What is Appropriate Sacrifice?

by Carol and Jim Plueddemann

To the Golden Shore (Courtney Anderson, 1956) is the story of Adoniram Judson, pioneer missionary to Burma (modern-day Myanmar). The book includes this letter Judson wrote to the father of Nancy Hazeltine when he asked for her hand in marriage:

"I have now to ask whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world; whether you can consent to her departure, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death. Can you consent to all this, for the sake of Him who left His heavenly home and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing, immortal souls; for the sake of Zion and the glory of God?"

Judson's letter was prophetic. Nancy Hazeltine Judson died in Burma, as did three of her children. Judson re-married, and his second wife, Sarah, and two of her children also died. Judson lost two wives and five children, a huge cost. He wrote, "If I had not felt certain that every additional trial was ordered by infinite love and mercy, I could not have survived my accumulated sufferings."

Almost every significant cross-cultural endeavor has been birthed in sacrifice by lives laid down for the sake of carrying the gospel to unreached places.

In 1992, a North American in Myanmar presented a Bible to the head of the Myanmar Evangelical Fellowship. The Bible flyleaf stated, "Translated by the Reverend A. Judson." He asked, "Do you know who this man Judson is?"

"Oh, yes!" the leader said. "Whenever someone mentions the name Judson great tears come to my eyes because we know what he and family suffered for us." He continued emotionally, "Today in Myanmar, every one of us [Christians] traces our spiritual heritage to this man." Nearly four million Christians in Myanmar (Operation World, 2003) are a part of the Judsons' legacy.

In today's world, the Judsons' experience would never be tolerated. If any mission agency allowed this scenario, it would probably be black-listed by various organizations and periodicals. Maybe rightly so. But what is "appropriate sacrifice"? Is the term an oxymoron?

Seminars on risk assessment and risk management are necessary for missions today. But Phil Parshall (SIM, Philippines) rightly raises concerns about this emphasis: "It seems the spirit of courage and daring has been somewhat replaced by a conservative attitude that keeps missionaries packed up, ready to evacuate to a "safe haven at the first sign of upheaval."

The emphasis in missions today is sometimes more on member care than on vision. Of course member care is crucial and can be an integral part of Kingdom vision. But mission agencies do not exist for member care! The joyful task of missions is to plant, strengthen, and partner with churches around the world.

What will it take to continue missions in the spirit of our pioneers? Increasingly, our world is fragmenting and becoming more unsafe. Fresh martyrs' graves are dug beside old ones. Will today's missionaries and future recruits be willing to serve in hard places? Will mission committees allow them to be assigned in high-risk areas?

In our many travels, we have been moved by the willingness of many to serve in difficult places. Armed robbery, dangerous roads, and tropical illnesses are common dangers in many places. Financial hardship, loneliness, and cultural alienation are assumed sacrifices for those who serve cross-culturally. And who can count the cost of those who leave grown children and grandchildren in their homelands to answer God's call? God gives grace for these sacrifices just as he gives grace for the ultimate sacrifice.

Jesus didn't say "Go into all the safe places of the world." But along with the command to go into all the world, He gave the promise of His power and presence.

Taken from World Pulse, "Worldshapers Jim & Carol Plueddemann,"
March 12, 2004
Doug Nichols
Action International Ministries

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