By Luke, (who currently serves with his family in a Muslim community in Côte d’Ivoire, West Africa.)
I still struggle getting the image out of my head: nausea creeping into my gut every time my mind flashes back to it. My son Cayden and I were sitting on the couch, enjoying some father-son bonding time while watching the 2016 summer Olympics. It was the first day of men’s gymnastics. I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of nostalgia watching Cayden’s little 5-year-old eyes grow wide with amazement while taking in the incredible feats of strength and agility played out before us on the screen. “Is this for real dad?” he kept exclaiming. Five minutes into our viewing session, the French gymnast Samir Ait Said took the floor and sprinted full force toward the springboard and vault. Within seconds he was a cannonball of muscle somersaulting through the air … and then, the sickening crack. The landing had gone terribly wrong. Samir slumped to his back clutching his left leg, which looked more like a string of silly putty than a human appendage as it unnaturally dangled in two directions, the bone piercing his skin. The cameras mercifully flashed to the crowd, which was agonizing for this athlete whose Olympic dreams literally had just been broken before their eyes.
The same gut-wrenching feeling
It was this same gut-wrenching feeling that I had experienced years before as a teenager while watching a presentation on the needs of the 10/40 Window and the world’s unreached people groups. My worldview was instantly shaken as the gravity of the world’s needs came crashing down on my small-town, Christian school, pastor’s family bubble. The thought of billions of unreached people, emanating from the very cradle of civilization, captured my mind and drove me to more research. But almost as perplexing as the needs are astounding is how the church is currently responding to these needy regions. Only a minute fraction of missions spending and personnel are designated toward these unreached people. This conundrum has been difficult for me to wrap my mind around. Imagine if the Olympic medical response team had run to the aid of gymnast Samir Said and immediately began addressing the scrapes and bruises on his arms and face while ignoring the fractured tibia protruding from his leg. Cries of cruelty and incompetence would have been made (ironically this medical team did go on to display their incompetence, dropping the stretcher while loading Samir into the ambulance). While the discussion of unreached people groups is not this clear-cut, and I am by no means saying missions work is not needed outside the 10/40 Window, I do believe we must be strategic in carrying out the Great Commission to all nations.
An unconventional path to missions
This is what drove me to pursue a master’s degree in business administration and my wife a degree in nursing after we felt the Lord’s leading into international missions. While there are many hurdles to overcome when discussing missions in unreached areas, lack of accessibility looms especially large. It is no secret that many of the most unreached countries do not happily hand out long-stay visas and residency cards to western missionaries. It is our prayer to use our degrees as an avenue into a restricted country as we seek to take the Good News of Jesus Christ to another nation.
Beyond your Jerusalem and Judea
I firmly believe solid theological training continues to be a necessity for missionaries. Adequate preparation is crucial especially in training national leadership and combating ever-present problems such as syncretism, easy believism, and the prosperity gospel within church plants. But I am also convinced that holding a “secular” degree does not exclude you from missions. If anything, it could provide a platform for entering a restricted nation. Have you ever considered going beyond your Jerusalem and Judea? And more specifically, could God use your training and talents to take the good news of the gospel where others could not go? Oh that God would call this generation to be sheep willing to go among wolves: a generation wise as serpents and innocent as doves!