I slumped down into my pew deeper and deeper, feeling small and insignificant. My family and I had returned to the United States for a break from our work translating the New Testament for a language group in Togo. We were one of several couples invited to speak at a missions conference.
Listening to the first speaker, an American evangelist newly arrived from the Caribbean, my self-esteem shriveled. Flamboyantly, he told us of the thousands saved just a few weeks before in a series of massive open-air meetings. Countless miracles of healing had affirmed his preaching. As he spoke, his wife busied herself taking photos of him from every possible angle.
The people around me in the congregation punctuated his every sentence with “Amen,” and “Praise the Lord!” Thumbs went up. They sat on the edge of their seats.
This looked too much like events in the Coliseum of ancient Rome. They were getting their money’s worth! I thought back to a meeting in this church three years ago. We were given only five minutes to tell what God had done in the last four years of our lives and our translation work. No wonder the response had been so ho-hum.
As I waited in the pew for our turn to speak, I almost felt ashamed. Translation work is a hidden work, a quiet work, a tedious and demanding work. Yes, we loved the people we worked with and lived among. Yes, we talked to them of Christ. But, thousands turning to the Savior in one night? Never. I was waiting to be thrown to the lions…
At that point, the Lord spoke lovingly to my heart, Carol, did I tell you to be an evangelist?
Did I tell you to hold open-air meetings and preach?
What did I tell you to do?
To live with the Lama, learn their language and translate Your Word.
Are you doing what I told you to do? Are you doing it with all your heart, soul, mind and strength? Are you obeying Me?
Then sit up straight and hold your head high.
The renowned preacher Vance Havner said, “It may be only a pinpoint on the map, but if it is the Lord’s place for us, it is a large place. God’s geography does not read like ours. His ways are not our ways and His standards of greatness and success are foolish to this world.”
I learned anew that the kind of work we do and the place we do it is not what matters. My obedience is what the Lord is looking for, not sacrifice. His place for me will be a large place, a place of success.
Recently I heard an African pastor preach in a nearby church here in North Carolina. He is a global worker from Africa to the United States, come because God told him to move here and evangelize French-speakers in this area. He spoke on the Great Commission found in Mark 16:15 (NIV): He [Jesus] said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.”
“Go,” the pastor pleaded, “go into all the world. Go to China. Go to Africa. Go to South America. Go to Canada. Go to Virginia. Go to downtown Charlotte. Go to the grocery store in Waxhaw. Go to your neighbors down the street. Go next door! But go! Just go!”
Things have come around full circle: an African bringing the Word to us. He heard the call of God and he obeyed. He went and did what he was told. I got up from my pew, standing tall in God and His call on my life. I told the people how I went, and how I did what I was told.