Global Missions: Challenges, Hardships, Dangers (part 3)

Challenges, Hardships and Dangers (part 3)
by Sue Calhoun (Missions Team Member)

The last of this series of blog posts focuses on perhaps the most unique and challenging issue that our mission partners face, a societal environment that is hostile to Christianity, as the apostle Paul describes is his first letter to the Thessalonians: “for you also endured the same sufferings at the hands of your own countrymen…” (1 Thess. 2:14)

Here are a few examples from the Ruracas and the Rainwaters to illustrate:

When I asked Dwayne Rainwater what we could say about their ministry and whether we could post photos, this was his partial response, “As far as what to say about us, it is okay to say that we work with Pioneer Bible Translators and that we are Bible translators for an unreached people group in West Africa. We can't really give more details than that except in person. It would not be okay to mention the name of the people group as that would betray our location."

We are not to give anyone's name or the names of villages either, nor is it okay to mention the specific religion of the people. Organization wide, we are to avoid mentioning any other religion by name except animism and Christianity. The best we can do is say that the dominant religion of the area is another world religion. Also, we are not to post pictures with people's faces in them online, certainly when we do not have their permission first.  

For the moment this also includes pictures of our family. There are people in the world who, rather than pray for us, will curse us and do what they can to stop us with this information. It is very sad. Just as we want to publicize more, there are those who will use this information to attempt to hinder us.”

Owen Ruraca has shared, over the years, a couple of stories as well, about the dangers Christians face from those in their community who believe in and practice witchcraft.  Several years ago, he had a new convert to the church, a woman, whose husband was not a believer.  He was ill and Owen visited the home at the wife’s request.  While Owen was in the house, the husband died and Owen was arrested as causing his death.  The belief among his neighbors was that he had cast an evil spell on this man.  He was ultimately released because his fellow Christ followers vouched for him with the police.

Recently, Owen also alerted us to a tragic event in their village.  Lightning struck the home of one of their Christian neighbors, causing a fire that destroyed all their possessions.  Since the house was made of stucco, the structure wasn’t completely destroyed.  However, the electric company claimed no responsibility and offered no assistance to this family who lost all their possessions and two of their children suffered burns from the fire. None of their non-Christian neighbors would help them with clothing and goods, or to rebuild.  They saw the lightning strike as a sign from evil spirits.

It is hard to imagine that life can be so hard and dangerous.  But it is, for the Rainwaters and for the Ruracas, probably for the Westerholms.  Cultural norms vary widely. Assumptions about what is and isn’t okay to do or say that we may bring with us from the West need to be cast aside or tucked away while living and ministering in Africa.

So, what shall we say?  Our mission partners surely face challenges, hardships and even dangers that we don’t and may never experience unless we venture to the overseas mission field.  They cannot rely on governments or even the kindness of their neighbors. But, the Lord is with them,  opening doors and providing for them in ways that sometimes cannot be explained.  Every message, every report we receive from our partners begins with praise and thanksgiving.  Please pray for our Lord to continue to bless them as they labor to grow His kingdom on the other side of the world.

Thank you for remembering our mission partners and praying for the Lord’s protection.
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed”
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