MISSION SUNDAY

Whenever we talk about mission and spreading the gospel several ideas might come to our minds.   
We may think of the missionaries who go to other countries like China, Cambodia, and Laos, to build up the churches there.   
We may also think that missionaries are usually priests or religious or some specially chosen lay people because speaking the Gospel is a serious thing and not everyone can do it.   
We may also think that our task is to pray for these missionaries and also to give them some financial support.   

Today’s celebration of Mission Sunday reminds us that we have an important role in the spreading of the gospel.  Let me tell you this story so that we can have a deeper understanding of our role and mission.  An old man was going around planting small fruit trees.  Some asked him when these trees would bear fruit.  He replied: Oh, probably many years after I am gone from this earth.  So then, why plant trees when he won’t be around to enjoy the fruits?  His reply was this: When I came into this world, I didn’t find this world without any fruit trees.  I enjoyed the fruits. Now I plant these fruit trees for those who will come after me, just as those who have done before me.  These are very profound words of the old man – I plant these fruit trees for those who will come after me, just as those who have done before me. 

When we reflect upon the words of the old man, we will also come to a deeper understanding of our faith and mission.  We will come to see that the faith we have had been built upon and handed down to us by the earlier generation of believers.  What we have received, we too must build it up and hand it over to the next generation.  That is not just the work of missionaries, priests, religious and a selected few parishioners. 

Each of us has a task in the spreading of the gospel.  Just as trees bear fruit and gives us shade, so is each one of us called to plant trees of faith that bear fruits of truth and love.  Trees are important not just because they bear fruit and provide shade and beauty.  Trees have an ecological importance. A world without trees is like a dry desert wasteland.  Similarly, faith is important for the world. This world needs God and needs to know His truth and love.   

A world without God and His truth and love becomes a dark and dangerous world.  So, Mission Sunday reminds each of us that we have a task and a responsibility. We have to continue planting trees of faith that will bear fruits of truth and love.  And we have to start planting these trees of faith in our homes, in our parish, in our workplace, in our own country.   

This world needs to know God. This world needs to know His truth and love.  And we are the ones to show it. We are God’s messengers.  As the 1st reading puts it: All the nations will say – come let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, that He may teach us His ways so that we may walk in His path.  Our task and mission is to plant trees of faith along that path so that as people walk towards the Lord, they will also see the fruits of His truth and love. 

(Fr Stephen Yim) 

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Today, World Mission Sunday, is an opportunity for us to reflect on our part in the missionary role of the Church. The Church has been involved in missionary work right from the very beginning, because the need to bring the spiritual gift of the Gospel to people and to help them in their material needs is an essential part of the Lord’s message.

The command to help other people materially goes back to the Old Testament, and is reflected in the first reading today. However, the Jews did not go out seeking to bring other people to believe in God. They were defined as the Chosen People not just by their faith, but also by their ancestry, as descendants of Abraham. They did not turn converts away, but they didn’t seek them out either. Jesus, however, opened salvation to all people, and instructed his apostles to bring the Good News of salvation to the ends of the earth.

With this new perspective, missionary work is a natural consequence of our love for God and neighbor, which Jesus describes in the Gospel as the essence of the Law and the prophets. Once we have received the gift of faith and salvation, with the peace and hope it brings, it is logical to want to share it with others. The second reading shows this in action; St. Paul recounts how he brought the faith to the Thessalonians, and they in turn shared the faith with people far and wide.

The spiritual and material assistance involved in mission work go hand in hand; as a Church, we care for the whole person, body and spirit. We see that missionary spirit alive in our own community. A group of our parishioners is on the mission to Cevicos in the Dominican Republic right now, and those who cannot go themselves have shown their generosity in the very successful collection we had last week.

We can also participate in the missionary action of the Church through our prayers. St. Therese of Lisieux is a great example of this. Even though she never left her convent in France, she was a “spiritual sister” for two missionary priests, supporting them through her letters and prayers, and she had great missionary zeal for all people to know Christ. As a result, she is one of the patrons of all missions, together with St. Francis Xavier.

We can also do a great deal of missionary work by the way we live our faith. We are surrounded by good people who do not know Christ, or who know Him only superficially. When we let the peace, joy and hope that our faith brings transform our lives, and when we strive to live Christian love generously, people take notice. Many converts have come to the Church because their lives have been touched by the goodness of Catholic men and women who live Christ’s teachings in their ordinary daily lives.

As I have mentioned on other occasions, I have had the opportunity to be directly involved in missionary work myself. I went to Guatemala as the chaplain for medical missions five times, and it was a powerful experience. The group of missionaries included doctors and nurses, as well as some translators, and volunteers to help with logistics. We set up a clinic at a local parish and offered free basic medical care and some operations at the regional hospital, as well as going door-to-door to invite people to come to the Holy Week liturgies at the church.

In some cases, the doctors were able to save lives, but more often they could only offer temporary relief to chronic illnesses, and education on how to avoid the causes of disease. The dentists probably pulled more teeth in the days we were there than they did in months at their clinics back at home. Yet, what seemed to matter most to people was the fact that we shared our faith and our love with them. The pastor of the parish, who was a German missionary priest, told us that our presence helped to invigorate the life of the parish and give the people hope and strength.

So, thank you for your support for the missions. May God help each of us to remember that we are all called to be missionaries in one way or another, at home or abroad. Let us join our prayers to those of St. Therese, patroness of the missions, interceding for our missionaries in Cevicos and for missionaries throughout the world, that God will give them courage, strength, patience, and ever-greater love. Through our collaboration with the Holy Spirit, may all nations come to know, love, and serve the one true God, and to love each other as sisters and brothers in Christ. 

(Fr Mathew Green)

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Illustrations:

When Hudson Taylor was director of the China Inland Mission, he often interviewed candidates for the mission field. On one occasion, he met with a group of applicants to determine their motivations for service. "And why do you wish to go as a foreign missionary?" he asked one. "I want to go because Christ has commanded us to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature," was the reply. Another said, "I want to go because millions are perishing without Christ." Others gave different answers. Then Hudson Taylor said, "All of these motives, however good, will fail you in times of testings, trials, tribulations, and possible death. There is but one motive that will sustain you in trial and testing; namely, the love of Christ".
Source Unknown.

A missionary in Africa was once asked if he really liked what he was doing. His response was shocking. "Do I like this work?" he said. "No. My wife and I do not like dirt. We have reasonable refined sensibilities. We do not like crawling into vile huts through goat refuse...But is a man to do nothing for Christ he does not like? God pity him, if not. Liking or disliking has nothing to do with it. We have orders to 'Go,' and we go. Love constrains us."
Our Daily Bread.

Last night I took a journey
To a land far 'cross the seas;
I didn't go by boat or plane,
I trusted on my knees.
I saw so many people there
In deepest depths of sin,
And Jesus told me I should go
That there were souls to win.
But I said, "Jesus, I can't go
And work with such as these."
He answered quickly, "Yes, you can
By traveling on your knees."
He said, "You pray; I'll meet the need,
You call and I will hear;
Be concerned about lost souls,
Of those both far and near."
And so I tried it, knelt in prayer,
Gave up some hours of ease;
I felt the Lord right by my side
While traveling on my knees.
As I prayed on and saw souls saved
And twisted bodies healed,
And saw God's workers' strength renewed
While laboring on the filed.
I said, "Yes, Lord, I have a job
My desire Thy will to please;
I can go and heed Thy call
By traveling on my knees."
Sandra Goodwin.

One afternoon author Patsy Clairmont found herself on an airplane, sitting next to a young man. She writes, "I had already observed something about this young man when I was being seated. He called me "Ma'am." At the time I thought, 'Either he thinks I'm ancient, or he's from the South where they still teach manners, or he's in the service.' I decided the latter was the most likely, so I asked, "You in the service?" "Yes, Ma'am, I am." "What branch?" "Marines." "Hey, Marine, where are you coming from?" "Operation desert Storm, Ma'am." "No kidding? Desert Storm! How long were you there?" I asked. "A year and a half. I'm on my way home. My family will be at the airport." I then commented that he must have thought about returning to his family and home many times while he was in the Middle East. "Oh, no, Ma'am," he replied. "We were taught never to think of what might never be, but to be fully available right where we were."
Focus on the Family, July, 1993, p. 5.

Alila stood on the beach holding her tiny infant son close to her heart. Tears welled in her eyes as she began slowly walking toward the river's edge. She stepped into the water, silently making her way out until she was waist deep, the water gently lapping at the sleeping baby's feet. She stood there for a long time holding the child tightly as she stared out across the river. Then all of a sudden in one quick movement she threw the six month old baby to his watery death.
Native missionary M.V. Varghese often witnesses among the crowds who gather at the Ganges. It was he who came upon Alila that day kneeling in the sand crying uncontrollably and beating her breast. With compassion he knelt down next to her and asked her what was wrong. Through he sobs she told him, "The problems in my home are too many and my sins are heavy on my heart, so I offered the best I have to the goddess Ganges, my first born son." Brother Varghese's heart ached for the desperate woman. As she wept he gently began to tell her about the love of Jesus and that through Him her sins could be forgiven. She looked at him strangely. "I have never heard that before," she replied through her tears. "Why couldn't you have come thirty minutes earlier? If you did, my child would not have had to die."
Each year millions of people come to the holy Indian city of Hardwar to bathe in the River Ganges. These multitudes come believing this Hindu ritual will wash their sins away. For many people like Alila, missionaries are arriving too late, simply because there aren't enough of these faithful brothers and sisters on the mission field. 
Christianity Today, 1993.

A one-legged school teacher from Scotland came to J. Hudson Taylor to offer himself for service in China. "With only one leg, why do you think of going as a missionary?" Asked Taylor.
"I do not see those with two legs going," replied George Scott. He was accepted. 
Pillar of Fire, January First, 1983.

"It is the impassioned pleading of a quiet little Scottish lady that linked my life with the Soudan," wrote Rowland Bingham (a founder of S.I.M.). "In the quietness of her parlor she told how God had called a daughter to China, and her eldest boy (Walter Gowans) to the Soudan. "She spread out before me the vast extent of those thousands of miles and filled in the teeming masses of people. Ere I closed the interview she had place upon me the burden of the Soudan."
A year and a half later Bingham returned to Canada, alone. Walter and Thomas Kent lay buried in Nigeria's interior. "I visited Mrs. Gowans to take her the few personal belongings of her son," he recalled. "She met me with extended hand. We stood there in silence.
"Then she said these words: 'Well, Mr. Bingham, I would rather have had Walter go out to the Soudan and die there, all alone, that have him home today, disobeying his Lord.'"
Our success in this venture means nothing less than the opening of the country for the gospel; our failure, at most, nothing more than the death of two or three deluded fanatics. Still, even death is not failure. His purposes are accomplished. He uses deaths as well as lives in the furtherance of His cause. 
Source Unknown.

Walter Gowans, 1983, a founder of SIM. On Dec. 4, 1893, Walter Gowans and Rowland Bingham of Toronto, Canada, and Thomas Kent of Buffalo, N.Y., landed at Lagos, Nigeria. Their aim was to establish a witness among the 60 million people of what was then commonly known as the Soudan, the area south of the Sahara between the Niger River and the Nile. Gowans and Kent died in the first few months. Bingham returned to Canada, formed a council, and went back to Africa in 1900. That attempt, too, was unsuccessful. In 1901 Bingham sent out a party that succeeded in establishing the Mission's first base, at Patigi, 500 miles up the Niger River. When these first SIM pioneers landed in Nigeria, Gowans was 25 years old, Bingham was two weeks away from his 21st birthday, Kent was 23.
Source Unknown.

The following article is based on a sermon by missionary Del Tarr who served fourteen years in West Africa with another mission agency. His story points out the price some people pay to sow the seed of the gospel in hard soil.
I was always perplexed by Psalm 126 until I went to the Sahel, that vast stretch of savanna more than four thousand miles wide just under the Sahara Desert. In the Sahel, all the moisture comes in a four month period: May, June, July, and August. After that, not a drop of rain falls for eight months. The ground cracks from dryness, and so do your hands and feet. The winds of the Sahara pick up the dust and throw it thousands of feet into the air. It then comes slowly drifting across West Africa as a fine grit. It gets inside your mouth. It gets inside your watch and stops it. The year's food, of course, must all be grown in those four months. People grow sorghum or milo in small fields.
October and November...these are beautiful months. The granaries are full -- the harvest has come. People sing and dance. They eat two meals a day. The sorghum is ground between two stones to make flour and then a mush with the consistency of yesterday's Cream of Wheat. The sticky mush is eaten hot; they roll it into little balls between their fingers, drop it into a bit of sauce and then pop it into their mouths. The meal lies heavy on their stomachs so they can sleep.
December comes, and the granaries start to recede. Many families omit the morning meal. Certainly by January not one family in fifty is still eating two meals a day. By February, the evening meal diminishes. The meal shrinks even more during March and children succumb to sickness. You don't stay well on half a meal a day. April is the month that haunts my memory. In it you hear the babies crying in the twilight. Most of the days are passed with only an evening cup of gruel.
Then, inevitably, it happens. A six- or seven-year-old boy comes running to his father one day with sudden excitement. "Daddy! Daddy! We've got grain!" he shouts.
"Son, you know we haven't had grain for weeks."
"Yes, we have!" the boy insists. "Out in the hut where we keep the goats -- there's a leather sack hanging up on the wall -- I reached up and put my hand down in there -- Daddy, there's grain in there! Give it to Mommy so she can make flour, and tonight our tummies can sleep!"
The father stands motionless. "Son, we can't do that," he softly explains. "That's next year's seed grain. It's the only thing between us and starvation. We're waiting for the rains, and then we must use it."
The rains finally arrive in May, and when they do the young boy watches as his father takes the sack from the wall and does the most unreasonable thing imaginable. Instead of feeding his desperately weakened family, he goes to the field and with tears streaming down his face, he takes the precious seed and throws it away. He scatters it in the dirt! Why? Because he believes in the harvest.
The seed is his; he owns it. He can do anything with it he wants. The act of sowing it hurts so much that he cries. But as the African pastors say when they preach on Psalm 126, "Brother and sisters, this is God's law of the harvest. Don't expect to rejoice later on unless you have been willing to sow in tears."
And I want to ask you: How much would it cost you to sow in tears? I don't mean just giving God something from your abundance, but finding a way to say, "I believe in the harvest, and therefore I will give what makes no sense. The world would call me unreasonable to do this -- but I must sow regardless, in order that I may someday celebrate with songs of joy."
Copyright Leadership, 1983.

Love is a Costly Thing, by Dick Hillis
She was lying on the ground. In her arms she held a tiny baby girl. As I put a cooked sweet potato into her outstretched hand, I wondered if she would live until morning. Her strength was almost gone, but her tired eyes acknowledged my gift. The sweet potato could help so little -- but it was all I had.
Taking a bite she chewed it carefully. Then, placing her mouth over her baby's mouth, she forced the soft warm food into the tiny throat. Although the mother was starving, she used the entire potato to keep her baby alive.
Exhausted from her effort, she dropped her head on the ground and closed her eyes. In a few minutes the baby was asleep. I later learned that during the night the mother's heart stopped, but her little girl lived. Love is a costly thing.
God in His live for us (and for a lost world) "spared not His own Son" to tell the world of His love. Love is costly, but we must tell the world at any cost. Such love is costly. It costs parents and sons and daughters. It costs the missionary life itself. In his love for Christ the missionary must give up all to make the Savior known. If you will let your love for Christ, cost you something, the great advance will be made together.
Remember, love is a costly thing. Do you love enough?
OC International.

The average Christian in America gives less than $.20 a week to foreign missions. 
Larry Lutz, Partners International, 1987.

Americans give $700 million per year to mission agencies. However, they pay as much for pet food every 52 days. A person must overeat by at least $1.50 worth of food per month to maintain one excess pound of flesh. Yet $1.50 per month is more than what 90 percent of all Christians in America give to missions.
If the average missions supporter is only five pounds overweight, it means he spends (to his own hurt) at least five times as much as he gives for missions. If he were to choose simple food (as well as not overeat), he could give ten times as much as he does to missions and not modify his standard of living in any other way! 
Ralph Winter of the William Carey Library, 1705 North Sterra Bonita Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91104, in Leadership, IV,4,p. 64.

97% of the world has heard of coke-a-cola
72% of the world has seen a can of coke-a-cola
51% of the world has tasted a can of coke-a-cola
Coke has only been around 80 years (1984).
If God had given the task of world evangelization to the Coke company it would probably be done by now.
Source Unknown.

Single woman outnumber single men 7 to 1 on the mission field according to EFMA, IFMA. EFMA, IFMA.

William Carey had to overcome great odds to obey the call of God. In The Challenge of Life, Oswald J. Smith noted that "even the Directors of the East India Company opposed [Carey's] work. Following is the idiotic resolution they presented to Parliament:
'The sending out of missionaries into one Eastern possession is the maddest, most extravagant, most costly, most indefensible project which has ever been suggested by a moonstruck fanatic.'"
Smith added, "In 1796, the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland passed the following infamous resolution: 'To spread the knowledge of the gospel amongst barbarians and heathens seems to be highly preposterous.' One speaker in the House of Commons said that he would rather see a band of devils let loose in India than a band of missionaries. Such was the opposition to missions when Carey set forth. And yet, he was able to write, 'Why is my soul disquieted within me? Things may turn out better than I expect. Everything is known to God, and God cares.'" William Carey stood the test, and became the father of modern missions.
Daily Bread.

Some wish to live within the sound of church or chapel bell;
I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell.
C.T. Studd.

Some years ago, a very good friend of mine, Dr. E. Myers Harrison, gave a missionary message that I cannot forget. It was to a small group of people, but I will never forget the sermon. Dr. Harrison is now at home with the Lord, but he was a great servant of God and a great missionary statesman. He said that each of us as Christians must hear what God has to say. There is the command from above: "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15). Have you heard that?
I've heard people say, "But God wants our church to be different. We're not supposed to have a missionary program." I don't believe that. I believe the command from above is given to every Christian and to every assembly that God has raised up. Then there is the cry from beneath. Remember the rich man who died and woke up in hell and begged for someone to go and tell his brothers? (see Luke 16). "I pray thee, therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house (for I have five brethren), that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment" (vv. 27,28). There is the cry from beneath. If you and I could hear the cries of people in a lost eternity right now, we'd realize how important it is to get the Gospel out. There's the command from above. Have you heard it? There's the cry from beneath. Have you heart it?
Then, according to Dr. Harrison, there is the call from without. Acts 16:9 says, "Come over into Macedonai, and help us." People around us are saying, "Please come to help us!" So much money, time and energy is being spent on routine church matters in America when there is a whole world to reach for Christ! We face so many open doors! 
W. Wiersbe, Something Happens When Churches Pray, pp.102-3.

Association of Church Missions Commissions definition of a "mobilizing church:" 1) 10% of the church's members are regularly and systematically praying for missions. 2) 10% of the church's members are regularly and systematically sharing their faith. 3) 10% of the church's budget is spent on cross-cultural outreach. 4) 1% of the church's members are entering cross- cultural service. 5) The church is working to involve one neighbor church in missions. 
ACMC Newsletter, Autumn, 1989, p. 1.

I had known about Jesus dying for me, but I had never understood that, if He had died for me, then I didn't belong to myself. Redemption means buying back, so that if I belong to Him, either I had to be a thief, and keep what wasn't mine, or else I had to give up everything to God. When I came to see that Jesus had died for me, it didn't seem hard to give up all for Him.  C.T. Studd.

If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.  C.T. Studd.

Henry Martyn (1781-1812)
Following a brilliant student career at Cambridge, rejected several opportunities in order to go to the mission field. He prayed, "Here am I, Lord; send me to the ends of the earth, send me to the rough, the savage pagans of the wilderness; send me from all that is called comfort in earth; send me even to death itself if it be but in Thy service and in Thy kingdom."
Donald Campbell, Nehemiah: Man in Charge, Victor Books, 1979, p. 13.

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MISSIONARY

In 1912 William Borden, a graduate of Yale University, left one of America's greatest family fortunes to be a missionary to China. He got as far as Egypt and died of cerebral meningitis. He died--and was only in his 20s--but there was "no reserve, no retreat, no regrets" in his consecration to God.
Source Unknown.

But, for me personally, being anything but a missionary would be second best. Perhaps a story I recall hearing years ago explains it best. It seems the old Standard Oil Company offered an enormous sum of money to a missionary in China to work for them, to help with the development of Standard Oil in China. The missionary turned them down. So they doubled the salary offer. He turned them down again. They said, "What do you want? We can't give more money than that.: He said, "The money doesn't have anything to do with it. The job is too small."
SimNow.

In his book Facing Loneliness, J. Oswald Sanders writes, "The round of pleasure or the amassing of wealth are but vain attempts to escape from the persistent ache...The millionaire is usually a lonely man and the comedian is often more unhappy than his audience."
Sanders goes on the emphasize that being successful often fails to produce satisfaction. Then he refers to Henry Martyn, a distinguished scholar, as an example of what he is talking about. Martyn, a Cambridge University student, was honored at only 20 years of age for his achievements in mathematics. In fact, he was given the highest recognition possible in that field. And yet he felt an emptiness inside. He said that instead of finding fulfillment in his achievements, he had "only grasped a shadow."
After evaluating his life's goals, Martyn sailed to India as a missionary at the age of 24. When he arrived, he prayed, "Lord, let me burn out for You." In the next 7 years that preceded his death, he translated the New Testament into three difficult Eastern languages. These notable achievements were certainly not passing "shadows."
Our Daily Bread, January 21, 1994.

John G. Paton, a missionary to the South Sea Islands, often lived in danger as he worked among the hostile aborigines who had never heard the gospel. At one time three witch doctors, claiming to have the power to cause death, publicly declared their intentions to kill Paton with their sorcery before the next
Sunday. To carry out their threat, they said they needed some food he had partially eaten. Paton asked for three plums. He took a bite out of each and then gave them to the men who were plotting his death. 
On Sunday, the missionary entered the village with a smile on his face and a spring in his step. The people looked at each other in amazement, thinking it couldn't possibly be Paton. Their "sacred men" admitted that they had tried by all their incantations to kill him. When asked why they
had failed, they replied that the missionary was a sacred man like themselves, but that his God was stronger than theirs. From then on Paton's influence grew, and soon he had the joy of leading some of the villagers to the Lord.
Source Unknown.

LIVINGSTONE, DAVID
Sometimes marriage to a great leader comes with a special price for his wife. Such was the case for Mary Moffatt Livingstone, wife of Dr. David Livingstone, perhaps the most celebrated missionary in the Western world. Mary was born in Africa as the daughter of Robert Moffatt, the missionary who inspired
Livingstone to go to Africa. The Livingstones were married in Africa in 1845, but the years that followed were difficult for Mary. Finally, she and their six children returned to England so she could recuperate as Livingstone plunged deeper into the African interior. Unfortunately, even in England Mary lived in
near poverty. The hardships and long separations took their toll on Mrs. Livingstone, who died when she was just forty-two. 
Today in the Word, MBI, January, 1990, p. 12.

Alila stood on the beach holding her tiny infant son close to her heart. Tears welled in her eyes as she began slowly walking toward the river's edge. She stepped into the water, silently making her way out until she was waist deep, the water gently lapping at the sleeping baby's feet. She stood there for a long time holding the child tightly as she stared out across the river. Then all of a sudden in one quick movement she threw the six month old baby to his watery death.
Native missionary M.V. Varghese often witnesses among the crowds who gather at the Ganges. It was he who came upon Alila that day kneeling in the sand crying uncontrollably and beating her breast. With compassion he knelt down next to her and asked her what was wrong.
Through her sobs she told him, "The problems in my home are too many and my sins are heavy on my heart, so I offered the best I have to the goddess Ganges, my first born son." Brother Varghese's heart ached for the desperate woman. As she wept he gently began to tell her about the love of Jesus and that through Him her sins could be forgiven. She looked at him strangely. "I have never heard that before," she replied through her tears. "Why couldn't you have come thirty minutes earlier? If you did, my child would not have had to die."
Each year millions of people come to the holy Indian city of Hardwar to bathe in the River Ganges. These multitudes come believing this Hindu ritual will wash their sins away. For many people like Alila, missionaries are arriving too late, simply because there aren't enough of these faithful brothers and sisters on the mission field. 
Christianity Today, 1993.