One Nameless Man

A nameless man left his home in Ireland to spread the gospel in Peru. No one listened. As far as we know, not one person came to Christ under his ministry.

When he died in the mountain village where he had given his life, the villagers refused to bury him in the respectable cemetery. That was reserved for faithful Roman Catholics. They laid the missionary to rest with criminals, homosexuals, suicide victims, and other social outcasts. No fancy gravestone recorded his name for posterity. A simple pile of stones marked the spot of this man who, though he was faithful, gave his life for nothing.

A single lady gave it another try. Mabel Walker, an American, fared a little better. From her faithful efforts to plant the seed of the gospel in this rocky soil, she saw several people saved, mostly children. Yet after years of service, she left Peru with no churches started, no lasting ministry to show for her work.

Twenty years later, Bob and Betty Whatley left the jungle and came to that same mountain valley. They gave it another try. At first they saw little fruit, but after a few years, things began to change. After years of indifference, the Peruvians grew interested in the gospel. This slow, unfruitful field became incredibly receptive.

Today, in many areas, Peruvians mob missionaries for tracts, then sit down and read them immediately. Churches are springing up everywhere. Peruvians come to the city and are saved. Then they return to their villages to share Christ with friends and relatives. Once a group of believers is formed, they beg missionaries to help them start a church.

This area of Peru now has more than one hundred fundamental Baptist churches. Missionaries cannot begin to meet the needs of Peruvian churches crying out for help, much less start churches in every place Christians are begging for them to come.

Of course, Satan won’t give up Peru easily. Pockets of great opposition still slow the spread of the gospel. In some areas, school teachers refuse to pass students who attend Baptist church services.

Other schools, however, invite missionaries to come and teach Bible classes. Today, missionaries to Peru are reaping an abundant harvest of souls.

And what about the Irish missionary who so faithfully planted the gospel, yet died in apparent failure? Today Peruvians lead Bob Whatley to the little pile of stones that cover his grave. “This man,” they tell him, “told us about Jesus.”

Across the world today, missionaries and pastors grieve over fields that produce little, if any, fruit. They’d gladly give their lives to bring souls to Christ and build a lasting ministry. Yet in the middle of their apparent failure, Satan whispers, “Why give your life for nothing?”

The cemetery in Peru is still filled with the bodies of criminals, outcasts, and one nameless missionary whose life ended—in failure. Few would desire such a site for a final resting place. Bob Whatley, however, disagrees. He says, “When I die, bury me beside that old missionary. He was faithful.”

3 Stages of Adapting to a New Culture

You step off the plane with eager anticipation! Finally you have arrived at your new mission field. You can hardly wait to get started in your new ministry. God has put a love in your heart for these people before you ever knew them. He has made you love this country you know so little about.

But when you meet actual people, you  find them annoying. When you experience a new culture you wonder why they can’t just learn to do things the right way, like people in your host country do.

These ups and downs of living in a new culture are normal. If you expect all ups and no downs, you’re probably going to be disappointed. Each person adapts to a new culture in her own way, but most people go through at least 3 phases.

Stage 1: Wow! This is so cool!

When you first arrive on the field everything is new and different and exciting. You feel so privileged to live in this country and see its beauty and live among the nationals. You eat new fruit like hairy rambutans or stinky duriens or fat pomelos.  You find bargains on the ground in the market and learn to count out coins to buy them. You learn to say a few words in the new language and you’re sure you are going to be the next Amy Carmichael or Jim or Elizabeth Elliot.

And you probably expect to stay on this high for a lifetime of ministry. But if you do, your expectations are likely to crash before long when you experience . . .

Stage 2: This stinks!

You find a great restaurant, then you find out they wash their dishes in cold water in the back alley. You have a hard time reading the sign for the restroom, and when you find it, you discover a totally ridiculous style of toilet. These people have no regard for traffic laws. You’re quite sure you are more intelligent than the average national, but when you speak their language you sound like a stammering child. And the way they make decisions is incredible. You could teach them a thing or two from your host culture . . . if anyone would listen.

Stage 2 can be dangerous. Many missionaries give up and go home during stage 2, when they could have been good missionaries if they would stayed long enough to last until . . .

Stage 3: This is life.

In time you come to realize the new culture has both good and bad elements. More than that you learn that there are many acceptable ways to do most tasks. Your way makes most sense to you because you’re used to it. Your way may always seem best to you, but when you are with others you learn to adapt to what makes them comfortable.  In time you may even get past the urge to think of new ways to fix everything you don’t like in the new culture.  That’s real progress!

In my first book, Peanut Butter Friends in a Chop Suey World, Amy goes through this process when she moves from Wyoming to the mission field of Taiwan. This fiction book is aimed at pre-teens, but much of it comes from my own efforts at adapting to Chinese culture. You’ll find it here with discussion questions:

Are you a missionary or have you had prolonged contact with a culture different from your own? What experiences would you like to share that fit into one of these three stages? What have you learned that helped you cope with the ups and downs of adapting to culture? Image