Sometimes some of us who are working overseas are deeply perplexed. It is not so much over the want of money. This is serious enough, for as one of our administrators, a former missionary, warned us before we headed for the mission land: "We sometimes get down to the bottom of the barrel over here in the States, but over there [he shook his head with sad amusement] you begin at the bottom."
Yet it isn't money so much. God has a lot of that and will provide it as the stewardship of our administration warrants. It is men we need—men who can appropriate the promises of God, who can make their stewardship count.
We are not abashed to say that we want only the best. We want and need the cream! Not the milk skimmed by home missions. Not unproved youth sent over "for a little experience." If you think we are cynical or are crybabies, read on a bit.
The great business houses of the world —Standard Oil, General Electric, Du Pont, General Motors—are aware of the wisdom required to deal with the wide-awake peoples in overseas lands, especially in these complex times. There are suspicions, problems of nationalism, hate, jealousies of rich and mighty America and Americans, international money markets, import and immigration problems, and a host of others. So Standard, GM, GE, and Du Pont, like all large business houses today, send only proved young men across the seas—men who have learned well "by association in labor with men of experience." They are highly trained technicians, executives —men of unusual tact, adjustability, patience, and experienced insight into affairs of business and human relations.
Sending men overseas is a costly business: outfitting, processing, medicals, passage, housing—and keeping them and their families happy after they get here. Then there are furloughs, return passages, re-outfitting, and more medicals to get them home.
We are God's workmen. We are His stewards. What kind of businessmen are we who administer His cause? We are running the world's grandest business. Its importance dwarfs Standard Oil and GM to almost nothing. In what kind of men do we choose to invest? Let's consider.
A Costly Investment
In one large mission field alone there has been a more than 50 per cent personnel turnover in the last five years, some of these returning home after only a half term of service or less. In most cases the principal problem was personality—inability of either the husband or the wife to adjust, to get along with fellow missionaries or national peoples. In some instances it was simple incompetence—inability to do the job. Seldom were the reasons medical, unless psychosomatic.
These problems are not necessarily typical. They are just the more obvious. Much more elusive a problem is the one who chooses to stay in the mission field but prefers to select his own assignments. Prima donnas are ticklish problems, especially overseas. Some of these have returned home after two or three months or less, while others manage to stay. Some of these are afraid if they go home there may not be a job, and so they continue at their post, but in one way or another they also continue to keep their mission committees in a constant dither trying to keep them satisfied. These are the exceptions, but are a trying side of the picture.
By contrast, God has given us a host of earnest, able, self-sacrificing men and women over here in these fields. They are men of rare talents—joys to administrators' hearts, and—to God's. These missionaries already were, or certainly would have been, successful personalities or workers in the homeland.
The General Conference secretariat has a big job on its hands trying to meet the specialized need expressed by a precise mission call. It may be that a teacher of sciences is needed with a doctor's degree and a background in industrial arts; or a medical doctor, a pathologist who has passed his American specialty board, but who is not too old to learn a foreign language; or perhaps a single woman nurse with a specialty in midwifery. Our secretaries work prodigiously to assemble personnel lists. They search assiduously to pinpoint qualified people.
And then it happens. So often it happens. The more worthwhile the person sought, the more frequent the disappointment. The call reaches out to the home conference--union or local. And then the persuasion begins—not urging the prospective one to accept the mission call, no citing of the critical overseas need. There is no question about each counselor's sincerity, and that the arguments and inducements used are apt and worthy of some consideration. The problem, however, may now become one of restricted vision for the more urgent need. In the light of the great gospel commission and the more imperative call, can these counselors be clear in the judgment when the emphasis was placed on promotions and material advantages awaiting the prospective missionary if he would remain in the homeland?
Many, if not most, of us in the mission field today have experienced these pressures —not mere gestures of appreciation, but even inferences that we were letting our home leaders down. This places the worker in a strange and difficult position. Already beset by heart-tuggings at the prospect of leaving parents and dear ones, of coming family inconveniences, of the many hostilities of foreign lands in perilous times, he finds ready comfort in these urgings of conference leaders. And a leader is often lost to a desperately needy mission field.
Not long ago one of our overseas colleges was in serious need for a man of highest quality to head its program of religion and evangelism. A list of five men of approximately equal qualification was sent the General Conference as typical of the caliber of man needed. It was realized that one might be out of the question, but the General Conference secretariat faithfully sent inquiries, or calls, on the way to each. One was a General Conference employee on an extremely heavy assignment. Of the remaining four, two were never permitted by their administrators to receive notice of their calls. One of these two was known to desire foreign service in the field in question. Of the remaining two, one could not come for medical reasons and the other was talked out of it by friendly leaders at home.
Meanwhile the call was delayed two years, first one and then another lesser qualified individual being tried. Finally, in the providence of God, the call was handed for the third time to one of the original five. An aged worker heard of this and sought out the able young teacher-evangelist.
"If I were you," he spoke with an earnestness that reached deep into the heart of the young man and his wife, "and I had received such a call the third time, I would tremble. I would not dare to turn it down."
That young family has for the past few years exerted a powerful influence toward spiritual revival in our churches over an entire nation. He has been instrumental in lifting the ministerial standards to a height which that field has needed for more than fifty years!
Build and Send Us Men!
We realize full well that it is easier to choose and keep men than to build them. But it is a prime mandate of our church that the home base must build men for the world. We believe this from the Bible and the Spirit of prophecy.*
Ours is big business! We must have big men overseas. We must have talented, adaptable wives; practical men; men of God who can take inexperienced national material and build giants for God.
Please give us such men! Don't deter them. Don't delay them. Don't even harbor them. Give us men. Not little men! We must have giants to build giants for God.