Tuesday, 16 April 2013
Nothing is wasted
I’m glad that I wasn’t born at a time when missionaries packed their belongings in coffins and had an average life-expectancy of 18 months ‘on the field.’ Would you … could you have sent your son or daughter to what seemed like certain death with a heart full of faith for what they would accomplish in that short time? As a mother of a missionary daughter I quail at the thought. Would I have gone myself … knowing that I was unlikely to come back? I hope so but …And yet some of these brave men and women achieved more for the Kingdom of heaven in those few short months than the rest of us do in a lifetime
Most of us will have read a lot about North Korea in recent weeks. It seems a very unattractive place to go now, and I suspect that the ‘Hermit Kingdom’ seemed equally unattractive to most people in the 1800’s. But not to Robert Thomas, a young Welsh missionary. His wife died in China as a result of a miscarriage, but rather than heading back to his native Wales in his grief, Robert was haunted by the needs of Korea. In 1865 he set sail for this spiritually unreached land, staying there for some months, before returning to China. I would have been deterred from the beginning by the fact that I had no written Christian material in the Korean language. Not Robert. He handed out tracts and New Testaments in Chinese.
In 1866, Robert learned that an American boat, the General Sherman, was going to try to establish trade relations between Korea and the United States. Here was an opportunity to go back to this needy mission field. So he offered to accompany the boat as an interpreter in exchange for a chance to spread the gospel.
The Governor of the province, Pak Kyu Su, attacked the ship, and as the sailors fled from the boat, the Koreans killed them. Robert leaped from the boat carrying a Bible. "Jesus, Jesus!" he cried in Korean to the attackers, offering them the Bible. His head was whacked off with a stroke of a machete according to one account, but others think he pleaded for his life and was beaten to death.
Was it all a waste of a young man’s life? However he died, God worked in the heart of the man who killed him. Convinced by Robert's beaming face that he had killed a good man, he kept one of the Bibles, wallpapering his house with it. People came from far and near to read its words. A church grew. A nephew of Robert's killer became a pastor.
Today 40% of South Koreans are Christians and the nation has some of the largest congregations in the world. Even in the totalitarian regime in the North Korea, there are believed to be secret Christian believers, but they risk everything for their faith. If they are discovered, they are brutally punished unless they recant. In fact a recent report claims that when fugitive Christians who were hiding in ditches in the countryside were caught, they were run over by a steam roller, feet first.
Today, those of us who reach out in faith to others, take little or no risk physically. But we can easily become discouraged and de-motivated when little seems to happen as a result of our efforts. It is then we need to remember what happened at the Feeding of the 5,000. Jesus took a very small amount of food, willingly offered, and multiplied it to feed a huge crowd. Even the broken pieces were worth collecting up at the end of this mass picnic. Jesus said’ Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.’ John 6:12
I love the words of the veteran missionary Amy Carmichael, who spent much of her ‘missionary’ work in India confined to bed. But her written words still resonate today:
“Our dear Lord cares for the broken pieces of our lives, the fragments of all we meant to do, the little we have .. to offer and he will use even these fragments. He will not let even the least of our little broken things be lost.”