What do missions and clearing land have in common?

Photo courtesy of SEND International

Temple Gate in Taiwan.
(Photo courtesy of SEND International)

Int’l (SEND) — [EDITORS NOTE: Article written by Anna McShare with SEND International.]

Dear Pastor Jerry,

You may wonder why I’m writing you a personal letter when you asked us to fill out a questionnaire for the Global Outreach committee. Let me see if I can explain.

First, may I take you on a walk? Leave your office, leave the church, and come down the street with me. Not your street: my street. See the gate ahead? That’s the temple gate. We’ll pray before going inside because, well, we’re entering Satan’s turf and we don’t do that lightly. We need to prepare, not with a formula prayer, but with a push-back-the-darkness prayer.

What? You are feeling a sort of heavy darkness pressing you down? Good. I want you to feel that, because the darkness is real. As we move around the temple grounds, please watch what is going on. Yes, the noise is irritating: drums, gongs, incessant meaningless, rambling sounds of chant. That is supposed to be worship. Those monks sitting over there smoking: they are the worship leaders. The food on the tables is for the spirits, and the firecrackers are driving away the evil spirits. Those people burning paper in a kerosene tin? Oh, they are sending paper money to their ancestors. See, if it burns, it becomes “spirit,” and maybe grandfather can use it.

Idol worship in Taiwan. Why have I brought you here? You find it dirty, strange, and disgusting? But, Pastor Jerry, you need to see this world: this messy dirty world. It’s where we live.

Now, let’s walk down the main street of town. See all those young girls at the entrance to shops? You might not get approached if you are with me, but if you were by yourself you’d get lots of invitations. To be blunt, they are prostitutes and you are fresh meat. I hope that doesn’t horrify you. You represent money, and they need money. So they are willing to sell the only product they have: their bodies.

They seem so young? Yes, they ARE young. Why do their parents allow this? Well, probably their fathers already sold them to a pimp. After all, if life has no more meaning than the emptiness you saw back there in the temple, why not sell a worthless girl to get some money? One less mouth to feed, and cash in the pocket.

I could take you further, but this may be enough for right now. I need to go back to the questionnaire I haven’t sent you–the one the Global Outreach committee sent out last week.

One question asked how many people have you seen come to Christ this year. Another asked for our three top goals this next year. Honestly, pastor, we’d prefer to be asked, “What is keeping people around you from coming to faith? How are you meeting those challenges? What ways have you found that penetrate the darkness around you? Can you tell me about the life of one person you are currently sharing your life with in your community?”

When you ask us what our goals are for next year, I get intimidated. It is not that we have no goals, but they may not seem like goals to you. Like, how do you write a goal that says you want to build friendships with the people in your neighborhood?

The committee is looking for concrete, nuts and bolts, numbers and statistics, but we’re living in a world where ministry is holistic, organic, and lacking structure. We often can’t tell you what we do on Monday because Monday this week may be totally different from last week.

“But our people need something concrete,” you say. “After all, they are supporting you.” True. Could you ask us for stories–good and bad? Could you ask us what is NOT going well and how you can pray for those challenges? Could you let us tell you how dark it is here spiritually, how drained we feel most days, how often we’re discouraged, how much time is consumed with sheer mechanics of life?

I’m sorry we can’t tell you that we have five Bible studies going and will see a church established next year. The reality is that in the great spiritual scheme of sowing and reaping, we’re still clearing the field, hauling out rocks, and digging up stumps.