On Missionaries

I respect those who serve part-time of full-time in the missionary field. Maybe I am just deferring to persons who have seen more of the world than me--which includes almost everyone since my international travel experience starts and ends with Montreal, Quebec (at least the official language in Quebec is French). I consider friends and acquaintances who served others through missions as "the givers," and have supported them financially and spiritually for many years.

A few weeks ago, the Vatican reported that 20 of their missionaries and lay workers were murdered in 2008 while performing duties in foreign countries. I was curious about the number of protestant missionaries killed during service, but those numbers were more difficult to find. One article from 2006 reported 189 total deaths of missionaries (including all Christian denominations) between 2000 and 2006-—84% of them being homicides.

Despite criticism of short-term mission work labeled as "religious tourism," mission work is needed and rewarding, yet dangerous. One of my favorite poems (text was also used as a hymn) was written in 1905 by Princeton graduate and mission worker Howard Walter who died in his 30s while serving others in India . Verse one is:

I would be true, for there are those that trust me.
I would be pure, for there are those that care.
I would be strong, for there is much to suffer.
I would be brave, for there is much to dare.

I would be friend of all, the foe, the friendless.
I would be giving, and forget the gift,
I would be humble, for I know my weakness,
I would look up, laugh, love and live.

I find these words inspiring, as well as a fitting creed for those working to spread Christianity abroad.