The Story Behind the Statistics

by Chris Lautsbaugh on September 23, 2013

As missionaries, we often report statistics as a way of conveying the impact we are having.

Numbers of salvations, people taught, clinics opened, or people rescued from the evils of society.

Behind these numbers are people, stories, and often difficulties.

One the people we’ve been training, recently had an interesting situation which drove this reality home afresh to me. He comes from a gang-invested environment where crime and violence are common.

As a relatively new convert, he came to our discipleship program and followed up as a student in our Bible school. We saw great change occur in his life. He was one of our local success stories. He was a newsletter statistic.

But he has a story and challenges behind the numbers.

He recently attempted to share with some of the gangsters in his area. As he was, they asked him to rob some of the foreign workers whom work with our organization who he shared accommodation with. Rather than do this, he took the little money he had in his own account, attempting to give it to the gangsters.

When he presented it to them, they wanted more, and a fight ensued. Our student was beaten up.

He chose this route to avoid stealing from those training him. His reward for loyalty was violence. His changed life got him physically beaten.

While I rejoice in his loyalty, I mourn with the pain it cost him.

This was such a reminder that the changes our people make often costs them. They can be persecuted, shunned, or in some cases killed.

We toss around phrases as gospel workers such as, “count the cost“, but these events are when reality rears it’s ugly head.

The people we influence are so much more than numbers on a page. There are stories behind these statistics.

It’s exciting to report the joyful stories, but we also have stories of pain, suffering, and persecution to contend with.

These are a sobering reminders of the reality change often brings. Things change positively for eternity, but difficulty might actually increase in the interim.

When tempted to sugar coat the gospel and only speak of love, joy and peace; we remind ourselves the Bible also warns us of challenges and persecution follow those walking in the Truth.

Let’s never allow people to only become statistics, but keep their stories before us to stay in touch with the reality.

A changed life always is cause for celebration, but let us not be so naive to think that life will be smooth sailing from this point on.

This is the dilemma of missions.

– Chris Lautsbaugh, Missionary teacher and author with Youth With A Mission, living in S. Africa.
Blog: NoSuperHeroes   Twitter: @lautsbaugh   Facebook: NoSuperHeroes

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About Chris Lautsbaugh

In missions for 20+ years currently in South Africa as a teacher and leadership coach. He serves side by side with wife, Lindsey, and two boys, Garett and Thabo. Blogs at NoSuperHeroes.com on grace, leadership, and missions. Wrote Death of the Modern SuperHero:How Grace Breaks our Rules.
  • petervandever

    This is the problem with performance based Christianity

  • Thanks for your thoughts, Chris. I agree that people’s stories should never be tools used manipulatively. For exactly the reasons you mentioned, I think it’s important to tell the “what happened after” stories too. Because, to me, the one you mentioned of the former gang member choosing to suffer personally rather than be disloyal is true evidence of a changed life! That’s real Christianity – not “Jesus who makes your life better,” but knowing “Jesus who strengthens and stands with you in suffering.” Let’s keep telling *those* stories!

    • I agree Grace. Thanks! Was so cool to see this transformation, inspite of the pain it cost him

  • Shannon

    I praise God that this man is Choosing change and finding strength with God in the midst of difficult circumstances that can have pain-filled repercussions. I agree that we can lose sight of THE real people and their real lives when we read/hear statistics and even when we hear inspiring stories. Chris, thank you for sharing the Real and Very Hard Journey Of the Person behind the “joyful story.” Looking forward to more of your writing.

    • Thank you Shannon. I was just recounting this man’s story today with a friend.

  • Yes!!! It is easy to use the testimonies of people to share with our supporters…to garner more attention to our mission work or ministry – and fail to really see THEM…see their struggles and pain. I am so glad you shared this. It really spoke to me in a deep way!

  • Pingback: Love Will Win the Day | Wide Open Ground()

  • Such a great amount of truth here, Chris. Thank you for sharing this young man’s story. I was especially touched that he took his own money and tried to assuage the passions of his attackers, but to no avail. Challenging moments.

  • Michel Banks Woods

    Thank you for sharing this and reminding us of the “people behind the numbers”…Thank God he changed this young man’s life and kept him alive during this attack. I pray God continues to protect him and use him as an agent of change in his community.

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