1398) Missionary Influences: Four Brief Stories

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     During our first year as missionaries to a newly opened primitive area of the highlands of New Guinea, we soon became aware of much tension and rivalry among the various tribes, which often resulted in open hostility and warfare.  They were then usually rounded up by the local police and herded to the nearest stockade, where they were forced to live and work together for many months.  After the incarceration, they would return to their respective villages, only to repeat the cycle of animosity, hatred, and fear of one another.

     After we had been there a while, several people in these various tribes began to listen to the “Miti” (Gospel).  Eventually, some requested further instruction in the catechism and worship in preparation for baptism.  This first baptism would be a totally new experience for them.  Therefore, as part of the preparation, they decided to leave their villages and build a single village, for all the believers from the various tribes, near the future site of the baptism.  When asked about this daring move, an elderly man of wisdom rose to his feet and said:  “We have been living as enemies for generations.  We were consumed with suspicions, hatred, and killing that kept us apart.  We knew only about revenge.  Now the Miti has come and taught us about Jesus and his love; about reconciliation through forgiveness; and about how we are all brothers and sisters in Christ through baptism.  So we have come to prove to ourselves that we can truly live together in peace and love as brothers and sisters.  If not, then we are not ready yet to call ourselves Christians.”

     After living together in peace and harmony for more than a year, all 168 of them decided to be baptized.  The day before the baptism, all items of black-magic, sorcery, and warfare were publicly burned.  The old elder then mounted the platform and said: “The police, guns, and stockade could force us to act like brothers for a while, but it is the Gospel that changed our hatred into love and our revenge into forgiveness.  Now we have become reconciled and we can live as one single tribe or family.”

— Lutheran missionary Herman F. Mansur

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     During a preaching mission in India I heard a story about a Christian missionary, (serving in the name of Jesus), who had managed to dig a good well of water that served a small rural community.  Years after the missionary was gone, non-Christian asked one of the villagers why he kept an old page from a newspaper hanging on the wall of his house.  The villager explained that once when he had purchased some fish at the market, the merchant had wrapped them in the old newspaper.  When the villager opened the paper, he saw  picture of Jesus on one of the pages.  “I framed that page and put it on my wall,” he explained, “because that man,” pointing at Jesus, “gave me clean water to drink.”

–Walter Hinson in The Power of Holy Habits

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     Rev. T. Dalington, who has worked under the auspices of the China Inland Mission for more than twenty years, tells very remarkable stories of changed lives.  One day brigands attacked the town in which he was working and where he had built up a Christian congregation.  To show that they would stand no nonsense they killed a number of children who were playing in the street.  Then they told everyone to stay in their houses.  That night the missionary went into the church, opened wide the doors, and invited the brigands to enter.  They did so with threats and cursing.  Beckoning for silence, the missionary read to them in their own dialect the story of the Passion and Death of our Lord.  They had never heard it before. They listened in silence.  He invited them to come the following, night and promised to read the same passage.  The following night the same thing happened, and it went on through the week. Feeling that the Holy Spirit had been moving in their hearts, the missionary asked those who wished to accept this Christ as their Savior to come forward and kneel down.  Thirteen of those men who had killed people, cut out their hearts, and eaten them, came forward with tears in their eyes and accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior.

–W. Eddleston

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     In World War II an American airman was shot down over the Pacific, but was fortunate enough to make it to the safety of an island.  The native islanders, who were former cannibals, found him, took him to their village and nursed him back to health.  As he lived with them, the American learned that in that village there was no murder, no drunkenness, no divorce, no fighting, and no poverty.  He asked the chief to tell him the secret of such happiness and peace.  The chief looked at him reproachfully, wondering why the man even needed to ask the question.  The chief said, “Your own grandfathers taught us Christianity,” he said simply, and then added, “We have taken Christ seriously.”

–Leslie Weatherhead, Time for God.

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Romans 1:16a  — For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes…

Acts 13:47  —  For this is what the Lord has commanded us:  “I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.”

Psalm 46:8-9  —  Come and see what the Lord has done...  He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth.  He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire.

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O God, we cannot pray to You to banish war, for you have filled the world with paths to peace, if only all people would take them.  We cannot pray to You to end starvation, for there is food enough for all, if only all would share it.  Amen.

–From Gates of Repentance, by the Central Conference of American Rabbis, 1978.

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