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“There is no price too high to pay for proper preparation.” This is the conclusion of veteran missionary Jon De Rusha, Asian Field Administrator with Baptist Missions to Forgotten Peoples. He goes on to say, “We first arrived in the Niger in 1971. We, along with two other families, were there to reach the Taureg people of the Sahara. To our knowledge, the Gospel had never been preached to these people. At first, we did not know they even had a script of their language, Tamachek. Later, we learned there was a script but very few of the Tauregs could read it. We went with a minimum of French language study, no linguistics, no proficiency in Hebrew or Greek, no understanding of translation principles, etc. At that juncture in the history of Independent Baptist missions, I am not sure how much awareness existed among us as to what preparations were necessary to accomplish the objective. Once we were there, we realized quite pertinently just how unprepared we were.”
No doubt the testimony of Brother De Rusha is that of hundreds of other missionaries before and after him. Two years after he went to Africa, the Baptist Bible Translators Institute began offering specialized preparation for Baptist missionaries. It continues forty-six years later with an even better Advanced Missionary Training (AMT) program. Often, we hear missionaries on the field, retired missionaries, or those who have left the field prematurely say, “I wish I would have known about BBTI before going to the field!” Some admit, “I knew about BBTI but didn’t want to spend nine months preparing.” When explaining our AMT to a new missionary candidate, he will invariably say, “Yes, that sounds good. I know it would help me, but I can’t take the time.” The missionary knows it takes time to prepare financially, but he needs to realize it also takes time to prepare linguistically. There is a price of time to pay for preparation. But no price is too high if it enables you to survive and succeed in your mission.
It is estimated to cost $350,000 to $500,000 to train a single Navy SEAL or Army Ranger. Nevertheless, our government believes the mission is worth the price. We want our soldiers and sailors to survive and succeed in the mission. No price is too high to properly prepare them. Each year, over 20,000 US students begin medical school. If they earn the MD title, they could spend over $2.5 million dollars, approximately $50,000 each year! And they will probably graduate with a student load debt of $170,000. We all want the best possible doctors; we believe that no price is too high for their preparation.
So, what about the preparation of those who are expected to do a work a thousand times more important than that of a doctor or a SEAL? How are we preparing the missionary who does the most important work on this earth? A missionary receives a few Bible classes, some courses in missionary history and theory, and maybe a year in language school; and we think he is prepared. Brother Jon De Rusha had all this, and he considered himself unprepared.
Consider the need. There are over 7,100 languages spoken today, and Jesus expects His Gospel to be preached in all of them. There are probably 6,000 of these languages that have no language schools. Many of them are unwritten, meaning they have no grammar books, teachers, and certainly no Scriptures. The BBTI graduate has training to learn any of these languages and cultures. He knows how to develop an alphabet and write the language. He knows principles of Bible translation. He has training to help others become literate. His mission is the establishment of a truly indigenous, Bible-believing church. With proper preparation, he has a good chance of survival and success.
No price is too high to pay because of the value of the sinner. We may doubt his worth, but God doesn’t. Jesus shed His blood for every single sinner. We believe in Heaven; we must also believe in Hell. We believe that without the new birth, a person will not see the kingdom of God but will be cast into the lake of fire. The heathen are lost, and the Gospel of Christ is their only hope. They are not going to be reached by the unprepared missionary who is unable to communicate in their language and culture!
No price is too high to pay because of the value of the servant. He is literally one in a thousand. A thousand other young people have not surrendered their lives to serve on the mission field; but he has. A thousand others will avoid missionary service at all cost; he has chosen it! The Army Ranger has chosen to risk his life and serve for a few years on a foreign field; the missionary choses to do this for a lifetime. The least we can do is send him well prepared. To send an ill-prepared family to the field is unnecessary and unfair. It is unnecessary because training is available. It is unfair to the missionary, to the churches that send him, and especially to those who are so desperately in need of his message!
No price is too high to pay because the Saviour is worthy. The goal of missionary work is the glory of God. He is not glorified when people live in ignorance of Him. He is glorified by lives changed by the Gospel. He is glorified when people turn from idols and serve Him, the true and living God. People won’t understand the Gospel, be converted, and glorify God if the missionary’s message is unclear. The missionary is an ambassador of God. He owes it to God and to his people to go to them with the best possible preparation. Unwillingness to pay the price necessary for proper preparation might reflect lack of dedication to the mission.
It is especially necessary for the pastor to educate himself and know exactly what training is needed and where it is available. He must not allow a precious missionary family to leave without it. Proper preparation should not be a suggestion but a requirement. The mission is too important. Lost souls are too valuable. The missionary is priceless. And God is worthy of our best!