“I would I had a thousand lives that I might give them…”

On Aug. 27, 1888 while working in Zhenjiang, Lottie Moon made the above statement finishing with the words “…for China.”


It’s one of those inspirational missionary quotes likely to land on a striking or haunting photo featuring those in this world who most likely don’t know Jesus. The desired response is conviction and motivation. Get people moving, doing, giving, going, supporting, praying, partnering… something… anything! Animate and embolden others so that they engage and global missions benefits.

It is also one of those quotes that usually prompts me to self-evaluate, asking: “Can I say the same, only substituting ‘Africa’ or ‘Quebec’ or wherever else the Lord might lead our family before our missionary journey is finished?”


This time, however, this quote provoked neither typical response.

Instead, I started thinking about all those lives already given – and not in the martyr sense. I allowed my mind to dwell on what has been sacrificed heretofore as well as what will continue to be sacrificed:

  • in my life,
  • my husband’s,
  • my kids’ childhoods and their potential futures,
  • time with tck grands and great-grandparents,
  • closer relationships with aunts, uncles, cousins,
  • weddings, funerals, family celebrations,
  • old hopes and dreams of what might have been,
  • potential jobs and careers,
  • scholarship opportunities,
  • the illusion of safety and security,
  • the innocence that was… before we saw more of this amazing yet very broken world…

No, it isn’t thousands… It’s not even hundreds.

It certainly isn’t actual martyrdom or such sacrifice

But it still costs lives, relationships, security and dreams of what could have been:

  • owning my own house and land;
  • to not have to daily depend on the financial gifts of others just to put food on the table for my children to eat;
  • actually taking a cruise with my husband for our anniversary;
  • actively planning for someday… or retirement;
  • sitting with loved ones during difficult health challenges;
  • dancing and celebrating together at weddings;
  • not leaving my family in one land while the rest of us go to another;
  • never having to uproot this family once again to go through the really hard starting over; and
  • no tears because I drop children off for school – in a new place and a new language – again.

But the very hardest part?

Knowing this:  It isn’t just me sacrificing because of these choices.

This calling that my husband and I are following requires everyone who knows and loves us – parents, grandparents, siblings, friends, children  -to sacrifice.

Once upon a time, I watched a play entitled “The Cost of Greatness.” It portrayed the life of Adoniram Judson, another one of those missionary giants from yesteryear. In this world and from a human perspective, he sacrificed much. Judson worked in Burma for 38 years until he died – 61 years old and physically broken by the difficulty of his life in that land. He endured long separations from his family, buried two wives and several children. His “first term” of service was 33 years long – after which time he made his only return to the United States. During this “home assignment,” he was treated like a hero and was much in demand as a speaker. One historian wrote about this time: “At times he would disappoint audiences by not telling of his labors but declaring the wonderful story of redeeming love. He found it difficult to frame sentences in the English after so long a time thinking in a foreign tongue.” The price he paid was immense.

I used to think the title of the play referred to the greatness of such a man, one so willing to sacrifice for God’s cause.  Not anymore.

I now believe that such sacrifice is to be anticipated for those who long to proclaim God’s greatness to those who need Him above all else.


This is the expected cost – NOT something extraordinary – for those who want our world to glimpse the greatness of our God.

I’ll never forget when our Jonathan first began school for the first time. It was a French school so we had talked about it, what he might expect and how it could be very different from what his other missionary kid friends might tell him about their school. A few days into the school year he came home and started to tell us about his day: “And Mama, did you know they say zshee for ‘J’ and zshay for ‘G?’ THAT. IS. JUST. WRONG!!!”

I get what he was saying. French school took something that Jonathan knew and believed good and right… then turned it upside down and backwards.

In the economy of this world, we’d think that those willing to proclaim God’s greatness should receive great reward.

That price tag of “sacrifice required – and not just by me, but by all who care about me” seems upside down and backwards

~ but for these words ~

I long to know Christ 

and the power which is in His resurrection, 

and to share in His sufferings and die even as He died…

Philippians 3:10 – Weymouth New Testament


Do you agree? Why or why not?

Why do you think so many of want to proclaim God’s greatness but then feel like we shouldn’t have to sacrifice to do so?

Has sacrifice surprised you? How?

final photo by Danette Childs, missionary with Via Abondante, Niger
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Richelle Wright

Disciple of Jesus, lover of God's Word, wife to one great guy, and mama of eight, Richelle has spent the past 13 years in Niger, West Africa. She and her family are currently in the throes of transition as they begin life and ministry (teaching, audio-visual production) in the Canadian province of Québec. |ourwrightingpad.blogspot.com|

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