Last week I showed you our recent prayer letter, which has become almost an annual edition, showing ethical "dilemmas" missionaries sometimes face. I thought I'd share a few more from our first letter. I am so interested to know if other missionaries have faced these same issues in their countries of service.
Since arriving in South Africa, I have been
stretched in ways that I didn’t expect. Probably the most unexpected was the
swirl of ethical decisions that I found confronting me at one time or another.
So here is a top ten list of situations that I have had to face as a
missionary. This list is calculated to motivate you to pray for us as well as
other missionaries that we would be discerning, reflective, and Scriptural at
all times for the sake of the Gospel.
I give people a lift if I know they are going to a false church?
When driving the roads in SA, it is common
to see people asking for a ride. We have a pickup truck that could easily take
them. But many of the churches here love money and are therefore enemies of the
gospel. They also encourage their members to wear uniforms so I can often tell
which hitchhiker goes to which church. If I give them a lift, will they think I
am endorsing their idolatrous religion, or will they see my love and know that
my church is different?
I evangelize a woman if she is the only adult home?
Now, rarely do I do Bible studies inside
homes. Typically, we sit outside the home in the yard area. But my regular
pattern of evangelism is 4-8 weeks of Bible studies in Romans. Does it send a
bad message to people passing by if they see the pastor return multiple weeks
to sit outside if there’s only a woman and her two children listening? Or,
should I merely invite the woman to church if I see there is no one else there?
I give a generous offering of my salary to our churchplant?
Like most churches we want to meet in a
building with musical instruments and multiple rooms. If I tithed to our church
with its present weekly offerings of about $3 would it create dependency and
irresponsibility or would it be a tool for evangelism and churchplanting?
I baptize a young person (child) who has given a testimony of salvation, but
has not shown Christian maturity?
We often have youth with unsaved family
members visit our church. Once they profess Christ, should they be immediately
baptized in hopes that their baptism would encourage them to grow, or should
they wait lest they quit their new church and give the name of Christ a bad
testimony in the community?
I spend money on my family and personal standard of living even if it is above
those in my village? What if it is very above? How much do I let them see?
When coming from America, it is difficult
not to have more discretionary spending than the average person in our village.
If I have a higher standard of living does that make them marvel at the power
of the Christian worldview to create wealth or does that make them greedy of
western money and afraid to approach me about the gospel? At what point, if
ever, could my family’s western lifestyle hinder people from being converted?
harshly should I handle believers who fall into sin?
No one in our church has a heritage of
Christianity. Everyone is a first generation Christian. None of them went to a
Christian school or college. Should I be more patient with them than I would be
with a US church member when they fall into sin, or should church discipline be
equally strict in all cultures?
I address cultural issues that are not clearly sin, but may not be consistent
with a Christian worldview?
Littering. Receiving handouts from the
government. Families not eating together. The Bible does not explicitly say
these are sin, but a consistently Christian perspective will avoid them. If
they are common in a culture should a pastor address them?
I give jobs to church members?
In a country with 30%+ unemployment living
in a village where nearly every adult would like a job, should “rich”
missionaries employ church members? Will it communicate love or hamper the
church’s ability to stand on its own? More importantly, will jobs attract
unconverted people who would be glad to act Christian for a salary?
I keep doing Bible studies at a person’s home if they have shown very little
Jesus told his disciples to shake the dust
of their feet if the village would not hear them. If the family isn’t saved
after my 4-8 weeks of Romans Bible studies should I leave and go somewhere else
or should I stay if there’s even a little interest? How can you tell when to
I use expensive books, computers, and handouts to make my sermons as good as
possible if I know that the next national pastor will not be able to keep the
Our people have greatly benefited from my
library as it has wormed its way into my teaching and preaching. Will the
people develop a taste for a style of preaching that the next pastor may not be
able to give simply because he can’t afford Harold Hoehner on Ephesians?
4 cups vegetables, thinly sliced or chopped (zucchini is pictured, but you may use broccoli, spinach, peppers, corn, mushrooms, more onion, etc.)
1 large onion, thinly sliced
3 Tbsp. butter
2 tsp. parsley flakes
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. basil
½ tsp. oregano
¼ tsp. pepper
2 cups shredded white cheese (mozzarella, swiss, or similar)
2 tsp. mustard
1 pie crust (nine inch, see recipe below).
Melt butter in a large skillet.Add onions first, then the rest of the veggies on top.Cook uncovered for 3-4 minutes over medium high heat to caramelize onions. Reduce heat and fold onions
into the rest of the vegetables and continue to sauté approximately 7 minutes,
until vegetables are tender and lightly browned.Drain.
Stir together eggs and spices.Add cheese and stir.Add vegetables and stir gently.
Spread mustard evenly over the unbaked 9-inch pie shell (may
want to use a pastry brush or paper towel).
Add vegetable mixture to pie crust, and bake at 400* for
35-40 minutes or until a fork inserted to the middle comes out clean.
HAM AND CHEESE QUICHE
3 cups diced ham (approximately 1 lb./500 kg) other less expensive deli meats will also work (even kielbasa or hot dogs, shhhh!)
2 cups cheese, finely grated
2/3 cup milk
1/3 cup flour
same herbs, spices and baking directions as above.
BUTTER PIE CRUST
1/3 cup (2/3 stick) of butter, cold
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp. salt
3-5 tbsp. cold water.
Blend butter, flour and salt until evenly distributed. Add water one Tbsp. at a time until dough forms a semi-soft ball and holds together well. Roll on a floured surface. Yields one 9-inch pie crust.
PENNY PINCHING SUBSTITUTIONS:
To save money by reducing the amount of cheese:
Use only 1 cup of cheese instead of two, plus 2/3 cup of milk, 1/3 cup of flour, and 1/2 tsp. salt or 1 tsp. chicken bouillon. Mix that with the egg mixture.
Being a missionary involves lots of little ethical choices that are not always easy to make.
I wanted to share with you our recent prayer letter in which we wrote down a recent scattershot "Top 10" ethical difficulties from the past year. This is actually our third "Ethical Dilemmas" prayer letter. These are always some of our most interesting and humorous prayer letters, because if people take the time to respond with their humble opinions, inevitably you'll get two people dogmatically on opposite sides of the coin regarding a certain ethical "dilemma"! This simply proves that these issues aren't as easy to decide as they might seem at the outset.
The point with these letters is not so much to ask advice, although we love to converse with people and get opinions! The point is to communicate that on the mission field, you may often find yourself in surprisingly sticky situations, trying to figure out what is expedient, what this or that communicates, and...what would Jesus do in this situation? We do have our own opinions on these situations, so some of them aren't exactly "dilemmas"; but some of them are tough!
Please feel free to leave your thoughts on our ethical "dilemmas" in the comments. Please also share if you have come across your own difficult ethical choices on your mission field! I'll try to unearth the first two letters with their ethical issues for future Missionary Mondays. By the way, I'd encourage you to share some of your own "ethical dilemmas" in a prayer letter to your supporters. It makes you seem more real and opens up some good conversations between you and your friends and supporters.
In July 2011, I sent out a list
of difficult ethical situations our team has experienced. Another list came
along in July 2012, but last year I took a break while we were in the US.
The world has not gotten easier in the last two years so here are another ten
conundrums that commonly confront us.
1.Should I show frustration with
If I’m purchasing at a shop and the employee is amazingly
slow to help, is it justified to express that we are busy and would appreciate
prompt service in exchange for our money? Would that communicate a Christian
work ethic and personal responsibility or would it be one more example of American
2.Should I sit with my wife and children in
church even though many churches separate the men and women?
Traditionally, Africans do not mix the sexes at church and
maybe at other public gatherings too. Should we be like them to win them, or is
there some distinctly Christian virtue in a man sitting with his family? And
this goes for dinner too. Most Africans do not eat their meals as a family:
Must we teach them to do so?
3.Should I spank village children?
On an average afternoon in the sunshine about 5-15 village
children can be found playing in our yard. Once a 9-year old went home and
brought a knife back because he and another boy had been fighting. He does not
have a father living at home and probably will not get any discipline from the
adults in his life. Should I discipline him so that he learns not to brandish
weapons? What about the other little boy who stole our children’s toys (no dad
4.Should I allow children to return to our
yard if they have not been punished?
And when the children come to play on our grass, we have to
decide whom to admit. Should we allow kids to return if they have done wrong
but have not yet been punished? What about the younger brothers of our teenager
neighbor who has repeatedly stolen from us? When
he broke in he used some small boys to fit through our window. Was it them?
5.Should I use loud speakers if that is what
the culture wants?
Large speakers are used to amplify both speaking voices and
music as a call to the village to signal that a social event is opened to the
public. But they also are commonly found in parties where the purpose is
entertainment or at churches where the purpose is to put on a show. Should we
buy a set of 6-foot woofers to attract people to the church?
6.Should I ever encourage someone to pay a
If a police officer pulls me over and asks, “Now what can we
do because of your speed?” Is it always wrong to give him money so that you can
go on your way? What about customs officials? And the situation is more
complicated when we think of some of our Zimbabwean friends who have slender
bank accounts. Could they pay an official to get through?
7.Should I use a literal translation that is
difficult to understand or a thought-for-thought translation that sometimes
oversimplifies theological discourses?
Tsonga has two translations. The first from 1907, revised in
1929, is more literal than the recent 1989 Good News Bible. The modern is
generally easier to understand, but is also looser than the earlier
translation. The earlier translation has many words that no one knows; and just
remember, the education level is low, and very few people have dictionaries.
Both translation employ the same Greek text. Which one should I use? Or both?
8.Should I rebuke unconverted people for
I am returning from preaching at an evening Bible study as I
walk on the road by my house. Two young people in the dark are preparing for
sin near the corner as I near home. Should I rebuke them to have a moralizing
effect on the community? Or should I ignore them because they are only doing
what sinners do? After all, if they stopped that particular sin, it wouldn’t
save them. Yet how can we be indifferent to blatant violations of God’s law?
9.Should I open civil functions in prayer if
the society is nominally Christian?
They don’t care about my gospel, but they are as one writer
says, “incurably religious.” So they ask me to open their children’s graduation
from kindergarten with prayer. Does that open a door for the gospel, or does it
sanction their own baseless claims to being Christian?
10.Should I feel obligated to stay in a place
because of the investment of time and money?
Many villages need the gospel and ours has not been
overwhelming in its response to our ministry. Should we stay here because we’ve
put so much money into our house? Or because seeds take time to grow into trees
with fruit? Or are we nearing the time to shake the dust off of our feet? It is
difficult to know when we should endure all things for the elect’s sake and
when we should preach the gospel where Christ has not yet been named.
Hopefully, these scenarios will
inspire godly conversation and fervent prayer. Remember us with the words of
Paul to the Philippians: “I pray that you would overflow with discerning love
so that you will know what is right in any situation.” We would enjoy hearing from
you if the mood betakes you to hit “reply.”
Cockroach. Yes, that's the English meaning of the name of the village development area where we are planting a church. The name of the town is Sangla. Our church is the only church in the entire village area. It is the only Baptist church for an even larger area. The very few others that dot the region are charismatic. The drive to Sangla is somewhat of an adventure. It's one of those drives where you need a four wheel drive vehicle, you feel like a milkshake, you don't eat too much before you go, and you can hear the vehicle scraping on the bottom several times as it rocks all around going over hills. But there is something that catches my eye each time on the way to the new church building.