Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Thoughts on Complacency about the Third World

by Bruce Mills

As I write this, I am sitting in a beautiful mountain lodge home in the mountains of north Georgia, looking out over a sun-drenched vista filled with autumn leaves of spectacular colors, with temperatures hovering in the middle 70s. I am living the American dream…a wonderful wife and family, a nice job which provides me with an adequate income to own my own home, modern appliances and technological devices that make life much easier (i.e., dishwasher, clothes washer & dryer, central heat and air, computers, smartphones, etc.), as well as the opportunity to periodically take vacations in lovely locations.  I can afford to visit the doctor and dentist for regular checkups, to buy the medications I need to maintain my health.  I can get in my nice car and drive wherever I need to go, whenever I want to.  I attend a church, which even though the building is aging, still has nice pews, carpeting, as well as a modern sound system with video screens, and air conditioning.

Meanwhile in Honduras, the second poorest country in Central America, there is a young pastor who spends each day working the ground on his small plot of land, subsistence farming, hoping the weather will be favorable so he can raise enough beans and corn to help feed his family as well as sell some at the local open air market.  He plows and hoes his crops all day, every day, struggling to provide enough for his family to survive.  His pregnant wife carries the little bit of clothing their family owns down to the river to wash and scrub it in the water and then dries it in the sun.  She also walks a half mile each way to the nearest well to fill her water jug in order to have enough water to last for the day, then carries it all the way back home.  She will repeat this every day.  She then works to prepare the evening meal for the family, one of only two they will have that day.  The family is fortunate at the present time; there are times when they only have one meal per day.  This woman has had no pre-natal care for her unborn child and their other two living children have never had a shot to immunize them against any of the many childhood diseases which can quickly claim a life in a nation with poor medical care.  In fact, last year their two-year old daughter died after contracting measles.

Every night, after finishing his work in his field and eating a small bowl of rice and beans for dinner, this young pastor spends time reading a tattered paperback copy of the Bible which he received from some missionaries who used to minister in the area, through whom he first heard the gospel of Jesus Christ when he was just a young teenager.  It is the only book he owns.  He studies it intently, trying to learn all he can about the Christian faith, but he is limited because he has no formal instruction and no other theological commentaries or reference books to help him understand the flow of Scripture or how the gospels and the epistles fit together.  Each Sunday, this man stands before a small congregation in a hot, humid building, where only a few of the others own a Bible, and attempts to teach the people there what he has found in God’s Word that week.

Who is this young pastor?  Well, I admit that he is fictitious man of my own imagination, but there are many pastors around the Honduran countryside just like him.  Meanwhile, I sit here in my comfortable surroundings, thinking about my extensive theological library back at my home in Florida, and the opportunity I had to attend seminary to receive advanced theological training, and the joy I experience from studying the Scriptures and my books each week before standing to teach my Sunday School class of about 45 people in a comfortable, air-conditioned building.  Those Honduran pastors have never experienced any of those things, and cannot imagine ever having such opportunities.  But they continue faithfully teaching their little flocks of believers, even though they hardly know more about the Bible than do those who attend their churches. 

Why am I thinking about these matters?  Because I am reading David Platt’s excellent book, Radical, which challenges my thinking about such issues, and I am embarrassed by my complacency toward men such as this fictitious young Honduran pastor.  Christ commanded us to go to all the nations and make disciples.  That includes building up the men who will shepherd the flock there in those nations.  I went to El Salvador in 2002 to teach at a church leadership conference, but I have not done such since then.  I am ashamed of my indifference toward these men who live their lives with the goal of shepherding God’s flock, but do not have the training and resources to do so effectively.

But I also know that I can do something about this.  As one of the pastors of my church, I will have the opportunity to go to Honduras within the next year or so to minister to pastors and other church leaders in that impoverished nation.  The pastors of our church have agreed to minister in conjunction with S.O.S. Ministries to some of the evangelical church leaders in Honduras in order to help them better understand and teach the Scriptures.  We will also provide them with Spanish language resources for study.  Some of our pastors went there in July, and others are scheduled to go in December.  I’m not certain when I will be scheduled to go, but I will eventually go, Lord willing.

My question for those reading this is: Are you as concerned about making disciples and building them up as Jesus commands us to be?  We often use excuses about not feeling called to go to those in other nations, which is, in reality, nothing more than a cover-up for our unwillingness to get out of our satisfied, comfortable, American dream lifestyle and go to the third world and reach both those who need to both hear the saving gospel of Jesus Christ and those who need to be built up in the faith.  I’m guilty of thinking that way…what about you?  The Great Commission is not a call to complacency and the satisfied life; it is a call to engage the enemy on the battlefield in the war for the souls of men.  May we repent of our sinful thinking and get busy in the work of reaching the world!

1 comment:

Coertze Peters said...

Thank you for the post. Last night I went to see Courageous. The movie followed the same theme. It is encouraging to hear this message again. I would love to go on a missions trip. I feel that the fact that I am waiting for the proper documentation to live here in the states permanently, is sometimes an obstacle in doing that. That forces me to reconsider my desire to go on missions now. I have a house with a wife and 2 small kids. They are my field of ministry for now.

Be blessed
Curt Peters