Needs and the mission field go hand in hand. The needs are more often then not completely overwhelming. We hear emotional appeals from the pulpit about the starving kids in Africa or the victims of sex trafficking in India and we are stirred to the core to do something. Helping with the needs is an important part of the calling to missions. But should it be chief in the calling? That is what I want to discuss here.
Needs have their place to help motivate individuals. However, I believe that if we base our calling from that direction we are upside-down and doomed for failure. What do I mean by that? First, the Word of God and the work of the Holy Spirit are what “call” people to the mission field not needs. If you are needs driven you will be doomed to fail because the needs are never ending. Sure you can helps some people but 10 more will pop up right after.
I was a missionary in a Sudanees Refugee Camp in Uganda Africa and we had a Bible college, a hospital/feeding center, a school and an orphanage. We did a LOT of good, met a LOT of needs and saved a LOT of lives. I would never discourage anyone from doing that. However, after all the people we did help there were dozens of people we couldn’t and on top of that most of the people we did help ended up going right back to the habits and witchcraft practices that landed them in need in the first place. For example, in this part of Africa the witchdoctors boor more authority then medical doctors. So most of the people would first go to the witch doctor to have a rash (for example) diagnosed on their one year olds arm. Medically, this rash was more often or not able to be treated with general hygiene, like a bar of soap and possibly a little topical cream. In other words it was usually a very very simple and treatable problem. But they would go to the witchdoctor first and they would make up some story about a curse upon the family and charge the people an astronomical amount of money (usually paid in goats or chickens) for a treatment to remove the curse. After the family begged and scrounged up enough money to afford the treatment, the witchdoctor would then tell them to do something like – take a razor blade (remember we are in the middle of a refugee camp and the razor blades that they would get from the little general store/shack where filthy) and make tiny one inch incisions all over your babies body. Then go and find this herb (they would name some kind of weed) and use it to pack the wound. OR they would blame the rash on a tooth that happened to be growing in and they would tell them that they need to remove the tooth. The parents would then find whatever they could to cut the child’s gums open and pry out the tooth. I could go on and on with stories like this. But this would be the state that we would get the kids. Mutilated by their parents, riddled with infection and near death. Most of them were past the point of no return and there was nothing we could do for them but watch them die. However, those that we could nurse back to health we would have to post guards in their rooms day and night because the parents or some family member would try to sneak in and steal the baby and take them back to the witchdoctor. They believed that we were killing the child and that the fact that the child was getting batter was due to the curse and at any moment it would reverse or visit upon another family member. They believed that the witchdoctor was the only way to remove the curse and save everyone.
You can only imagine that we were always in a state of frustration at the overwhelming task. It was far more complicated then a simple uphill battle. We were dealing with wicked and demonic influences and the “needs base call” was not going to be enough. We needed to know that we know that God had clearly spoken to us through his word and the Holy Spirit that we were called because we needed His supernatural strength to deal with all these realities (and those were the simple cases).
Needs are important and a motivator of our callings. They also prove useful to know where we can use our particular gifts. God is probably not going to call you to do medical work unless you have had some sort of medical training. But take confidence that God knows all about the needs and He will use your giftings to meet a small part of those needs. We simply need to have confidence that the task we are setting out to accomplish is clearly from God. That way it now bears conviction because it is a commissioning from our King.
Pastor Mike Thiemann
Saving Grace World Missions