Thursday, January 19, 2006


It's hard to fathom the kind of calling and commitment that is expressed in the life of a Christian missionary. One senses a divine call to culture-crossing immersion for the sake of bearing witness to the reality of Jesus Christ over a lifetime or at least the heart of a lifetime. Who can adequately grasp such? And at the same time, who cannot grasp that God calls and empowers each of us for life and service? But some accounts, like that of E. Stanley Jones, seem to be truly set apart.

ON THE BRINK. I've been re-reading E. Stanley Jones' autobiography, A Song of Ascents, in advance of my initial visit to India. Writing at age 82, Jones reflects on his life and calling as a missionary in India through the period of its revolution for independence from England. Jones' sense of calling and commitment were tested early on with physical disease and emotional exhaustion. On the brink of being sent home a broken person, Jones writes of a divine moment of healing and promise that occurred--a healing that touched him instantly but continued to buoy him with renewed life and focus for his service. Here is Jones' response to this divine encounter:

VERY HUMAN INSTRUMENTS. "From nothing I was led into everything. Not that it was an accomplished fact, but this was a promise, the earnest money, a down payment. I knew what I could bank on. The working out of all this was adventure--and adventure in faith in the trustworthiness of God my Father, Christ my Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit my Empowerer. But I also knew God was using a very human instrument who would have to learn by experience, be guided by trial and error, be corrected by mistakes, and be limited by my capacity to take what was offered."

CHRISTIAN IN THE MAKING. "I was conscious--deeply conscious--that I was only a Christian-in-the making, but I also knew that we are made by the greatness of our tasks; and here I was undertaking the greatest task I knew--the evangelization of the greatest philosophical nation on earth and the nation with the deepest spiritual potentialities..."

FREE TO PURSUE TRUTH. "I felt I should make the adventure and follow truth found anywhere, to whatever end it would lead me. I inwardly turned pale as I let go the securities of blocked-off faith to follow truth to unknown destinations...I was thrust out into the open seas and would meet life head-on. Only the truth could set me free. There was a stormy period, but I found that by his grace I could face these storms and come out better and freer than ever..."

ANCHORED IN JESUS. "My one point of the compass was on Jesus, and the other point could swing as far into truth as it was able. For I was anchored--and free!"

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