There’s a great myth that an older adult can’t acquire a foreign language. Of course, children find it easier; however, a more mature adult can still develop language skills. “It’ll require more work, but you can improve,” an ex-CIA employee told me today.
Many people feel defeated by their language learning attempts whether on vacation, a semester abroad, or on business. Overseas missions can seem a bit like learning a foreign language. It easily defeats you, and you feel that only the super-elite can succeed, much in the way only certain individuals excel in a foreign language.
I’m not trying to dismiss learning Mandarin, Arabic or Hindi, but I do want to say, “Don’t take a rain-check on missions just because you don’t feel qualified. Don’t leave it to some elite, Delta Force of gung-ho Christians.” History shows us many counter-examples to the gung-ho view of missions. Here are three that caught my attention this week:
#1 The Gardener. “I’ve never been to college; no missionary society will accept me” was Robert Moffat’s (1795-1883) response when he felt stirred to consider overseas missions work. A lowly gardener in Cheshire, England, Robert felt the Holy Spirit’s tug to frontier missions in South Africa. Moffat saw no fruit for ten years and then, in his own words there was a breakthrough, “The simple Gospel melted the flinty hearts” of the Bechuana tribe he had sought to win for Christ.
#2 The Illiterate. Afua Kuma, a traditional mid-wife from the West African nation of Ghana, never went to high school let alone college. She didn’t read the King James Bible, but through her mother tongue, the Akan language, she communicates that Jesus was alive in Africa. “Should the devil himself become a lion and chase us as his prey, we shall have no fear Lamb of God! Satan says he is a wolf—Jesus stretches forth His hand, and look: Satan is a mouse!”
#3 The Chambermaid. Gladys Alyward (1902-70) came from a blue-collar family in London. The China Inland Mission rejected her application as a prospective missionary because they thought she was too old (at 30) to learn Mandarin Chinese. She felt that tug of the Holy Spirit and spent her life’s savings on a one-way ticket to China in 1930. God used her powerfully not only to save 100 orphans from the Japanese military invasion of China, but also to unbind the feet of women trapped in oppressive life-styles.
Too weak? Too old? Too tired? God uses the weak to shame the strong (1 Corinthians 1:27). Perhaps He can use you to shine as a light in your community as Afua Kuma does in hers? Maybe He can prepare you to open doors amongst tribes like the Bechuana that nobody else cares about? Possibly He wants to nudge you to use your life-savings for the Gospel of Jesus on behalf of those who’ve never heard about Jesus for the first time? Are you too weak for Jesus to use today?