By Richard Visser
As a child, I remember a missionary visiting our church and describing his family’s dismal living conditions along the Amazon river. At the end of his presentation, someone asked him if he really enjoyed living there. He thought for a moment and then said, “No, but I wouldn’t live anywhere else, because that’s where God has called me.”
God understands eternal values better than we do! The Apostle Paul, imprisoned in Rome, tried to sort out preferences and values, saying, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell” (Phil. 1:21-22). Living a fulfilled life that produces eternal fruit is one that lines up our preferences with God’s values. Let me illustrate that with a few “stories from the field.”
Joël: a broken life reaching other broken lives
We met Joël C. in our French Bible Institute. At a young age he lost his mother and never felt accepted by his stepmother. Seemingly not a great start for a future missionary to a difficult country like Bulgaria! Joël’s ministry there has been to many people broken by poverty, prejudice, and addictions. A broken life born again reaching other broken lives! Many have turned to Christ, two churches have been launched, and Joël is still at it. Bulgaria is not a place to which many would choose to go, but it was worth it to the Lord of the Harvest, and to those who have trusted in Him!
Luciano: the joy of giving up our plans
I think also of Luciano, who was on the fast track to a good life with a lovely wife and an excellent job. When the Lord spoke to him about salvation and then ministry, he hesitated changing tracks because he knew that he’d very likely have to give up his own plans. Churches are often small in France, and pastors and/or their wives, must often take secular jobs to make ends meet. But Luciano now knows the joy of introducing hundreds of people to Christ each year through his local church, three other satellite churches, a Christian camp, and a French mission. He says it was well worth leaving the fast track for a higher calling.
Nicole: she drives God’s chariot
Not everyone becomes missionaries. Nicole was one of our church members. She used her car, “God’s chariot,” to bring at least one person to church each Sunday. One of these was a child named Bruno who later led a fellow Bible clubber to the Lord. Nicole was overjoyed, and two French children will meet you one day in heaven.
So, is missions worth it? I guess your answer depends on how much you value your Commander-in-Chief and your mission orders. Jesus was His Father’s supreme missionary, commissioned to provide salvation for sinners. His short-term results, compared to the costs, were meager, not what many missionaries would write home about today. But the long-term benefits are unfathomable and pleasing to Him (Hebrews 12.2). Take the long look of faithful obedience and you’ll perceive the worth of missions. Faith values pleasing the Lord of the harvest!
Richard and his wife, Karyn, joined Baptist Mid-Missions in 1977 and have served in France ever since. Although they officially retired in 2019, they continue to live in France and serve in opportunities the Lord opens for them. Missions is still worth it to them!
Religion plays mostly a cultural role in the lives of French people. We need church planters and Bible institute teachers to help bring genuine life-change through Christ.