From the One slain from the foundation of the world, to the first lamb slain in Eden to provide a covering for Adam and Eve, to the Lamb of God hanging on Calvary’s tree, sacrifice has always been intrinsic to mission. In fact, without sacrifice there would be no mission for humanity’s salvation.
The Apostle Paul knew the reality of sacrifice well. He had been beaten with rods, shipwrecked, stoned, imprisoned, flogged, adrift at sea and in danger not only from river and sea but from bandits and even false brothers and sisters. He experienced the extremes of cold and heat, hunger and thirst, and constantly bore a burden of care for the new congregations (2 Cor. 11:23-29).
Truly, the sacrificial job description of front-line missionaries has not changed since the first century A.D. For many years as a young man, I answered the Adventist Church’s call to serve in far-flung locations, wherever they happened to be. Year after year, when saying goodbye to my family, I would see pride in my mother’s eyes that I was willing to serve far away, but also a yearning for that call to be closer to home.
In this month’s Adventist Frontiers magazine, several AFM missionaries share about the sacrifices they are going through today for God’s mission. For some it is the challenge of raising children in remote or hostile environments. For others it is being far from loved ones struggling with the challenges of lost faith, disease, aging or death. For others, coming “home” can be overwhelming, bringing reverse culture shock and the realization that while they can live anywhere, they now feel at home nowhere.
Every AFM missionary bears scars, but they are so much more than mere scars. They are badges of honor earned by those who answer God’s call and dare to enter the field of combat for the salvation of the unreached. To the casual observer, mission can seem glamorous. But to the seasoned insider, mission today is as much the story of personal sacrifice as when Abraham faithfully toiled up Mt. Moriah with Isaac.
Why is sacrifice still so central to mission today? First, whatever identities or values we start with as missionaries are stripped away by sacrifice, to be replaced by an abiding sense that we are truly citizens of nowhere but heaven above (Phil. 3:20). Second, the seemingly overwhelming sacrifices of mission teach us daily that we cannot minister in our own strength. Rather, we learn that, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). Finally, through the tears of sacrifice in mission, we are drawn closer to our Heavenly Father in gratitude and love, for He also knows the pain of seeing His Only Begotten Son suffer, die and be buried in the mission field.
Perhaps the third verse of the beloved hymn “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” captures best the essential dynamic between sacrifice and mission.
See, from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Thank you to every member within the worldwide AFM family for your ongoing sacrifices! My prayer for us all is that in our sacrifices we will grow stronger in Christ, that His provision of grace will abound in our lives, and that our love and gratitude to our Heavenly Father will grow deeper still.