Cockroaches, Climate and Strategy Which Missionaries Will You Support?
Ralph D. Winter
A young man on a short term mission to Latin America found his supporters getting less and less interested in helping him financially.
He was desperately low.
But he had an ally he did not know about: COCKROACHES!
He found out by accident.
He had learned the hard way that, in the one-room, wash-basin only, sixth-floor walk-up apartment he rented in the modern city of Caracas, Venezuela, he always had to put the stopper in the washbasin at night or COCKROACHES by the hundreds would stream out into his room.
In his letters home he had never mentioned this. He had stressed the evangelistic work he was doing with street kids.
About seven months into his one-year short term of service he was particularly discouraged and the COCKROACHES problem slipped into his prayer letter.
Instantly he got some sympathetic lettersand additional support.
We thought you were just enjoying yourself in a modern city. We didnt know you were struggling with COCKROACHES! That is not what they said, but it seems it MAY be what they were thinking!
This also happened. A mission committee wrote to one of its missionaries:
Dear ______, Your forthcoming marriage to the young man working with mission-minded students in the USA has caused some difficult decisions here in our mission committee. We have been sending you $500 a month for the two years of your internship at the US Center for World Mission, thinking you would be going on to China. You have yourself taught us only too well that we must put our money into highly strategic Frontier Missions work. We regret very much to inform you that as of the date of your marriage we will not be contining any further support. We wish you well in your new relationship.
Cordially yours, Mission Committee
This dear girl was marrying one of the most strategic mission workers in the world, literally (I do not want to be too detailed lest I breach confidences).
What this church did not realize is that what is strategic in missions may not fit the old stereotype of missionaries slaving in tropical heat and battling cockroaches. Case Three Over the last 30 years the number of Asian, African and Latin American people flooding into the U.S.A has mounted stupendously. These movements have been looked upon primarily from the point of view of the danger to Americathe impact of these people on our neighborhood. Few Americans have enough nervous energy left over to grapple realistically with the spectacular mission significance of Gods bringing these representatives of exotic peoples to our doorsteps. This is very understandable but very deplorable! Some missionaries and mission agencies have noticed the significance of this avalanche of strange peoples to our doorsteps, but they find it hard, if not impossible, to seriously consider reaching these highly accessible groups here in the USA.
And so they seem resistant to the Gospel. But now there are a thousand of these Indians in Los Angeles, California. And theyre wide open, reaching out for help. Why dont you move up here and get through to them? I asked my friend.
After some probing, he finally replied,
My churches would cut me off.
How Shall We Evaluate Mission Work?
Dear friend, is it possible that some mission money is going to pay people for SUFFERING rather than SERVING? Id guess at least 5,000 missionaries are being assigned to the wrong place because of what donors and well-wishers will or will not support. Their work is being evaluated not by its STRATEGIC VALUE to the Kingdom of God but by CLIMATE and COCKROACHES. How many thousands of missionaries could better spend their time promoting the cause of missions in the USA, getting at specific peoples here, working behind the scenes or in unusual placesdoing things of great strategic importance IF ONLY THIS SILLY GEOGRAPHICAL/COCKROACH TEST were not lurking in the hearts and minds of thousands of mission committees!
We need to ask: What do we want missionaries to do? Find the worst place to live? Or find the best place to servethe least-touched people groups?
2. See if your mission agencies have work to do in the U.S.A. behind the scenes which they are afraid they cannot support. Will your church say yes?
3. Ask people you touch if they are really thinking and praying about reaching all of the unreached peoples of the world or are paying attention to less important factors.