Recently, some words from the pen of inspiration have been on my mind: “The work which the church has failed to do in a time of peace and prosperity she will have to do in a terrible crisis, under most discouraging circumstances” (5T p. 463). While that time may not be here in the fullest sense, its arrival seems to be nearing.
Recently, on a visit to one AFM project in Africa, I talked with the missionaries about new security challenges. Religious extremists used to come and go, but now they have become a fixture in town. Although there were no open threats at the time, our missionaries must constantly be prudent and alert for dangerous situations.
The missionaries at another AFM project I visited did receive a threat. (See Fred Coker’s article on p. 12.) On one hand, the threat is good news—someone is feeling threatened by the vitality of the Gospel. On the other hand, the missionaries may have to work under a cloud for a while. It’s tough, and we are constantly weighing the risks of danger. We don’t want to expose people foolishly to danger, and we don’t want to beat a hasty retreat in the face of fear. God wonderfully intervened for the Cokers and their school. Their work was vindicated, and His name was glorified in Fria and even among Guinea’s national leaders.
On another AFM project on another continent, our missionaries’ work was threatened by a scandal of corruption in the local field. As the collateral damage spread, it became apparent that withdrawing our personnel, at least temporarily, was prudent. In Mali, because of encroaching threats and a military conflict, we had to temporarily evacuate the Lovitt family.
The above incidents are just a few examples of the challenges facing AFM pioneer missionaries on a daily basis. This is not a complaint, but a praise. I praise the Lord, not for the challenges, but for the amazing missionaries He has sent to serve with AFM. Missionary work is a choice. No one is forcing these dedicated people to stay where they serve. The only thing that pushes them onward in their task, despite the challenges, is their conviction that God has called them, and they must finish the work He has set before them. It is humbling to hear a missionary just removed from a dangerous place say, “We want to return to our work as soon as possible.”
My heart is in the field with our workers. I have walked with them, and for 15 years of our lives, my family and I have been on the front lines seeking to share the Everlasting Gospel in difficult contexts. From personal experience, I can assure you that the greatest thing you can do for our missionaries is to pray. Pray for their fortitude, their courage, their health, and their work in the face of challenges, stress and danger. Pray that they will stay at the task until their work is done.
Finally, there is one more thing that you and I can praise the Lord for. You see, as the challenges associated with spreading the Gospel increase, we can calm our troubled hearts with joy. “And when these things begin to happen, then look up and lift up your heads, for your redemption draws near” (Luke 21:28).