Pastoral Perspectives

Please don’t send me to Africa

Oh Lord I am your willing servant
You know that I have been for years
I’m here in this pew every Sunday and Wednesday
I’ve stained it with many a tear
I’ve given you years of my service
I’ve always given my best
And I’ve never asked you for anything much
So Lord I deserve this request


Please don’t send me to Africa
I don’t think I’ve got what it takes
I’m just a man. I’m not a Tarzan
I don’t like lions, gorillas or snakes
I’ll serve you here in suburbia
In my comfortable middle class life
But please don’t send me out into the bush
Where the natives are restless at night

I’ll see that the money is gathered
I’ll see that the money is sent
I’ll wash and stack the communion cups
I’ll tithe eleven percent
I’ll volunteer for the nursery
I’ll go on the youth group retreat
I’ll usher, I’ll deacon, I’ll go door to door
Just let me keep warming this seat! 

I find the lyrics of the above song by Scott Wesley Brown full of humour yet right on the spot in describing our attitude towards missions. “I beg your pardon? Did you say ‘missions’ again? Oh, that’s really not my cup of tea! Haven’t I done enough for the church? I’ll pass on this one.”

We used to have missions month every year where the sermons for that whole month were geared towards missions, explaining the basis for doing missions – the Great Commission, providing the motivation for doing missions – our love for God and for the people whom God loves, and even suggesting various ways we can be involved in missions – we can pray, give or go. But the leadership realised that the church attendance usually dipped when it came to missions month. We wonder whether this is because worshippers are tired of hearing the same old content about missions. Well, I remember a story where a pastor preached the same sermon week in and week out until one of his parishioners couldn’t stand it any longer. He went up to the pastor after the service and asked in a very flustered tone: “Pastor, why are you preaching to us the same thing over and over again? Have you run out of sermons to preach?” “Oh no, my friend,” came the reply, “Why are you complaining if you have not done anything about what you have heard?” Perhaps people don’t turn up for church during missions month because they feel bad each time they are being challenged to pray, give or go because they find it difficult to do any of the three? If this is true of you, then you have to ask yourself the question whether missions is the agenda of some fanatics in church or it is God’s agenda. If it is the latter, since Jesus commanded his disciples before he took off for his heavenly home to go and make disciples of all nations, then shouldn’t we humble ourselves before the Lord and instead of running away like Jonah, place ourselves under the authority of His Word and allow his Spirit to speak once again into our indifferent hearts and strengthen us to do his will on earth as it is determined in heaven?

We have tried all sorts of ways to counter the less than average attendance during missions month. We tried splitting missions month into two segments, setting aside two weeks in the first half of the year and another two weeks in the second half of the year to preach on missions related topics. We even decided not to call these designated weeks ‘mission Sundays’ lest people again did not want to turn up. This year, instead of having missions month or mission Sundays, we have decided to hold a mission showcase. The missions committee has worked very hard in putting the showcase together and I really thank the Lord for them and for their enthusiasm and creativity in wanting to encourage the church to be more involved in missions. I am glad that many have signed up and the registration has exceeded the missions committee’s target.

Some years back, the missions committee, in a bid to encourage us to be involved in missions, came up with a tagline – ‘one trip in a lifetime’. I believe this is not to say that we should be contented with going for only one mission trip in our whole life, and once we have been there done that, we can give a pat on our shoulders and rest on our laurels. Instead, we are encouraged to take baby steps to go for our first mission trip and when we see for ourselves that the harvest is indeed plentiful, we will naturally be persuaded to continue to go for many more mission trips. This is often the experience and testimony of those who have gone on such trips. They would volunteer to go the following year, sometimes back to the same place because they are keen to see how the work has progressed or they look forward to be re-connected with people whom they have met previously.

Over the years, we have been involved in mission fields where we believe the Lord has called the church to. By God’s grace, we see progress and encouraging signs in the on-going work. This year, we celebrate the 15th anniversary and 10th anniversary of our ministry in SQ and Rengit respectively. In the former, we rejoice that there are believers amongst the SQ people, albeit the number may be small. We look forward to the day when an SQ church will be planted. In the latter, our church has gained credibility in the Rengit community. Even our Christmas celebrations held at the church there were reported in their local newspapers. We praise God that we will be sending our first missionary to Thailand. Sister Pannee is right now undergoing training and she will be sent to Chiang Mai in the beginning of next year. We continue to partner our Thai congregation who has a definite strategy in bringing the Gospel back to their home towns and villages. We have been sending a team to South Thailand for four years to teach English in a local school and the community there has also welcomed and accepted us. Their mayor knows us; some mission trippers even had the privilege to stay in his house during the past two trips. We hope to make similar connections with a school in North Thailand this December. In reaching out to the Malay community, we now have our very own missionary whose work also takes him to Batam. Then there are the on-going trips to Japan at the English Presbytery level and the victims have expressed surprise that we are still going there to minister to them four years after the Tsunami has hit them. Last but not least, we will also get to hear the work in Pakistan. Did I hear ‘Pakistan’? That sounds even scarier than Africa!

Well, for those attending the mission showcase, you will have the opportunity to better understand the work that is being carried out in each of these fields. As you go around the different stations, adopt an open mind and ask if there is one place you would want to give a shot at, where would it be? Which community resonates with you? Which lost voices are calling out to you? For the discipleship groups (DGs), you may want to consider doing missions together. It will give you another platform to do life together, another cause which will knit your hearts together in prayer. As a DG, when you embark on a mission trip with familiar people, it not only helps to reduce the inertia, there is also greater camaraderie. If you are still apprehensive, then think of it as going on a holiday with your DG members, except that this is with a much higher purpose.

So don’t worry! The Lord may not be sending you to faraway places like Africa although you cannot rule out that possibility. But for a start, consider involving yourselves in the various fields that the church is presently committed to. These places are definitely nearer than Africa and the conditions are also better. By the way, the next time you see that it’s mission Sunday or missions month again, please do turn up for church.

Rev Lee Kien Seng

August 30, 2015