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