A column from Ann Coulter came across my news feed today, blasting a young doctor’s decision to do medical missions. CLICK THIS LINK TO READ.
I agree whole-hardheartedly with Ann that Christians have work to do in America. God has convicted me lately that the lost, those in slavery, the nations, those in need of spiritual growth–are my neighbors and friends. However, most of her article grieved me deeply. I think her mindset is toxic to the church (and thus my burning need to address it here on my blog). So, with all due respect to Ann, here are some of my thoughts:
1) LOCAL MISSIONS AND GLOBAL MISSIONS ARE PARTNERS, NOT RIVALS.
At the start of this year, my husband was hired on as a missions minister at Long Hollow Baptist Church. His official title is “Outreach and Relief Minister”. His main focus has been local missions and community relief. Most of our weeknights and weekends revolve around how our church can reach the lost and make better “disciples” in our community.
We have congregation members who passionately go out to the local hotels every Wednesday night to minister to the prostitutes. Some of these same members are going to Thailand this year to work with girls caught in human trafficking. We have teachers who serve faithfully every Sunday in the daycare, and they also go to our Haiti orphanage once a year. I have close friends who are doctors who shine the light of Jesus in their hospitals here in the U.S. but they also choose to do medical missions, just as Dr. Kent Brantly chose to do. We have family and friends who served this city for years, that are now overseas. I have co-workers who spent decades overseas, who now serve in ministry here.
Jesus told us before he ascended to Heaven, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, AND to the ends of the earth.” Locally, nationally, AND globally. My husband has people talk to him on a regular basis with concerns: “We should pour all of money into local missions.” or “We should be sending more money to Haiti, their living standards aren’t even close to our own,” ect.
But, you see, local missions and global missions are not in a boxing match, they hold hands. One is not better than the other. They are a married couple–and they inspire one another.
2) DON’T THROW THE BABY OUT WITH THE BATHWATER:
Honestly, missions “tourism” is a rising problem. Admittedly, some simply want to have a beautiful picture made with a cute orphan. Some just want to travel to exotic locals. We could do a better job teaching healthy missiology and sustainability within these countries. Does that mean that we should discourage these efforts and forgo any work outside America? NO! Let’s say, worst case scenario, someone leaves for a trip with wrong motives. Perhaps we should respond like the Apostle Paul, instead criticize like Ann:
“The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice,…” Philippians 1:17-18
There are many with wrong motives, however, many have answered the true call to international missions (short and long term) and seen just how hard it can be. Ann, have you ever “slinked” into a third world country to serve? Let’s say one does feel “heroic” when initially going–that tends to quickly fade. Beyond the smells, the diseases, and the dangers–the trip is also expensive, the spiritual warfare can be crushing, there is a foreignness and a loneliness that can be paralyzing and devastating. The Christians she speaks of that are simply afraid of “cultural” persecution in the States are not likely to find the mission field a welcome respite.
But, in many cases, people return from trips with a greater love for their country, a gratefulness for our prosperity, a greater compassion for those around them in any location, and a more selfless life–something we could all use more of in America. Most of all, they usually have a greater love for CHRIST, which spills into their everyday lives.
Some of the most dedicated international missionaries I know, are doing vast amounts of work for Christ in the U.S. also because *they do not love their own life* more than the gospel. (Revelation 12:11) Something they have had to, no doubt, “work out” on the mission field.
My husband traveled to West Africa this spring. One of the groups that is making a huge impact in my city is a group of missionaries that have also done work in Sierra Leone, an area where the Ebola virus is spreading. The work of these missionaries there (some who were murdered due to intense Muslim persecution) has sparked a church planting movement that is now so “on-fire” and so huge…that is blazing it’s way BACK the U.S. One the pastors from Sierra Leone spent a full weekend teaching US how to reach our community and pray for our country. He also thanked the Lord in prayer for American missionaries who were willing to share the gospel with his ancestors. You may not think these “disease-ridden cesspools” (as Ann calls them) have any impact on this country….but it all comes full circle. America may be our country and I love her so, but the body of Christ is a “family” that should take priority.
International mission trips do not distract from America, they enrich it.
2) OBEDIENCE (NOT REASONING) IS THE KEY:
In Ann’s mind– staying home + staying alive + witnessing to an influential American = more fruit from Dr. Kent for the Kingdom of God.
“If Dr. Brantly had practiced at Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles and turned one single Hollywood power-broker to Christ, he would have done more good for the entire world than anything he could accomplish in a century spent in Liberia.”
Okay, good scenario but it seems rather arrogant to me that Ann believes her plans for Dr. Kent would be best. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” Proverbs 14:12
Perhaps Dr. Kent was trying to be a hero….OR perhaps he was a man who spent quite a lot of time on his knees, who heard from God, and used his medical gift and training to help the least of these. Perhaps he didn’t feel like leaving his family but he felt compelled to go (believe me, something we wrestle with very intimately in our immediate family.) Perhaps, his decision to “go” was based on obedience, and not to escape the current cultural struggles of being a Christian in America. We do not have the authority to make him a scapegoat for mission “tourism”. We do not know his heart or what God was speaking to him in the secret place.
Imagine if we assigned “Christian narcissism” to the apostle Paul because he refused to stay in his own country (which was much in need of the gospel, and much more socially hostile to Christ) and kept braving rather unfortunate shipwrecks, imprisonment, and persecution. He did BOTH! How irresponsible of Paul! (sarcasm) Check out Acts 20:20-21, one of my favorite verses from Paul.
“How I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, 21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. 22 And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. 24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. 2″
Who is to say that one young child that Dr. Kent treated in Liberia would not be the next Billy Graham of his country? Or, that he would reach one like my friend Manny Ohomne who is the founder of Samaritans Feet. Manny is from Nigeria and a missionary gave him a pair of shoes and share the gospel with him. One small act. He became a collegiate-level basketball player in the U.S. Today, Manny runs a national AND international ministry and has made a huge impact for Christ in just about every professional sport–a light to highly influential athletes. See his story by clicking on this link.
Who is to say that the media attention on the virus and Dr. Kent has not sparked thousands to seek out the gospel he was willing to die for? God doesn’t always think in terms of influence, numbers, or money…the way we do.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9
“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it?” Luke 15:4
God asks us to be willing to lay down our (eternally-secured) lives for our brothers–even if it is just ONE brother.
UPDATE: DR. Kent Brantly has now been released from Emory. I love this quote from I LOVED seeing this quote from a CNN article from Dr. Bruce Ribner, director of Emory’s Infectious Disease Unit:
“We are tremendously pleased with Dr. Brantly and Mrs. Writebol’s recovery,” Ribner said at the news conference. “What we learned in caring for them will help advance the world’s understanding of how to treat Ebola infections and help, hopefully, to improve survival” in other parts of the world.
His decision to “GO” has now had a profound impact on Liberia, America, and countless nations….countless lives. Again, God’s ways are not like our way….and PRAISE HIM FOR THAT!
3) BEING A JONAH GOES BOTH WAYS:
In the book of Jonah in the Bible, Jonah ran from God’s call to the people of Nineveh, because he hated that particular people group. God was telling him to “go” but he wanted to stay in his comfort zone. Jonah took a ship going the opposite direction, but God sent a storm to stop his escape and a huge fish to swallow Jonah up. After 3 days, Jonah decided to be obedient and do what God was telling him to do.
Ann is right in that we need to witness to America. We need to pray for our country. We need to serve. We need to look for the endless opportunities to reach the lost for Christ HERE. We don’t need to be afraid of the “cultural” price we will pay. If God is calling you to stay here and you choose to “escape” to another country, you are being a Jonah. Hands down.
However, if God is telling you to GO, and you use Ann’s reasoning and a love for “America” above God’s call to missions— you are also being a Jonah. Either way, God’s concern is not location–he is concerned about OBEDIENCE AND SOULS.
The price is not too costly and the risk is not “idiotic.”