People's reactions to this event we went through have been interesting to me recently. My own reaction was interesting to me, too! But it has been the dealing with other's reactions that has thrown us over the last weeks.
It hasn't been that there haven't been those who have reacted very well. There has. Our church here has done well. Our home church has done very well, too. I wish we could go there and see them. I wish initially we could have gone and walked in and been with them. They have done well.
Then there are others. Team members, family members, others. Each with their own reaction.
My grandma's was pretty clear:
We talked for a few minutes, and she expressed gratitude and relief that my husband is home safely. I agreed that it was wonderful because we had been worried he would never come home. Then she said, "I guess he learned not to do that again! At least not while you have kids still at home."
I didn't say anything. She is my grandma, and by default, older than me so I will show her respect, but I bit my tongue. Why not? I mean, of course not right now... if his "doing that again" will put others or a work in danger, then of course not... not now. But why not?
So he won't face danger?
Is that a good enough reason?
Because it is risky?
Do we quit because of that?
So my kids can grow up with a daddy to play catch with them?
I'm sorry if I sound harsh and uncaring here, but is that so important? I agree that it IS important... but is it the most important thing? If our comfort and the needs of our kids were the first things in our minds, we would be home... on a few acres with a few dogs and other odd pets and spending our weekends swimming, biking, and rafting. There is no way I would be raising my kids in a city in a place that is not home to me!
We went into missions because we were called, yes. But we were called into missions because there are a few things worth living for, yes, even worth dying for. There are people who do not know Christ. Telling people about Christ can be dangerous. In some countries it is more dangerous than others, but no one ever said it would be a walk in the park! We could retire now that we've been frightened and walk away, but why? Nothing has changed. There are still people who need to hear. Being frightened once is NOT a reason to quit. Staring death in the face is not a reason to quit.
We drove with our kids on one of our long cross country trips once. (You know, furlough... that lovely "vacation" you get to take every so often where you get to drag four kids across the country and sleep on people's floors and speak in meetings.) I think we have hit every state in the Union now except Hawaii and Alaska (hey, I'm open to going there!) and perhaps Maine. This time, we drove through Washington State and saw a sign for the Whitman Mission. I remembered reading way back in 6th grade the story of the Whitmans, but hadn't remembered that it was out in Washington! We stopped and walked with our kids through the remains of the mission burned to the ground by the Indians.
Now whatever one might say about the Whitmans - I am sure they, like all of us, made their share of mistakes - they did leave everything and go live out in the middle of nowhere with a real desire to see people hear about God. They lost their daughter to a tragic accident there. They struggled to get along with their fellow missionaries. They adopted seven children who made it across the Oregon Trail on their own after the death of their family (another story I had read in elementary school!). Ultimately, they were killed - shot and hacked to death by Indians who blamed them for the death of their children from measles. It was a gruesome and gory account of the massacre and the survival of a few women and several children who then spent a month as captives at the hands of those who murdered their families.
I stood there with my children and read the story to them. We stood on the hill where they are buried and looked out at the surrounding area. On the drive off the highway to the mission, we had passed at least ten churches. We had just come from speaking in a church where there were a high population of Native Americans. My family is a mix of immigrant and native American ourselves. ( I did laugh one time when an old man, a patient of mine, said in shock when he saw my mom, "Oh! I didn't know your mother was a half-breed!) I stood there with my children and told them to stand by the graves and look out over to the town in the distance and count the steeples of the churches.
We did not become Christians without cost. From the time of Acts through to the Reformation through to the settling of America and still to this day, sharing the truth has come at cost. It cost others that we might stand here today looking out at a town in a valley with several steeples rising from the churches in it. People suffered, endured, and died to bring the gospel to this land.
Then I told them that as history has been, so is the present. The gospel will only spread in the face of risk and great cost. Do not think it is strange if we endure suffering or are called to lay down our lives. Do not back down from fear. It will only be with a cost, but look out at the sight here. Look and remember. God will always build His church. He will build it and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Not even when the ultimate cost is paid.
So, in answer to my grandma, "yes, we will do that again!". When God leads us, we will do that again.
It is about having an eternal perspective. We are not living in the here and now for the here and now. We live here, in a point in time, but we are bigger than that. We are part of God's church... walking in the footsteps of those who have walked before us and here for a purpose - to glorify God by obedience to what He asks. One day, sooner or later, we will die, and then we will be alive forever, together with those who walked before us and those who walked after us.
It is not that I do not enjoy life or hold it dear. It is just that we are designed for the eternal. I don't want to hang on to this life with both hands and miss out on the greater. There is more than the here and now to be wrapped up in.
So, Grandma, yes, we will do that again! Not foolishly, not haphazardly, but we will continue to do what God calls us to even when it means facing danger.
Hey, you could walk across the street to the mailbox and be hit by a speeding car too! What guarantee do you have on a long, safe life over here?
But standing at the Whitman mission had a profound impact on me. I think it was the first time I actually realized that people had died in bringing the gospel to us - to us here in our "safe" America, too.