If missions are about bang for the buck, France is a bad deal.
This question concerns me since I am one, and because churches that supported us for many years are following today’s trend and switching their support to either local ministries or foreign nationals.
If missions are about bang for the buck, France is a bad deal. If donors’ concerns are maximum returns in converts and churches for each dollar spent, it’s not the best investment. And as the dollar hits new lows against the euro, it gets worse. It’s not harvest time in France, so why go?
But what about sharing the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit and leaving the results to God? That’s a helpful thought for those of us who aren’t catching ripe fruit falling from the trees, but are in hard places, plowing in concrete to break the ground for sowing seeds.
How’d we end up in France? We wanted to go where we could catch ripe fruit. Twenty-five years ago whenever I mentioned Europe to my husband, he’d say, “No, I don’t want to go there. They’re too hard.” He was interested in training new converts where they were coming to faith in droves.
God used my chronic health problem to limit us to serving in developed countries with good medical care. For three years we prayed about going to Spain. But here we are in France (to make a long story short). God’s ways are higher than ours.
Why go bury your life in a place where the people are so resistant to the gospel? Besides following God’s call, I sometimes don’t understand why we are here. I confess to thinking, as we turned in a pile of documents for renewing our yearly residence card, “Make my day, kick me out, send me home.” But God seems to delight in using weak people. I’ve sat in French philosophical discussion groups and wondered, “Why am I here?” But then a conversation with a woman at the meal afterward proves important when she starts coming to study the Bible with us.
French people need a lot of love. They aren’t always easy to love, but then I hear about how they were told repeatedly as children that they would never amount to anything. I see how tossed about they are by false beliefs and how wrecked their lives are. I see them groping around in the darkness without hope. Their broken lives bring them to Jesus.
How will they hear without a preacher? The need is great here for proclaimers of the gospel. By the way, we avoid the label “missionary” when we explain ourselves to the French. That word wouldn’t communicate accurately to them or build trust. It’s better to emphasize that my husband is a pastor and that we are Protestants.
How grateful we are that we aren’t in this alone. What a blessing to have a band of faithful prayer warriors behind us, those people who have stayed the course with us over the years, encouraging and supporting us.
Is it cost effective to have missionaries in France? No way. This is a money pit. It’s foolishness—but that reminds me of what Paul told the Corinthians: “the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom” (1 Cor. 1:25). What about American churches that want to support local ministries instead? I think churches can mobilize locally without neglecting God’s call to reach the world. What about switching support to nationals? From what I’ve read and seen, this could be a harmful strategy, creating dependency on foreign funds that can hinder national church growth and indigenous church planting movements.
Is it good to send missionaries to France? We’ve been investing our lives here for almost sixteen years by God’s grace, in obedience to his call, according to his working. France is spiritually needy—less than one percent evangelical—and strategic. Yes, I think we should continue to send missionaries to France while we have the opportunity.
“Should We Stop Sending Missionaries?” by Robertson McQuilkin, Mission Frontiers, August 1999 (www.missionfrontiers.org).
EMQ, Vol. 41, No. 1, pp. 8-9. Copyright © 2005 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS). All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.