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One of the blessings of closing a semester at Radius is a committed two-hour block where students and staff get together and pray in detail for various graces that God has brought into our lives, and the future that is coming. This “CoVid Semester” was no exception. What a joy to think and pray through the challenges that have been poured out on these students and staff and, with equal vigor, to praise Him for His great grace in allowing the program to go forward these last five months.  

It seems that our God is often pleased to be “inefficient” with ways and means of accomplishing his purposes. Rarely in Scripture do we see an uninterrupted path from someone’s early years to the time of their ministry. Consider Joseph and his two years in prison, Moses and his years tending sheep in the wilderness, David and his time being chased by Saul, Paul and his season of deeply harming the church. These represent the common winding paths of God’s providence in His people.

 Beyond the preparatory season, ministry itself is often heavy with challenge. Consider the thorn that Paul was intentionally afflicted with, William Carey and the challenges he had with his wife’s mental health while in India, and Amy Carmichael’s final two decades of ministry almost exclusively from a bedridden position. All of these servants dealt with painful, enduring, regular challenges. It is the rarity that someone goes through ministry, especially overseas ministry, without a painful companion that accompanies them through long seasons.

In that vein it is good and right for Christians to look at this present season through these historic lenses, lest we think of our situation as uncommon or unique to us in history. An understanding of the past can bring a better perspective and help us escape the common lies of the present. This is why biographies, especially missionary biographies, are so helpful. Adoniram Judson languished in horrible prison conditions but came later to fruitful ministry[1]; John Patton was chased for years by the people he had come to reach but that later proved the quality of the gospel he preached[2]; and William Tyndale hid all over England and Holland and eventually was killed for translating the Bible into English, but you and I today are the beneficiaries of his life’s work.[3]

Missionary attrition, assuming church-planting is the goal, continues to rise in nearly every circle.[4] Some of that is due to long-term and medium-term being redefined, but the majority of it is due to the false expectations of those who are going. It is rare to find prospective missionary candidates who have thought through the years it will take to become truly fluent in a foreign context, the amount of work it will take to see one strong healthy church planted, and the toll it will take on one’s own self and family. 

During Nina’s and my closing years on the field, we would occasionally fly to where the new missionaries were conducting their 9-month orientation to the country, to visit and teach on some pertinent topic. The closer you arrived at the end of that 9-month process the more encouraging it was. Moms started to care less about the amount of mosquito repellent everyone had on and more about how quickly they could get to their neighbors to spend time with them; kids had new sores, healing sores, and a few little scars on their legs, and this was accepted as the new norm by the entire family; dads realized that malaria was painful but getting back in the fight as soon as possible was best. There was a growing realization that the price-tag of missions was not usually martyrdom or some large-scale event. It was in daily, weekly, and monthly sacrifices—and the resolve to soldier on.

Amy Carmichael wrote this short poem nearly 100 years ago, and its message still resonates today.

From prayers that ask that I may be sheltered from winds that beat on Thee, From fearing when I should aspire, From faltering when I should climb higher, From silken self, O Captain, free Thy soldier who would follow Thee.[5]

I have lamented various aspects of this year: missing the Banner of Truth Conference, T4G Conference (especially the singing), and relegating the Radius Missiology Conference to online; postponing by almost an entire year a new Radius video project about six pioneer missionaries (Missionary: Obeying the Great Commission); Radius staff and students have contracted CoVid and much time, energy, and money that has been burned in trying to make general headway.

But God is not unaware of any details in the Radius world and beyond. His purposes will not be thwarted by viruses, lockdowns, and Presidents coming and going. In fact, if the pattern of Scripture is to be trusted, these events will be used by the King to accomplish greater things, things that we cannot grasp at this point in time. So we press on. We praise God for his all-powerful hand in allowing CoVid into our world, and we pray that He would free us from our silken selves that are so enamored with comfort and efficiency. 

 

Your brother,

Brooks

 

[1] Courtney Anderson, To the Golden Shore, (Little Brown and Company, Judson Press, 1987), page number?

[2] John G. Patton, John G. Paton Missionary to the New Hebrides (Banner of Truth, Edinburgh UK, 1965), page number?

[3] John Piper, 21 Servants of Sovereign Joy, (Crossway Publishing, Wheaton IL, 2018) Pages 491-529

[4] The Radius data from this is largely from interactions with visiting sending agency reps and Radius graduates on the field.

[5] Iain H. Murray, Amy Carmichael, Beauty for Ashes. (Banner of Truth, Edinburgh UK, 2015) Pg. 26

 

Brooks Buser

Brooks Buser

President of Radius International

Brooks and his wife Nina planted a church among the Yembiyembi people in Papua New Guinea. Now Brooks serves as the president of Radius International, training future church planters.

Short-term Staff Opportunity

What Could Be Wrong with ‘Church Planting’?

This is a wonderfully concise yet clear article by Mack Stiles on the upsides and dangers of Church Planting Movements, and a touch on DMM. The closing paragraph is worth the article.