by J. Melvin Miller
As Warren White waited for his appointment with the visiting regional secretary of his mission, he thought again of all the reasons for which he had come to Asia to begin with; were they still valid now?
As Warren White waited for his appointment with the visiting regional secretary of his mission, he thought again of all the reasons for which he had come to Asia to begin with; were they still valid now? He was a second-term missionary; in fact, he had by now spent six years in Indonesia. He had returned from his first furlough, a hectic one, with over 175 different meetings, covering over 30,000 miles by car in less than 365 days, with a determination that he would stay on top of his problems. Yet, he had been toppled by them already, seemingly. He had failed, and now it was apparent to his colleagues and, increasingly to himself, that he had failed. This was probably the reason that Ed Hill wanted to chat with him on his semi-annual trip to Asia, he felt sure.
Warren remembered with pain the recent pastors’ meetings and the endless demands that the pastors and the visiting team of American speakers had made upon his family. It had been a blur – four days of upset schedules, late trains, missed connections, misinterpreted messages, and his completely losing his temper at everyone, including his wife.
One outspoken visiting American participating in the conference had said within Warren’s hearing, "That man is out of sorts with himself."
What was the basis of his hangup, Warren asked himself. The obvious answer was difficult to completely agree to; it was so pat, an inward problem, out of sorts with himself.
Warren had been asking the God who’d sent him to Asia for help; and, as he had stated to his wife, they would not return to Indonesia another term unless there were some changes. A former classmate of Warren’s from an East Asian field had been visiting their mission station some months previously and had bluntly talked about the superior attitudes, as well as the inferior attitudes, of missionaries that were blocking the work in his own area. "Is that our problem here?" Warren wondered.
He knew that the Bible stated, "That which is not of faith is sin . . ." Warren could sense how negativism controlled his life, in spite of his desire to be controlled by Jesus Christ.
Superior attitude? Not Warren White; at least he hoped not.
Two streams of thought crossed his mind, vying for attention: the reasons for his discouragement and depression, and the various alternatives that he – or the mission – might take. He could already hear Ed Hill indicating his displeasure with White’s handling of the pastors’ conference and the visiting American speakers: "Our task is to be servants and not to be served." But there was a limit, Warren argued, to infringement upon his privacy, his home, his family. Usually they had to give up their own bedroom to visiting American travelers who could not take the hardship of sleeping in the classrooms that had been made into a temporary dormitory. It meant that Warren and his wife either slept with the children or on the living room divan, or sometimes Warren slept in the classrooms himself.
He and his wife had a copy of the little book entitled Have We No Rights? written in behalf of the missionaries, but he wondered if that really meant that other missionaries or nationals had the right to violate his rights, or that he should be willing to give them up, including his bed. There were certain rights that he had given up when he and his wife had come to Asia, and he was willing – increasingly desirous – to take care of any further inner rebellion. Ian Thomas’ statement had become his goal, if not yet his practice: "Jesus did not come into the world to only enter your life – but to become your life." He prayed that it would be so in his life.
The problem? Well, having him serve as a hotel host was part of it, he thought. It gave him no comfort that all of his missionary colleagues did the same – this just indicated to him that the priorities of the mission had gone awry and should be put back on course. At least he was relieved to be serving in a rural part of Asia, and not Tokyo or Bangkok or another similar large city. Missionaries he knew there were often little more than "hospitality missionaries" to visiting American tourists. It made Warren exceedingly unhappy to see the way the mission houses were constantly available to tourists – a public relations assignment, it had been called. He didn’t know an alternative solution, but missionaries and nationals were meanwhile being taken away from the real jobs of teaching, preaching, counseling, and planting churches. When the mission deviated this far from the priorities, then was it not time that someone woke up and tried to stop these constant trips to airports going and coming – to consider why missionaries are in Asia in the first place?
An inward problem?O ut of sorts with himself? True enough, but shouldn’t someone be, for Jesus’ sake?
The problem? Part of it directly related to the misallocation of mission and national staff. When Warren finished seminary, he had thought that teaching was his gift from God, with a strong sense that God had given him the ability to teach future pastors and Christian laymen in Indonesia. He had not majored in motel and transportation management in seminary. In fact, he had had only one or two courses on church administration. He had come to Asia to be a teacher and a counselor. He had not taken a course in operations research to best understand the optimum number of people that could be constantly put on a mission station without straining its efficiency and his equilibrium, or the number of times that meetings could be called by the mission or other missions before someone said, "You’re taking me away from my ministry and I can’t afford the time."
Warren was interrupted from all these thoughts by Ed Hill who had just finished a previous appointment. Warren was greeted warmly by the older gentleman, a veteran of half a lifetime in Asia before he had gone to the home office. Hill asked about Mrs. White and then got quickly to the point.
"Warren, I have received some static from your fellow missionary colleagues, as well as the American team of speakers who were here in Indonesia for the recent round of conferences. They have said that you were very disturbed during those days, and they were genuinely worried about . . . your constant state of discouragement and depression. Aren’t you obtaining sufficient rest?"He paused and then continued. "Is the heat of the tropics getting to you again, as it does all of our people from time to time? Are you getting your eyes off Jesus Christ and on to your circumstances?"
Warren was cautious. He reminded himself that it was the regional secretary he was talking to. "Well, we all do get discouraged and depressed much more quickly out here and need greater prayer as we wrestle not against flesh and blood . . . " His voice trailed off for a moment. "As for rest, it does seem that in this day of jets that our work has become more of a hotel and transportation service to wealthy Americans who want the thrill of spending a night in a far-out mission station in Southeast Asia." Warren’s voice became a little stronger. "This, frankly, keeps me in the air, running back and forth to the airport and train, to the shop to buy additional food, to plan with my wife where we will put the extra guests who are coming in unexpectedly."
Mr. Hill interrupted and seemed strained. Then he said, "Don’t you agree with the public relations aspects of our mission – to fully acquaint travelers with our work’?"
Warren laughed. "Yes, if that means that someone else will have to be constantly pulled away from their preaching, teaching, and ministry – not me." The regional secretary relaxed and smiled broadly at this admission.
Warren continued. "Mr. Hill, discouragement and depression are the constant enemies of the Christian worker abroad; and, honestly, I need all the help from God that I can obtain. It does bog me down:" He hesitated before he said, "But I believe that the mission helps us very little in regard to neglected priorities like preaching, teaching, translation. At times it seems that we return to the priorities, like preaching and teaching only when someone isn’t coming in to spend a day or so, or when someone isn’t leaving and needs transportation to the airport or train, or we aren’t attending a meeting."
The regional secretary seemed momentarily wounded by the comment, but loosened the atmosphere by saying, "Warren, you do have a direct and blunt way of indicating what you think are and aren’t mission priorities."
Warren, however, wasn’t finished. With a big smile he said, "Mr. Hill, I am a missionary and am happy most of the time to be one, but the mission is not giving me the top-Level support that I need in order to do what you recruited me to do – to teach, counsel, and preach the gospel. In other words, my gifts from God aren’t being fully utilized. If missions continue to be a motel and bus ministry, then let’s hire Christian motel managers and tour bus drivers. They know how to do it, and many Christians at home might consider it their particular ministry. But my calling is to an Asia of people in need of Christ, and not to Americans in need of free bed, board, and an American family."
"Well, Warren, you are true to the description I have given about you – frank and blunt. That could be a blessing. Perhaps it is part of the reason for your despondence."
Hill continued. "There are four possibilities that I can see regarding your situation. I might add that this is a problem that I’ve noted in several of our missionaries on my trip through Asia, and some of them are veterans of a decade or two out here. The possibilities are: one, an early furlough; two, possible dismissal from the mission at the end of your second term, unless there is a change in your approach; three, a personal renewal in your life – which I observe that you are probing for – and will surely find soon, I hope; and four, new resources to help you do what you came to Asia to do – teach and counsel Asian Christians."
Hill went through each of the four possibilities and dismissed the first two himself. Warren was aghast at suggestion number two: possible dismissal. What would the people in his church, his seminary profs and alumni think of him if he didn’t return to Indonesia? The regional secretary dealt at some length with possibility number three and urged Warren to daily surrender himself anew to Jesus and pray to be filled with the fullness and power of the Holy Spirit. Warren felt that it was helpful.
"What do you mean by new resources, Mr. Hill?"
"I do feel that in your blunt and rather undiplomatic way you have pointed out to me and the home board the need for constant reorientation of the mission’s priorities. Furthermore, having heard again from your own lips that the priorities of the mission, according to you, should be preaching, teaching, counseling, translation, and church planting, I see the further need, dramatized by your nature, to put our mission staff in ministries that they are best fitted for."
"Maybe in management terms," he continued, "I’m saying that we should fit the mission to the missionary and his gifts more than we do, rather than always fitting the missionary to the needs, mission stations that need filling by the inflexible mission. Well, `new resources’ is a management theory just now being applied to missions management from industrial management. In large organizations managers often become dissatisfied with themselves, discouraged and depressed. This `new resources’ theory suggests that the way to excite the manager who is discouraged and bogged down is to give him new resources, financial, technical, or human, to revitalize his interest and help the man to perform superbly – for himself and the organization."
Warren was pleased with the seeming knowledge of management by the regional secretary. Mr. Hill continued. "I think that’s what I will suggest to the home board, as well as the Indonesian Council, that we do for you and others that I’ve been meeting along the way. We will, of course, take into consideration your suggestions." Hill paused and in a fatherly way stated softly, "We want to give you new resources to reactivate you and your gifts for Christ."
After a few moments Warren asked, "What might that mean to me and my family? "
"We are participating in a regional consortium with other missionary societies to send some missionaries to an advanced theological seminar in Manila for six weeks, and I believe that this would be just what you need. Moreover, the mission would be helped by your participation. When you return, I will then seriously consider recommending that you be assigned to the seminary ministry in the hills and its outreach program to the churches through the students. How does that sound?"
Warren nodded his affirmation. "That sounds great, just great."
1. Define Warren’s problem in spiritual terms; in management terms.
2. Is Warren blaming the mission when the blame should be upon himself?
3. Was he correct in pointing out the need for the mission to reorient its priorities? How is this done in your mission?
4. How might you use the "new resources" theory with yourself or others?
5. How would you have solved this problem with colleagues who are discouraged?
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