The Missionary Calling Shall I Accept the Call to Mission Service? A Successful Missionary

The purpose of Christian missions is to make men disciples of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and it is this purpose that should be kept uppermost in the sending out of Christian missionaries.

General Conference Associate Secretary

President, Far Eastern Division

Division and Ministerial Association Secretary, Southern Africa

The purpose of Christian missions is to make men disciples of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and it is this purpose that should be kept uppermost in the sending out of Christian missionaries. Discipleship means not only being saved from everlasting death but also being saved here and now from sin and self and Satan. Here and now we are to live a life of faith in God, faith that gives peace, faith that gives courage to do His will, and faith that makes obedience to Him the only possible way of life. The Christian is called away from the life of self-seeking to a life of service for others. He is called to stand up for truth and righteousness in the earth even when this involves danger and loss. He is confident in God even in the day of trouble. To develop such Christians is the object of missionary endeavor.

When our Lord came to this sin-cursed world of ignorant and perverse mankind, He laid aside His glory, emptied Himself of all that marked Him as belonging to another world, divested Himself of whatever might give Him superiority in the eyes of men, and took the human form and the status of a servant. He even accepted the humiliation of the cross, dying as a condemned criminal. The apostle Paul, after stating these amazing facts, exhorts, "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus." The foreign missionary, above all other Christians, is required to have this mind. He should renounce the presumption of superiority while recognizing the difference between himself and the people to whom he is sent.

Viewpoint of Nationals

The missionary should seek to know, understand, and sympathize with the view point of the nationals, for as long as he thinks as he did "back home," there will be a chasm between him and the people, and he will inevitably give offense to those whom he goes out to win. He must also lay aside all disposition to play the part of lord and master over the national workers with whom he is called to labor. This may appear as a self-evident condition of Christian missionary work, yet it is a well-known fact that one of the frequent causes of trouble in missionary operations is the assumption by the missionary of the attitudes and prerogatives of the "boss." This he should never be. As a true shepherd he will be a leader and guide but never an overlord. If the missionary would develop his national workers to bear responsibilities and be true leaders in an indigenous church, he must respect their judgment and recognize that their intimate knowledge of the people and the country will be a great asset to him in his work. He will therefore give scope to the mind of the nationals and renounce every show of superiority or determination to have his own way. He should remember the example of our Lord and become the servant of all.

It would be worth while for both the new and the tried missionary to find out how some of the shrewder national leaders regard their foreign missionaries. It will be found that they have formed a very accurate estimation of the character of every missionary and probably have a better evaluation of his true worth than even the home board or mission field committee. If he has a tendency to dictate and dominate, they know that he will be incapable of being of much help to the native church. If he is proud and puts on airs in his dress or manner or assumes hierarchical prerogatives, they have little respect for him as a man and little confidence in him as a leader. But if as a missionary he can serve with the humility of the Master, showing forth the love of Christ that constrained our Lord to give His life in foreign service, then the discerning native Christians will accord him reverence and honor and follow his leadership. He will gain more by humility than any other way.

Value of Experience

The young missionary especially should recognize his limitations and the value of better understanding of his task that will come with experience. Too often the new recruit knows it all and is too ready to express his critical opinions wherever he can get a hearing, and often with unfortunate results. He should, therefore, during his first year or two in service, remind himself often that he is but a learner in mission service, and exercise a humble and teach able spirit. Even after some years of experience the successful missionary will shun all pretensions to omniscience and infallibility before his fellow workers. He will not try to force everyone and everything to his way of thinking, but will exercise a large tolerance and cultivate a spirit of cooperation and mutual respect for the rights and opinions of others.

The successful missionary will, therefore, as a wise shepherd, recognize that his success will be in proportion to his knowledge of the ways of the sheep, also of the state of the pastures and waters of the territory, and the habits of those who might be a menace to his flock. He will recognize that he who goes forth to win souls in a foreign field will require a knowledge of many things besides his Bible. He should understand the modes of thought and the customs and habits of the people to whom he goes. His work involves not only preaching the gospel and teaching the Christian way of life but also understanding the many forces that react against the Christian church in a hostile community. He will, therefore, inform him self of these things through the reading of all the books and other literature he can find dealing with his work, his field, and his calling. Only thus can he fulfill the commission, "Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all nations."

Shall I Accept the Call to Mission Service?

V. T. ARMSTRONG President, Far Eastern Division

The mission program of the remnant church is a mighty challenge to the entire organization. The success of the church abroad is vitally dependent upon the sympathy, cooperation, and devotion of the church at home. The cords can be lengthened into new fields only as stakes are strengthened at the home base.

Calls for more and more missionaries are continually sent in to the headquarters. There are new fields to open. There are vacancies to be filled, for many reasons could be given why missionaries return to their homelands such as health, or educational needs of children in the mission family; and even missionaries grow old and must retire from active service.

For many reasons a continual flow of men and women must be recruited to answer these mission calls for evangelists, teachers, administrators, stenographers, departmental secretaries, doctors, nurses, institutional managers, builders, et cetera. And if the call blank could speak, it would say some thing like this: "Send us workers young enough to acquire a foreign language, yet old enough to have had experience; progressive, determined, but tactful; devoted, enthusiastic, but of balanced judgment; strong physically, sound mentally, ambitious, industrious, and educated." And it is wonderful to see how the young people of this denomination who are coming from our churches and training schools, from conferences and institutions, measure up to the qualifications listed on the call blanks.

When the call is received to go to the mission field, it is only to be expected that questions will come to the mind of the appointee, and these questions deserve an answer.

One question is often asked, especially in these days of uncertainty and unrest: Is it safe to leave my homeland and become a "foreigner" in a strange land? This is a good question, for conditions are disturbing in many places. Wars both actual and pending are filling the news and attracting attention. Accidents by land and sea and air are common. Banditry, lawlessness, and a breakdown of law and order are prevalent. All these make this a dangerous time for all. There are no safety zones in any country, either at home or abroad. More people are killed by accidents than on battlefields, according to statistics. There is only one safe place, and that place is just where God has called us to labor for Him. There we can claim His protecting care and be assured that no harm can come unless He permits it. Therefore, if you are called to labor outside your homeland, determine whether that is where God wants you, and then trust yourself to His protection.

Of course, questions about living conditions, climate, prices, available foods, house hold furniture, equipment, salaries, living quarters, furloughs, term of service, and many more, are all in the list of questions. Through the years since the first Seventh day Adventist missionary was sent out, much study and consideration has been given to the mission program, until today the most liberal and comprehensive policies have been adopted to guide the appointee and the controlling committees in meeting all these details. Although missionaries sometimes have to meet difficult and inconvenient living conditions, more and more is being done to minimize these problems satisfactorily.

One couple who had just received a call to foreign service came to me for counsel. They said, "We have a call to go to the mission field. We are well situated in the conference here in the homeland. We have bought a home, we enjoy our friends and are happy in our work. Should we go? Some tell us that if we do, we may have to come home after a term of service because of health or for other good reasons, and then we will be out of touch with things at home and perhaps out of date, and there will be no place in the work in the homeland for us." This too is a good question. My answer was to refer them to the Yearbook. You may wish to do the same as they did. Start reading the first page of the directory. Go through the list until you have finished all the General Conference Committee members and general departments. Check those who have had foreign mission service, and you may be surprised at the large percentage in this list who have at some time served in mission fields.

No person who is successful in the mission field will be a misfit at home. Mission work will call for judgment, perseverance, economy, tact, resourcefulness, faith, devotion, hard work, and sacrifice. With the growing development of these qualities, no one can get out of touch with this message or out of date.

It was noticeable that the scores of missionaries who had to return home because of the outbreak of the second world war were in demand. So true was this that it became difficult to secure the release of many of them from work in the homeland when fields opened again and their services were needed back in the mission field.

Will I have to make a greater sacrifice in the mission field than in the work at home? To this question I would answer Yes. Your wage may be less, although mission commit tees endeavor to pay a wage based on the living costs of the country in which you labor. You will have to forgo many of the comforts you might have at home. Usually living standards in practical comforts are higher at home than in mission lands. Many common conveniences of your homeland may not be available in your new field of labor.

In order to reach the people for whom you labor, you may have to live where conditions are insanitary, stop in homes or hotels that are unlike anything you have ever experienced before. It may be you will have to sacrifice comfort, money interests, ambitions, family ties, associations, and other things held very dear. You may have to eat food not according to your taste, and make changes in sleeping, traveling, and hours of labor. Yes, there will be sacrifices to make. But ask someone who has spent years in mission lands if it has been too much of a sacrifice, and he will likely look astonished and tell you that for everything he gave up, he received a hundredfold in rich experiences, new friends, a deeper Christian experience, a stronger faith, a greater love for the lost. Where can you find a missionary who would trade his mission experiences for anything in this world?

Others question whether their children, who live in a mission environment until they are ready for college, will have an equal chance to succeed in comparison with the children of workers living in the home land.

Some time ago a survey was made that gave astonishing results. Eighty mission families reported 283 children. At the time of the survey 273 were still living. One was killed in war; six died by accident, and three by ordinary causes. Practically all the children received their early education in the lands where their parents labored and were ready for college when they left the field.

What became of these boys and girls? Eighty-six received from one to three college degrees. Sixteen are in mission service, thirteen were doing graduate university work.Five more were ready to go to the mission field and twelve more planned to go when they completed their education. Twenty-two are teaching, nineteen entered professional work, and nineteen had gone into business. Quoting from this survey, which was made some years ago by another church organization:

"In the noble army of students working their way through school, the child of missionary parents has been conspicuous, persistent and resourceful. This simple inquiry, though its modest scope does not justify any sweeping statements, points plainly to the conclusion that to be doubly advantaged in the race of life, first, the candidate should be born in a minister's home; and second, the parents should be among those who are accepted for foreign mission service."

May the great mission program continue to draw the best this denomination has to give young men and women whose hearts are for God and whose lives are dedicated to the finishing of the task committed to the remnant church.

A Successful Missionary

F. G. CLIFFORD Division and Ministerial Association Secretary, Southern Africa

" From among the number ' of workers who are sent to the foreign mission field a considerable portion succeed in their endeavor to become successful workers. A smaller proportion fail to reach efficiency, and a still smaller number make an utter failure of their mission.

Since the investment by the missionary board in each missionary family is a heavy one, and every failure is not only a liability to the mission cause but an extremely bad advertisement for the mission enterprise, the question can profitably be discussed, What are the qualities that make for success in the life of a missionary?


First, the missionary-to-be must be a spiritual person. He must feel the call to service. He must sense the need of those who know not the gospel, and those among whom he hopes to labor. He must have laid himself upon the altar of service, and have felt the infilling of divine power that comes in answer to a full surrender to the call of God. Without this essential spiritual call the missionary may become merely a traveler, a sight-seer, an educator, an anthropologist, or a student of native customs and a resident of a foreign land.


Second, the missionary must be adaptable adaptable in a physical sense in that he is able to make himself feel at home in unfamiliar surroundings, to appreciate and relish unfamiliar foods, to tolerate and even appreciate strange and new customs. This matter of adaptability goes far deeper than many realize. The prospective missionary, as he journeys to his new field, needs to make a constant, continuous, and lasting effort to forget the ways and manners and methods of his homeland, insofar as they might make his new environment contrast unfavorably. He must resolutely determine to absorb and practice all the useful and helpful customs and ways and manners that he will find in his new surroundings. It is well to enter a new field as a learner, his dignity and superiority represented only by his knowledge of the gospel and way of salvation.

A failure to have this attitude of thought and outlook not only stamps him as a foreigner to those he is endeavoring to help but also builds up in his own mind a resistance to the land and people that will militate against successful service and result in utter failure as a missionary.

It is not only in the initiation period that the missionary must be adaptable. This trait must continue as long as he is in service. Too many of us as missionaries forget that primitive peoples are on the march. Rapid changes in outlook and development are taking place all around us. We must stand ready to adapt our methods and plans of operation and service to meet the changing ways and conditions that prevail. The missionary's mind must ever be as a new bottle, lest the new wine that is being pressed shall burst the old bottles and the usefulness of even men of long service be thus curtailed.

The successful missionary never feels that he knows the only way or the best way of accomplishing a certain task. The way things are done "at home" is not necessarily the best way to do them in the land of his adoption. The ability to choose the best from the home field and combine it with the best in the new field, is a great asset and a great factor in successful service.

This quality of adaptability not only must be mental and spiritual, but must enter into the practical field of daily living. There will not be the conveniences for working that one has in the homeland. Tools and appliances will be scarce, and sometimes almost nonexistent. The ability to devise ways and means of work under these circumstances, to fashion tools and necessary appliances until better ones can be obtained, to utilize whatever may be at hand for the accomplishment of an objective, is an invaluable asset to the missionary. He must also train the people for whom he labors, both in practical methods of labor and in bearing responsibility in spiritual endeavors, so that they can eventually take their places in bearing the burden of the work. This ability to train others is a mark of leadership.


Third, the missionary must be devoted to his task. He will find a thousand things to dampen his ardor and sap his faith. There will be many temptations to turn aside from his objective and seek an easier task.He must resolutely set his mind to find his joy in his work, the preaching and teaching of the gospel, realizing that the missionary's calling is holy and elevated, with abundant satisfaction and reward to those who have dedicated their lives to the saving of the lost.


Fourth, the missionary must be unselfish. Surrounded by selfishness, he must set an example of selflessness. He will be tempted to engage in money-making, but he must resist this temptation in all its varied forms. This is not his calling. There is nothing that destroys the influence of the missionary more quickly than yielding to the temptation to trade. He may read and hear of his fellow workers in the homeland who are enjoying higher salaries and a higher standard of living, of advantages that accrue to family and children; but he will be willing to serve where advantages are given rather than obtained, gladly laying up his treasures in heaven and looking to a future re ward.

Some fail because they feel they are not appreciated. They receive little thanks or appreciation from those for whom they labor. The antidote for this is the unselfish spirit of willingness to spend and be spent without thought of compensation, content to serve until the Master appears. Let the mind dwell on Moses, in his experience with the children of Israel; on Noah, preaching to the antediluvians for 120 years, unappreciated and mocked; on Christ, who came unto His own and they received Him not.

The Human Touch

The missionary must be human. In saying this I do not mean that he must yield to the frailties of the flesh, but that he should not cherish any sense of over lordship when dealing with primitive people. He should remember that they also are men, souls for whom Christ died, and that they are precious in His sight. All their tears and deprivations are remembered by Him, as also is the kindness of those who have to deal with them. The missionary may be tempted to pattern his treatment of the people after the attitude of the trader and government officials of his own race and color, but to do so will mean failure in his work and ultimate disaster for the cause of God. While the missionary will not make himself common or cheap, he will at all times be kindly, courteous, and sympathetic in dealing with all classes of the people among whom he is living. The harsh word, the unfair act, are not easily forgot ten by primitive people, and they are writ ten in God's book.

I have been amazed at the unfeeling way in which some missionaries treat their brethren who, by accident of birth and circumstances, are more primitive than they. The gospel of Christ must be written plainly by the missionary in human characters. Every word, every act, must be a verse of Scripture to those who may not be able to read the written Word of God, for are we not called upon to be in Christ's stead, beseeching men to be reconciled to God?


The missionary must be economical. The homeland may have a higher standard of living. The salary may have been such as to enable him to indulge all his desires for family convenience and comfort. The institution where he may have labored may have been up to date and well equipped, but in the mission field the worker must learn to spend less, to set an example of living within his means, and to prevent discouragement in his own heart and that of his family, by refusing to entertain longings and desires for things he cannot afford.

These qualifications that I have listed are not unattainable. Many of our missionaries have them. Many more can have them by surrender, by determination, and by study. They should be cherished by every prospective missionary. It would be far better not to respond to a call to the mission field than to spend a few unhappy years while the brethren are filled with perplexity as to what they should do to enable the missionary to make a success of his work, or to prevent him from doing too much damage to the field.

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General Conference Associate Secretary

President, Far Eastern Division

Division and Ministerial Association Secretary, Southern Africa

April 1953

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