Monday, January 05, 2009

Missionary Conundrum

I have often found myself in a difficult dilemma. Sometimes, as a missionary, one can not help but become deeply involved in the lives of the people where one is serving. After so many years of trying to adapt, even adopting the culture, it is not easy to avoid opinions of the political nature. Especially when you see a government that is abusing the citizen. Even more so when you realize that many measures could endanger the Christian cause.

When it comes to communism, there has never been a place where Christianity was allowed to flourish under this system. I see no reason to believe it will be different in Venezuela. Add to that all the new alliances with Iran and radical Islam, how can the missionary not be concerned? How can you not warn, or at least try to prepare, the congregation for the persecution to come?All this has to be tempered by the reality that our primary mission is to evangelize the unsaved and serve the people as our Lord would.

The dilemma is knowing when and where to draw the line. I have not always been able to do this. I have grown to identify so much with the people of Venezuela, I can not turn a blind eye.

I was encouraged as I began to research and found that others before me have experienced the same problem.

One missionary I remembered reading about many years ago, Howard Baskerville , seemed to feel as I. He was a missionary who served in Iran.

Howard Baskerville said that he joined his students and took up arms for the nationalist movement, "as a matter of conscience." He ended up dying, while actually defending the Iranians. He is buried in Tabriz.
I am not condoning violence. I do applaud bravery and the defense of the weak.

Until recently, he was considered a hero by the Iranians. Much the same as we American revere Lafayette, who fought with us in the revolutionary war, Baskerville was honored as the American missionary who fought with his students.

He died in the siege of Tabriz leading a student contingent, in April of 1909. He was buried there in Iranian soil.

The following are excerpts from a letter, written by an American missionary wife, to inform his parents of their son's deeds.

My Dear Dr. & Mrs. Baskerville,

You have heard long before this letter reaches you that your dear boy has laid down his life. It is almost three weeks since he resigned his position at the mission school, though he has come to see us six times since. The last time was last night. Just before starting to battle. He told us it was a desperate attempt to open the road and get food into this starving city. We had prayer together. Mr. Wilson praying only for his protection and commending him to God's care. Mr. Baskerville himself prayed only for others, "this city to be relieved," "the dear ones of the Mission to be kept in safety, and for peace to be obtained." - not a word of himself.

In the night a soldier brought a note from him, "Dangerous rumor that the Europeans will be attacked to secure immediate intervention. don't be on the streets today." The first Sunday after he joined the army he came to church and sat in his usual seat, - the second in front - and had quite an ovation afterward, the men pressing round him to shake hands. That afternoon he came to see us. I begged him not to be reckless, saying "You know you are not your own." "No," he answered, "I am Persia's."

And then of their son's death.

We carried him to our room and laid him on our own bed, and Mrs. Vannemen and I washed the dear body with the blood staining through his shirts and covering his breast and back. We found the bullet hole in front and back, having passed clear through, so small, so fatal. It had entered from the back and come out just above his heart, cutting a large artery. and Dr. V. says causing instant death. His face was bruised a little on one side,where he had fallen.

We dressed him in his black suit, and when all the sad service was done, he looked beautiful and noble, his firm mouth set in a look of resolution and his whole face calm in repose. I printed a kiss on his forehead for his mother's sake. A white carnation is in his buttonhole, and wreaths of flowers are being made. Our children made a cross and crown of the beautiful almond blossoms now in bloom.

The Governor came at once, expressing great sorrow, saying, "He has written his name in our hearts and in our history." The Anjuman (national assembly) sent a letter, saying they wished a share in doing him honor, and asked that the funeral be put off till tomorrow...


Mrs. C said...

How hard it had to be for you to leave and not take your friends with you. And how sad that staying was not a viable choice as you would have been a special target.

:[ God bless the people of Venezuela.

ABNPOPPA said...

Do be careful and learn to draw the line. I enjoy reading your blog and have learned much about life and another culture. Piks of Jude Christian @ Conservative Outrage.


Z said...

I blogged on him last April...who knew anybody else knew about him?
He's a hero in Iraq and Armenia (a little plug there!)

Imagine his parents when they got this news? What a man. He really stood for something and died fighting for it. A true hero..

May God rest his soul.


redneck preacher said...

Sadly there are preachers here in the USA that feel it is wrong to get involved in any politics. The other side has waltzed in and occupied the empty seats.

There is a line and sometimes it is difficult to find.


Brenda said...

Some amazing missionaries have gone before us. . . its kind of sobering!

Pam said...

Wow! Awe inspiring. Thanks for sharing a little of this great man.

Anonymous said...

America is one of the very few places in the world that attempts to separate church and state. And if your not in one of them...

Starla said...

This is truly God's love in action. When others can love people who are not like them and to stand by them and die for them.

Anonymous said...

Politics. I've been so ANGRY for a long time on that subject because of the destruction & strife bad politics brings.

Struggling with "love the sinner" when I've been so enraged and feeling hate.

But the Bible is all about political struggle - getting bad politics and politicians & influence peddlers out of the way of Christians. How to reconcile?

How not to hate those worthy of that horrible emotion?

A person is considered a 'good' person from their good deeds motivated by kindness and duty.

Isn't a person considered 'bad' when they knowingly perform or support bad deeds?