Wednesday, May 28, 2008

"The End of the Spear" and God's Ends Here...

A week ago today I spent a lot of time thinking about exactly what I'm doing here. I won't say that I wondered why I had come. I definitely was not regretting my decision to pursue God's leading to the Czech Republic. However, I was questioning my actual worth here, questioning what effect, if any, my presence here would have.

Wednesday (May 21) evening, I had searched for the movie "The End of the Spear" on YouTube, because I have never seen it and had some free time. I never found it, but I ended up watching several short, related clips instead. The movie is the account of what happened to a group of five missionary men, their wives, and their small children who were living in a remote area of Ecuador in the 1950s, trying to make contact with and evangelize a tribe of Haourani Indians called the Auca. This tribe was the most violent people group in the entire world, with the highest known homicide rate on the planet. The five men, Jim Elliot, Ed McCully, Roger Youderian, Pete Fleming, and Nate Saint spent months air lifting gifts to the tribe, but not having any personal contact. They finally made contact in late December 1955, and believed that they would have success in getting to know the tribe and begin to learn their language. However, on January 8, 1956, all five men were slaughtered by 10 men from the tribe. Two of the missionary wives, Rachel Saint and Elisabeth Elliot, remained in Ecuador after their husbands were killed and eventually moved to live with the Auca and began to translate the Bible into the Auca language and to tell these people about God, who the Auca called the "man-maker." To make a long story short, the missionary wives were able to begin the process of making disciples of this nation. Subsequently, Steve Saint, the son of Nate and Rachel Saint, as an adult, moved his family to Ecuador to live among the people who had killed his father, and to continue to teach them about Jesus, the Christ.

My point in telling you all of this: God made AMAZING fruit from the labor and sacrifice of these five men. The 10 tribesmen who killed them became believers in Jesus Christ and then became the elders of the church that was established among their people. In thinking about what God did through their work, I began to do something that a child of God should never do: I began to play the comparison game. I thought, "What am I doing here? I am not worthy to be called a missionary because I am not going to bring the Gospel to these people in such a remarkable way. I will never convert a whole nation of people. I won't translate the Bible into a previously unwritten language. I'm just a lowly English teacher. I have it easy: I'm surrounded by believers!"

The great thing, however, is the reassurance that comes from knowing God's Word and His call. "It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers" (Ephesians 4:11). Within the Church, God has given different tasks to different people. Similarly, God has called some missionaries to be linguists and transcribers of the Bible and even to be martyrs. Others He calls to be teachers of English and to lead little children to a knowledge of the truth.

I do not believe that by being here I am called to be a martyr for God's Church: chances are that I will not die here. I am not called to be a linguist: the Bible has existed in the Czech lands since before the Americas were even discovered. But that does not make my work for the Lord any less significant than the work that Jim Elliot and his fellow missionaries did. While to human perception (mine, in particular), the work I do here may not be spectacular and dramatic compared to the work other missionaries have done, it does have lasting, eternal value.

The same goes for all of you who read this blog. When you work for the Lord, you are storing up treasure in heaven, where moth and rust cannot destroy it, and thieves cannot steal it. In your mission field (because all Christians are missionaries), the shortest conversations and smallest deeds in the name of Christ have lasting value in the kingdom of heaven.

24/7 Prayer Update:
Today I looked at the online sign-up sheet for the prayer vigil I discussed in my last post. Yes, the week of prayer is half over by now, but every single slot has name in it. Some of them have two or three names. THAT is cool! Praise God.


Andrew said...

Simply by going over and being yourself, I think you can have more of an effect than you might realize. The potential ramifications are not immediate and they might be difficult to trace directly to you, but they are there:

-By sharing your experiences you can show how rewarding these mission trips can be, which can potentially be used to recruit others.

-By spending time in a distant place with a group of people with such strong faith, you can strengthen your own faith. That can make it easier to share with others when you get home.

-By setting a good example for the people there, they may be led to share their faith with others, leading to new converts.

-You're also not just representing yourself or the LCMS, you're also representing America to people who only 20 years ago suffered under the evils of communism. By showing the love and goodness that America was built upon, you can do more for relations between the American and Czech people than any of these clowns in Washington can do.

Whether you realize it or not, you're an inspiration to people like me who love to see God working in others to accomplish his will.

Plus reading your blog gives me a nice break from fighting off the lunacy back home in my blog.

I'll keep praying for you. God bless you Ashley.

AshleyEffken said...

As always, Andrew, thank you for your words of encouragement. I know that God has amazing things planned as the fruit of my time here. I further know that I may never see that fruit, just as these men never got to see the fruit of their efforts. I just pray that God would use my work in a mighty way for His glory.

I regret that I neglected to mention that Jim Elliot is the man who penned the now famous-- among Christians-- phrase "A man is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose." May God give me faith such as this!

Audrey said...

God has you there for a reason, Ashley! If things stay 'easy' for the entire time you're there, you'll still be able to look back someday and KNOW why He sent you there.

And you know what else I was thinking? He COULD have you there for the simple purpose of deepening your own walk with the Lord! ...perhaps in preparation for future experiences that might be more trying... Just a thought!

Much love.