absolutely nothing of the staggering magnitude of the unfinished task abroad, is always ready with the advice, "You are needed more here." Poor, ignorant counselors! Little do they realize how often they give advice contrary to the facts and to the will of God.
Often the second reason given why the call should be declined is, "If you go to a mission field, you will soon lose touch with the home field, get out of date, become a back number, and, if and when you find it necessary to return to the homeland, it will be difficult for you to fit into the work again."
The devil seems to use this excuse more effectually than any other. And yet, what fallacy ! The exact opposite is true. The most highly honored men and women and the strongest leaders among us are those who have given long and faithful service in mission lands. It has long been so.
Even Ellen G. White spent years as a pioneer worker in Australia. A. G. Daniells was brought back from Australia, where he was in overseas service, to be made president of the General Conference. J. L. McElhany, the present General Conference president, pioneered our work in the Philippine Islands.
W. A. Spicer was for years a foreign missionary in India, and later served many years as General Conference secretary and president. N. C. Wilson, vice-president of the General Conference for North America, spent many years in mission work in Africa and India.
Yes, most of our General Conference leaders, and many of our North American union conference leaders, have at some time spent periods of service in some overseas field, and most of the leaders of our work in the great continental divisions are men whose talents for such leadership were developed in foreign service.
The greatest privilege that could ever come to our younger workers is to be called to service in some overseas field. It is out there that the broadening process begins. It is out there that one really sees the world and its utter need of the gospel of Christ. It is there that the scales fall from one's eyes, and he sees clearly what it was that led Christ to leave the ivory palaces and come to the relief of suffering, lost humanity.
A worker who has had a successful foreign mission experience, and who for some reason must return to the homeland, is worth much more to the cause at home than he would have been without that experience. True, there are some who, when they return home, find it hard to fit into the work again. The usual reason for this is the fact that they never fitted in anywhere.
There are misfits in the mission field. Anyone who is not considered a success at home should never be given a mission appointment. It is a waste of time and money. The principles of preaching the gospel to lost men and of operating denominational institutions are the same everywhere, and if a man is an outstanding success in one place, we may rightfully expect that he will be in another ; and the reverse is also true. A worker who is of value in the mission field will be of equal value to the cause should he return to the homeland for service.
A third reason some will give as to why you should not respond to the mission call is, "Your talents are needed here ; out there they will be wasted." This is what I was told when I was appointed to Africa in 1919. Hundreds have been told the same thing before and since. In 1946, when a certain outstanding worker was appointed to a mission post, someone said to me, "What a pity to send a' man of his capabilities to a mission field. Workers like him are needed much more here."
This is a popular delusion. Perhaps, however, this is one of the best ways the enemy finds to appeal to our ego. The truth of the matter is that in order to do successfUl work in mission lands it requires the best in talent and training that it is possible for men to acquire.
Not only must a difficult foreign language be learned, but the missionary must be prepared to combat intelligently the teachings of the priests of false religions, which keep the people engrossed in spiritual darkness and superstition. The religious leaders of most of the Oriental religions are university men of great intelligence and experience, and every talent with which the Christian missionary is endued will be called into play in an effort to combat their sophistry. True, in these lands there are millions of illiterate and poor people, but there are hundreds of thousands of highly educated men and women, college and university graduates as well, who are also potential candidates for heaven. Missionaries without talent and training can never reach this class, whether it be in the homeland or in a mission field.
The very best talent the denomination possesses is none too good for the foreign mission work. But where, actually, is the need the greatest?
In China there are over four hundred and fifty million people. One fourth of the population of the globe is found there. In India there are almost four hundred million more. Then there are other millions—hundreds of millions —in South America, Inter-America, Africa, Japan, and the South Seas. To these millions the gospel must be taken by someone before Jesus comes. The church in the homeland of the message cannot complete its task and go to heaven until the missionaries have also completed the work among the millions out there. There is where most of the people are, and there the darkness is the greatest. Therefore, that is where the greatest need actually exists.
"The time has come when through God's messengers the scroll is being unrolled to the world. The truth contained in the first, second, and third angels' messages must go to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people; it must lighten the darkness of every continent, and extend to the islands of the sea. There must be no delay in this work.
"Our watchword is to be, Onward, ever onward ! Angels of heaven will go before us to prepare the way. Our burden for the regions beyond can never be laid down till the whole earth is lightened with the glory of the Lord."—Gospel Workers, p. 470.
Now that the call has come to you to "go," what are you going to do about it? It may be that you cannot pass the medical examinations. That is another matter. That is in God's hands. But suppose you could pass? Are you willing to make an affirmative decision? If not, why not? Can you be sure that the call is not from God direct to you? God works through responsible church committees, and we are instructed that the General Conference is the highest authority among us through which He reveals His will. And the General Conference has spoken. They have searched for a man or woman, and the lot has fallen on you. Are you willing to run the risk of accepting the advice of others, associate workers, friends, and relatives, in preference to the counsel of the General Conference Committee? Can you afford to do so?
' "God is calling for men who are willing to leave all to become missionaries for Him."Ibid., p. 464. The only way He can place His call before any individual is through the General Conference Committee. There is no other channel in our church organization. And now this committee has called you. The call has come through the proper channel. The probabilities are, therefore, that it is from God.
"God is calling for men who are willing to leave all to become missionaries for Him. And the call will be answered. In every age since the advent of Christ, the gospel commission has impelled men and women to go to the ends of the earth to carry the good news of salvation to those in darkness. Stirred by the love of Christ and the needs of the lost, men have left the comforts of home and the society of friends, even that of wife and children, to go to foreign lands, among idolaters and savages, to proclaim the message of mercy. Many in the attempt have lost their lives, but others have been raised up to carry on the work. Thus step by step the cause of Christ has progressed, and the seed sown in sorrow has yielded a bountiful harvest."—Ibid., pp. 464, 465.
"Come over . . . and help us." Someone must go. "The call will be answered." Thank God for that assurance. But will you respond, or will you ask God to send someone else in order that you may be excused?
It is true that the foreign work is not easy, and especially now in a postwar, topsy-turvy world. There are perplexities and dangers to face. There are privations and hardships to endure, but there is a glorious crown awaiting you at the end of the journey.
"The worker in a foreign field must carry in his heart the peace and love of heaven; for this is his only safety. Amid perplexity and trial, discouragement and suffering, with the devotion of a martyr and the courage of a hero, he is to hold fast to the hand that never lets go, saying, 'I will not fail nor be discouraged.' . . .
"Energy and self-sacrifice are needed in the missionary field. God calls for men who will push the triumphs of the cross; men who will persevere under discouragements and privations; men who have the zeal and resolution and faith that are indispensable in the missionary field. By persevering toil and a firm trust in the God of Israel, resolute, courageous men will accomplish winders, There is scarcely a limit to what may be achieved if the efforts made are governed by enlightened judgment and backed by earnest endeavor."—/bid., 99. 469, 470.
There are still mighty conquests to be won in mission lands. There the possibilities for growth and development are unlimited. Men with the martyr's devotion and the hero's courage are needed in large numbers throughout the world to push the triumphs of the cross. Why should that need not include you and your family?
"We want missionaries who are missionaries in the fullest sense of the word, who will put aside selfish considerations, and let the cause of God come first ; and who, working with an eye single to His glory, will keep themselves as minutemen, ready to go where He bids, and to work in any capacity to spread the knowledge of the truth. Men who have wives who love and fear God, and who can help their husbands in the work, are needed in the work, are needed in the missionary field."—Ibid., P. 459.
Jesus left the ninety and nine to go in search of one lost sheep. To leave the work you now have in hand and to go out to one of earth's great mission lands is like working the parable in reverse. You are asked to leave the one sheep in the fold at home, and go to India, China, Africa, or elsewhere in search of the ninety and nine who are lost and dying. "And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd." John 10:16.
Yes, your call from the mission board may be a definite call from God. If so, untold blessings will follow your acceptance of it. But what a tragedy it would be, should you reject it. Only through earnest prayer and a complete surrender to His will can you formulate the right reply to the secretary of the foreign mission board. All things being equal, the probabilities are that your wholehearted response will be given in the language of Isaiah: "Here am I; send me."