Saving Lives, Not Dollars
Illinois, where I live and work, is one of three states that do not require motorcyclists to wear helmets. Every two years our legislators take up such a law, but routinely vote it down. Their simple logic seems to be that if people want to kill themselves, fine, let them do it.
During this year's debate one of our local radio stations interviewed a spokesman for the right not to wear a helmet lobby. The reporter sharply probed the issue. As you might expect, they differed on the potential harm to the state's economy and budget through diminished motorcycle sales. They differed on the higher costs of hospital bills, insurance bills, and taxes. They differed on the potential loss of federal payouts to Illinois.
Suddenly, I felt like yelling, "Hey, you guys! Why don't you argue about crushed brains, destroyed lives and families, lifetime disabilities, and death itself? Are these irrelevant? Can't you debate the value of a human life? Why are dollars the only issue?"
Like a boomerang, my challenge to the debaters came winging back and smashed me in the face. In our passionate debates about missionary work, what are we liable to argue the most about--dollars or lost lives? Let's honestly admit how often dollars dominate our discussions. Dollars dominate our plans. Dollars dictate our strategies. Dollars decide who goes to the field and who doesn't, what gets done and what doesn't, what gets built and what doesn't, who stays on the payroll and who doesn't.
Dollars corrupt our relations with churches overseas. Dollars eat up our people. Dollars consume the brains and energies of our most talented leaders. Dollars shape our prayer letters and our furloughs. Dollars decide who's in charge and who takes orders.
Meanwhile, all over the world people's lives are snuffed out like so many motorcyclists ramming into trailers, trucks, and trees. These are the people who supposedly God has called us to save. What are they worth? Where do they figure in our plans?
Our task, it seems to me, must be to shift our missiological field glasses away from dollars and toward human beings. They must occupy center stage on our agendas. When we think, plan, and pray, we must think, plan and pray people, not budgets.
The world's people must be resuscitated from sterile numbers and become living, breathing, dying human beings just like ourselves. Our statistical charts show "hidden," or unreached peoples. We are urged to adopt a people. These people march across our literature like so many little ducks in the old-time shooting galleries in the penny arcades. We even identify them as targets.
Our new missionaries are well indoctrinated in this bloodless agenda. We risk making missions a sanitary, soulless science, devoid of life- saving transfusions. In our rush "to get the job done" we scamper around the globe like circus advance men handing out tracts, claiming to have evangelized someone.
Mission, in the biblical sense, means suffering and bleeding for our fellow sufferers and bleeders. It means hours, days, weeks, and years of loving someone, whether this person takes our tracts or not.
Our next consultation should not be on the crisis of missionary support, but on the tragic shortfall in listening, loving, and serving skills. How do we discover someone's hurts, fears, and deeply held traditions? We ought not to send anyone as a missionary who has not earned some credibility with some unbelievers somewhere. Our experts should be those who have clothed themselves in the feelings and convictions of other people.
We must not permit money to upstage human lives on our missions agendas. The question is not what it costs to require helmets, but how many lives it saves.