In 1971 my family and I lived four degrees from the equator as we did mission work in a rural area of a West African country. At that time, we were in the safest situation that we will ever experience on earth. The people were kind, appreciative, and (in their poverty) generous.

In every consideration, it was a different world. These people had seen little technology. And many of the "new things" introduced to their society were dangerous.

For example, the car and truck were dangerous. Only the elite and foreigners owned and operated motor vehicles. In rural areas, people walked. Most roads were in extremely poor condition. Shoulders on roads or sidewalks were unknown in rural areas. From a hour before daylight to an hour after dark, multitudes were walking in the road. That made the road dangerous for pedestrians and drivers.

Under most circumstances, these people were calm, under control people. But if a car or truck hit a person or an animal, the people instantly were so emotional that they lost control. If a car killed a villager, it was not unusual for the village to burn the car. For that reason, if you hit a person, you were not to stop. You were to drive immediately to the nearest police station.

A mobile medical clinic was a part of our work. Deborah Wilson, who was then the unmarried Deborah Brown, worked as a nurse in that clinic. Ordinarily, five days a week, the clinic traveled in a large Land Rover to a village located in a population area. Most weeks they visited the same village on the same day of the week.

One day as they drove through a village on their way to a scheduled clinic, they met an enormous crowd of people who blocked the road. It was impossible to drive through them or around them. Immediately, the medical team decided, "We have a serious problem." They quickly begin thinking together. "We have not hit a pedestrian. Did we run over a chicken? a pig? a goat?"

They had no choice but to stop. When they stopped, the crowd engulfed the Land Rover, and a very small man walked up to the driver and presented a piece of paper to the doctor. Then, immediately, the road cleared, and they drove through without incident.

The message on the piece of paper read,

Come over into
and help us.
--Acts 16:9
The small man's name was Nseudo. In a short time he was converted, began teaching, and established a congregation in the village.
  1. Next Sunday is Missions Sunday at West-Ark.
    1. What is Missions Sunday?
      1. As a congregation, we are seriously committed to foreign mission work.
        1. Our missions commitment is diverse.
        2. Each year we take a medical and evangelistic team to Guyana to work for a week. Michael Cole, with lots of assistance, plans that work.
          1. The work is coordinated in Guyana by Steve DeLoach, a missionary.
          2. During that week our medical team treats people who have limited or no access to medical treatment.
          3. As people gather for treatment, another team studies with them.
          4. Each evening there are preaching and teaching assemblies.
        3. Primarily through the ongoing involvement of Jim and Deborah Wilson, we assist the work in Ethiopia.
          1. Jim and Deborah Wilson make visits twice a year to Ethiopia, visits that they personally finance.
          2. Christians and the church are doing an excellent work in that country; they recently began their own missions outreach to neighboring countries.
          3. The circumstances of Ethiopian Christians often are harsh and difficult, and poverty is a significant factor.
        4. Primarily through the personal efforts of Jerry and Meg Canfield, we have an ongoing involvement in Laos.
          1. Jerry and Meg financed much of their work there until the government made it necessary for them to leave the country.
          2. The Christians there exist under extremely difficult circumstances that include the continuing imprisonment of ten of them.
        5. Roy and Joyce Dunavin are involved in several mission works.
          1. They are a part of the Guyana team each year.
          2. They spent one month this year in New Zealand as Roy taught in a preacher training school, and they both worked with and encouraged established congregations.
          3. They both worked in Romania this year for about a month as they assisted the missionaries and congregations there.
        6. We also maintain a medical missions work through a ministry that we call C.U.R.E., The Compassionate Utilization of Resources.
          1. Bob Fisher coordinates this program, but Bob is assisted in a variety of ways by a number of capable people in this congregation.
          2. C.U.R.E. maintains a warehouse at Fort Chaffee primarily filled with medical supplies.
          3. These medical supplies are contributed from multiple sources.
          4. They ship large cartons of medical supplies to medical missions and outreaches in several different countries.
          5. They also serve as a rapid response system when a disaster occurs in this region.
          6. Honduras and northern Nicaragua suffered major disaster when the recent hurricane struck, and we will be quickly involved in the relief work there.
            1. Wednesday the estimates were that at least 7,000 were killed and as may as 11,000 were missing.
            2. Entire villages were buried by mud slides.
      2. On Missions Sunday, we take a special collection for missions.
        1. This contribution funds the larger part of our missions budget for 1999.
        2. Last year we contributed $140,000 to help finance missions for 1998.
        3. This year the missions committee is requesting a contribution of $109,000 to help fund missions for 1999.

  2. In my personal judgment, the poorest of all reasons for doing mission work is the demand and responsibility created by a commandment.
    1. We share our God and our Savior with other peoples and cultures because of our love for and devotion to our God and Savior.
      1. Let me give you an example: which missionary would you allow to teach you?
      2. First is the missionary sees the great commission as a commandment that he is obligated to fulfill.
        1. He is staunchly American, loves America, considers America the only good place on earth to live, and believes that Americans and the American culture and system are superior to every other people.
        2. As a Christian, for his own personal reasons, he accepted "the obligation" to do mission work.
        3. He arrives in the country with an attitude of superiority, and the longer he stays, the worse his attitude gets.
          1. "Dumb country!"
          2. "Ridiculous climate!"
          3. "Ignorant people!"
          4. "Stupid government!"
          5. "Foolish beliefs!"
          6. "Backward society!"
        4. It is impossible to hide this attitude from the people and the government; his arrogance and disrespect is evident in everything he is and does.
        5. Because of an attitude like this, the name of God is blasphemed and Jesus is rejected in many places.
      3. Second is the missionary who loves people because his God and Savior taught him how to love.
        1. He falls in love with the people because of his compassion and respect.
        2. Instead of criticizing them, he learns their culture and their ways.
        3. He tries to understand them in the same way that he wants them to understand him.
        4. He learns to think like they think, see as they see, and feel what they feel.
        5. He teaches because he cares.
      4. Which missionary would you listen to?
    2. God loves people.
      1. God does not prefer Americans.
      2. If there is any lesson that we need to learn from the Jewish people of the first century, we must learn this lesson.
      3. The more that I learn through study, age, and experience, the more convinced I am that this is true: God is more impressed with several other peoples than He is with us.
        1. Materially, we have so much.
        2. Spiritually, we are so little.
        3. Many who live in poverty are better stewards than we are.

  3. In my personal judgment, the apostle Paul was the best prepared and most effective missionary our world has ever known.
    1. If ever there was "the right man for the right time," Paul was that man.
    2. There is a basic, essential lesson that we need to learn from Paul.
      1. Paul did not forfeit his Jewish heritage when he became a Christian.
      2. The events of Acts 21:17-26 occurred after the Christian Paul spent years in mission work.
      3. That scripture makes it evident that Paul did not forfeit his Jewish heritage because he was a Christian.
      4. But, Paul made it quite clear in Philippians 3:3-11 that his Jewish heritage was not the source of his salvation.
    3. Though Paul honored his Jewish heritage, Paul never made Judaism a condition of salvation for anyone.
      1. Other Jewish Christians insisted that people who were not Jews had to accept Jewish practices and customs to be Christians (Acts 15:1-5).
      2. Paul powerfully refuted that claim (Galatians 3, 4).
      3. He championed the truth that salvation comes 100% from Jesus Christ and 0% from Judaism.
    4. What does that mean to us? A person does not have to be an American to be a Christian; being an American is not a factor in anyone's salvation.
      1. Even if a person does not live in a democracy, he or she can be a Christian.
      2. Even if a person has never known freedom, he or she can be a Christian.
      3. Regardless of the form of government a person lives under, he or she can be a Christian.
      4. Regardless of the culture a person lives in, he or she can be a Christian.
      5. A person does not have to speak and read English, sound like a middle class American, act like an American, or know the American way to be a Christian.
      6. All that is necessary to be a Christian is to belong to Jesus Christ.
    5. Listen to the missionary Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23.
      For though I am free from all men I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law so that I might win those who are under the Law to those who are without law, as without law though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ so that I might win those who are without law To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some I do all things for the sake of the gospel so that I may become a fellow partaker of it. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)

Why do Christians share Jesus Christ with other peoples? Because we value God's love. Because we cherish God's forgiveness. Because we know the incredible encouragement of being a part of God's universal family. Because the privilege of being a part of God's eternal purposes awes us.

The most selfish thing Christians can do is share Jesus Christ with no one.

If you share with others what you have with Jesus spiritually, what would they have? We need to share our funds, our blessings, and our opportunities, but nothing we have needs to be shared more than our Savior.

Anyone who tries to share things from an empty heart, doesn't really have anything worth sharing.

May your joy in salvation grow. May your heart be filled so that you may have something to share.

Does Christ live in your life? Let God do for you what He intends to do for you in Christ. Are you ready to be born again?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 8 November 1998

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