“Christians often seem to have the impression that ‘becoming a missionary’ is some form of metamorphosis by which a radical change of nature is achieved. Someone, possibly deeply stirred at a missionary meeting and challenged by the need of some less-privileged people, feels constrained to offer for overseas service. Almost inevitably this ‘offering’ comes to be regarded as a ‘holy call’ to a sacrificial vocation. The whole idea becomes wrapped in a veil of romantic splendour, so that even the candidate may fail to observe the unreality of it. The tendency of congregation and friends well-nigh to hero-worship the missionary only increases the dilemma. Looking at the situation honestly and critically, many may know that, mentally, physically or spiritually, the candidate is unsuitable for missionary service. Some would-be candidates do not even have a burden of prayer for the peoples they hope to serve, nor have they ever sought to bring their immediate friends and neighbours in their own country to a knowledge of their Friend and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Yet they vaguely hope that as soon as they board the steamer or plane to take them to a foreign land, something mystical will occur and transform them into their image of a ‘missionary’. Nothing can be further from the truth! I believe that, at its simplest, a missionary is one sent by God to live a Christian life, usually amongst people other than his own. It is living which counts. This may include formal preaching, but it will certainly include personal relationships, and these often have to be worked out under most trying conditions. For example, many missionaries discover that it is far from easy to adapt themselves to a completely different climate. The native foods may be hard, not only on the digestive system, but also on the aesthetic tastes. The language barrier may constitute a difficult problem, especially in early years. One cannot choose one’s friends. Two missionaries of vastly differing backgrounds, likes and dislikes, may be thrown together for several years with no choice of other companionship. One is often expected to do jobs for which one is not trained, and which may be actually distasteful. Yet in all this, one is called upon to reveal Christ, to live a Christ-like life, to be a ‘missionary’.
It is then that one realizes it is not the journey in the steamer that changes one’s nature. I did not escape from myself by going to Congo. Rather, I came to know myself better, perhaps more as others had already seen me. The ordinary trials and frustrations of life that meet us all were just as real in Congo, and, in some ways, were more pronounced, as there were fewer ways of avoiding or circumventing them. For myself, it was only as I allowed the Lord to show me my own pettiness, or willfulness, or pride, in different circumstances and problems, that I became willing to let the Lord teach me of Himself. ‘Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me’, the Lord said, ‘for I am meek and lowly in heart.’ What happened in the two years following my first taste of success as a missionary doctor shows simply how very much I had to learn of Him, for surely no-one merited the description of Christ-likeness less than I, if it was to involve the phrase ‘ meek and lowly in heart’.
Another deep truth I have learnt, and one we can all cling to, is that God is personally interested in us as individuals and that He will engineer our circumstances and daily lives so that He can thereby make us like Jesus. This takes the sting out of much that could otherwise hurt. He allows various accidents and happenings to occur, which will affect us deeply, perhaps, only so that, through them, we may be drawn closer to Himself.”
– Helen Roseveare Give Me This Mountain