This is an article from the March-April 2009 issue: U.S. Center for World Mission

Editorial Comment

Editorial Comment

Dear Reader:

For the first time in the 30 years of its publication, Dr. Ralph Winter is not writing the editorial for an issue of Mission Frontiers. His treatments for lymphoma have forced him to cut back. Mission Frontiers will continue to fulfill the mission with which Dr. Winter started it in 1979. We will seek to be a voice for the unreached peoples and the other mission frontiers. We will keep seeking to point out the problems, gaps or trends in the mission movement that need to be addressed. We will continue to be a voice for the innovative thinking and strategies that could make the difference in the effectiveness of the global cause of Christ.

As we begin a new era together, I want to thank Dr. Winter for his many years of service, for challenging us to think outside of our comfort zone and for helping us to see the exciting new possibilities that await us as we go forward to fulfill the vision of Rev. 5:9. You have been a blessing to us all. We hope and expect that Dr. Winter will have ongoing opportunities to speak through Mission Frontiers as his health allows. I also want to thank Dr. Winter for the opportunity to step into his very large shoes as editor of this publication and to begin a new journey of discovery together with you, our readers. Since there is no way to really fill his shoes, we will need each other and the many on our staff as we travel the road ahead. See page 6 for ways that you can help further the work of Mission Frontiers. Get your shoes on. The journey begins.

Talking About Ourselves

At the risk of appearing self-serving, our objective is two-fold. First, we want to make you aware of the resources and training available through the USCWM. Second, in each of our divisions—Strategy, Mobilization, Training and Services—there are key vacancies and needs. As you read, consider how God might want you to engage with us.

Good Information and Good Strategies

Most people tend to think that missions is all about getting people to the field. This is an important part of the picture, and we do work vigorously to mobilize people to go. (See the article on page 9.) But the vital thing is to be doing the most strategic work in the smartest way possible. You can work very hard to get a lot of people to climb a ladder only to find that it is leaning against the wrong wall.

The cause of Christ needs good information and good strategies in order to succeed. In every area of life, whether it is in the realms of business, sports or mission outreach, success is not achieved by just deploying a lot of people. Success is achieved by having competent well informed leaders who have the key information and strategic insights needed to guide them to accomplish their goals. This is what the U.S. Center works to provide to the mission world through its various ministries, including Mission Frontiers.

History Proves the Point

Like Dr. Winter I have an interest in history. I have a particular interest in U.S. history and the Revolutionary War period. Here is an incredible but true story from that era to illustrate the power of good information and effective strategies. While the goals and methods of a military operation are completely different from those of the mission enterprise, good information should shape our strategies and can still make the difference between success and failure of any endeavor.

Like all great generals, George Washington knew he needed good information on his enemy, and he worked very hard to get it. His close friend General Lafayette would eventually provide him with the key information that would help end the war.

By 1781, the cause of American independence still looked very much like a lost cause. Washington was focused on defeating the British entrenched around New York, where he had been crushed five years earlier by overwhelming British force. At the same time, General Lafayette and his forces were keeping a close eye on the British movements in Virginia. Lafayette’s forces were so weak that he could not mount any assault on British General Cornwallis and his forces. Washington did not immediately see the opportunity to trap the British at Yorktown until information on Cornwallis began to come to him from a very unlikely source.
Washington asked Lafayette to keep him informed of Cornwallis’ plans and movements, but Lafayette was able to learn nothing until a black slave named James Armistead came forward and volunteered to spy for him. This was easily accomplished since the British encouraged American slaves to escape to their side with the promise of freedom. Armistead was immediately accepted and assigned as an aide to General Benedict Arnold, who was almost captured based on the information that Armistead was providing to Lafayette.

Armistead was then assigned to work with Cornwallis himself. As Armistead would serve the General’s tea, he would listen and look to see what was being planned. The information was sent back to Lafayette on an almost daily basis and then on to Washington. Lafayette often learned within hours of British troop movements. Armistead became so respected for his intelligence and loyalty that Cornwallis asked Armistead to go back to the American side to spy for him. That’s right: he became a double agent passing good information to Lafayette and bad information to Cornwallis.

Based on the information coming from Armistead, Lafayette suggested to Washington that they could trap the British using the French fleet to block the mouth of Chesapeake Bay. At this news Washington abandoned his hopes of defeating the British in New York and began moving the bulk of his army hundreds of miles south in an attempt to trap Cornwallis even though they still did not know exactly where Cornwallis was moving.

At first, Armistead had been unable to discover where the British were moving. But then the news came. Lafayette wrote to Washington, “I have got some intelligence by way of this servant [Armistead] I have mentioned...I hear that they begin fortifying at York....”

With Armistead’s help Lafayette followed every move that Cornwallis made and kept him bottled up in Yorktown until Washington and his troops could arrive.

Washington’s army arrived, and the trap was sprung. The French fleet defeated the British naval forces that Cornwallis’ army of 8,000 men was depending on for their escape. Washington personally fired the first cannon that began a bombardment that forced Cornwallis to surrender.

A few days after the surrender, General Cornwallis paid a courtesy call on General Lafayette at his headquarters. As the two generals talked, Cornwallis looked up to see the familiar face of James Armistead, dressed in a Continental uniform. Cornwallis shook his head grimly as he realized that his faithful servant and spy was actually an American spy.

It is incredible to think that the capable work of a humble black Virginia slave changed the course of world history and helped to defeat the mightiest army in the world at that time. But that is the power of effective strategies based on good information.

Good information and effective strategies are what the cause of Christ needs on a daily basis to bring the Gospel to every tribe and tongue. We need to know which strategies and methods work and which ones may not. Often, the most popular strategies are precisely the ones that don’t work and cause the most harm.

It could be a humble missionary from the backwoods of Virginia who today discovers the key information and strategies to reach a Muslim, Hindu, or Buddhist people and in that way changes the course of history. This is the kind of work that the U.S. Center seeks to foster and promote through Mission Frontiers and our other ministries. Take special note of our Joshua Project ministry on page 2, where we are collecting key information on thousands of unreached peoples. Look for ways that you can be involved in the vital work of the U.S. Center as you read through the pages of this latest issue.

James Armistead was promised no reward for his service. After the war Armistead petitioned the Virginia State Legislature for his freedom. The Marquis de Lafayette sent a letter of commendation asking for any reward that they could bestow for his service. On January 9, 1786, the Virginia State Legislature granted the slave, known only as “James,” his freedom. It was at that time that he chose Lafayette for his last name in honor of the general. In 1824, while on his last tour of America, General Lafayette recognized Armistead in a crowd and embraced him.


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