Great People, Nameless People

Reading about great saints tends to put things into right perspective, as it did for me recently. A few ministry frustrations had thrown me into a funk. So, I spent a chunk of time reading missionary history.

Some missionaries are famous, some notorious, but others are completely obscure. The obscure saints caught my mind. They’re long-gone, nameless men and women, boys and girls, who suffered terribly in giving everything for Christ. They’re disciples who no one knows, and they’re on no one’s roster of great Christians. Even so, I’m guessing that the Lord lists them among the greatest of his people. In the Lord’s economy, of course, fame is not greatness, and success is not measured in human terms. The obscure ones may even be the greatest of all.

A few of many examples, cited from A History of Christian Missions:

•    converts to Christ in India who, as result of their faith, were kidnapped and disappeared forever or were completely rejected by their families;

•    a missionary physician and his wife, serving Christ in India, who saw each of their five children die from disease;

•    African boys who, after they received Christ, rejected the sexual advances of their tribal chief. Three of the boys were roasted over a slow fire. Thirty-two others were gathered together and burned in one immense pyre;

•    in Madagascar, a queen ordered her soldiers to seize every Christian, bind them hand and foot, dig a pit on the spot and pour boiling water on them and bury them. At least 200 Christians were killed this way, 14 were hurled over a cliff, four were burned alive. One witness recorded his observations of their deaths: They prayed as long as they had life. They died, but softly, gently. Indeed, astonished were all who beheld the burning of them.

•    missionaries who made their way to strange lands to share Christ’s gospel and quickly, or after a short season, were killed and eaten by the indigenous people. (That’s what the book says. They were killed and eaten.)

I am freed from my wimpy little funk. Nothing to complain about here. Just thankful for the Lord's patience, grace and mercy.