She was an older single lady missionary. There were two families at the church’s missions conference, one on deputation going to serve in Uruguay (South America), and my family on home assignment from Cambodia (Southeast Asia). The family going to Uruguay was going to train people for ministry and help churches there become indigenous. My family was working with church planting and helping other missionaries in that kind of ministry. Both countries have very broad religious freedom, though difficult cultures in their own right. What was the single woman missionary’s ministry that she was representing, you ask? She was on furlough from Afghanistan. This was around 2007 maybe. I am ashamed to say it, but I struggled with despising her.
The woman was not a church planter. She was not training nationals to serve Christ. She was not even engaged in any aggressive evangelism or discipleship of women or children. She worked for a social work organization teaching Afghan women literacy, women who would never have had opportunity to learn to read, except that American and NATO soldiers had control of Kabul and beyond. She could not speak the Gospel of Jesus Christ into these lives through her work as she was bound by strict rules of non-proselytizing. It would have meant certain risk for her life if she had tried.
Why was she there then, do you ask? She was not there for literacy teaching, though she might have enjoyed that service to these women. She was there for spiritual warfare through prayer. She could not openly speak of Christ to them in that extremely harsh setting, but she earnestly and fervently prayed for every woman she had in her classes that they would hear the Gospel and be saved. She poured out her soul for Afghanistan’s people. How do I know she did so? Her words, her demeanor, and the very fact that she would go and do such a thing in such a place as a single American woman. I do not know if the woman is still there or if she was recently evacuated from Kabul after NATO troop withdrawal. I don’t even remember her name.
Why did I despise her? I humbly look back at what I felt and am ashamed. Yes, making disciples resulting in local bodies of believers is the top priority for missions. Yes, training men and women for the ministry of the Gospel is a crucial second, if not an equal part to the first. In my zeal for these priorities, I lacked wisdom in thinking beyond the normal means to carry out the Great Commission. I struggled in my spirit about whether she should be called a missionary, or if she should receive support from God’s people to go to the field.
There are Christians in Afghanistan. There are not many, but there are definitely some, and these have been in the news as they face an almost certain martyrdom soon. Many of these believers no doubt came to saving faith in Christ during the occupation of NATO troops, especially American troops. Social workers, contractors, and even troops who were Christians surely witnessed carefully to those they came to love there. I would guess that this woman I remember found a way to speak of Christ to some. Gospel seed was planted and watered, even in Afghanistan, during all of the insanity of the last few decades. God is sovereign. He is building His church.
As we reflect on what is happening in Afghanistan right now, let us not only remember those precious few who already believe on Christ now facing violent persecution. Let us remember that Gospel seed has been spread there. Let us remember that many of God’s people worldwide have prayed for Afghanistan’s people. We must remember those that earnestly prayed and spoke while they could. May we pray for the many refugees who have fled, that they would readily seek and find Christ where they settle.
I look back now on that dear woman who lived in such an environment for years, almost entirely incapable of explaining the Gospel, whose primary ministry was prayer. Was she an illegitimate missionary? Was her labor there in vain? I think not! Forgive me, Lord for ever despising one of Your servants. And please, Lord, multiply such people of faith to go and serve you in restricted places for your glory!
I read these words in my devotional reading just this morning:
“Who are you to pass judgement on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord will make him stand…Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgement seat of God…So then each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14:4, 10, 12 ESV).
May God help us all to faithfully carry out the Great Commission, earnestly contending for souls and for the faith, willing to serve Him anywhere that He sends us to go. May He uphold us as we seek to do all His will with a clear conscience before Him.