For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! (1 Corinthians 9:16, ESV)
It happens often, but we never get used to it. Someone will say, with the sweetest of smiles, “I am glad you are getting to do what you want to do.” Sometimes I want to say, “You must be kidding.”
I did not want to go to Zambia in 1999. We had just buried my father, and I knew that my mother would not live until we returned. I did not want to fly to Sudan in 2009. I felt that “necessity” was laid on me. The job needed to be done. As it was for the thousands who volunteered in December of 1941, it was not the desire to see foreign places that led me on, but the conviction that there was a spiritual war going on and I was needed in that work at that time. Right now, we are needed in one of the lonelier outposts of that same war.
Eswatini is a nicer place than Nigeria, or Ghana, or the parts of Zambia that we considered. It is closer to being home for me than anywhere else we have lived, but it is not home for us. Our grandchildren are not there and are unlikely to visit us there. We will miss many of our friends and many favorite foods and activities.
On Friday at noon we will close the sale of a home we have owned for thirty years. We held on to that home during our previous service in Africa, but this time it was not going to be possible. That was supposed to be our retirement home. Now it belongs to someone else. We are glad that it sold for a good price. That will make it easier for us to do the work in Eswatini. But do you think we wanted to do that? You must be kidding.
We do not expect you to pity us or even to admire us. That would be ludicrous. We are disciples of the one who gave up heaven to live in Nazareth, and to die at Golgotha. Following him entails giving up what we want. This is not some “above and beyond the call of duty” kind of service; it is what is expected. It is, or should be, the normal course of action for anyone following Jesus.
No, we are not all called to be missionaries to a foreign land; but every disciple is to follow. To follow Jesus means to say, “not as I will, but as you will” (Mt 26:39). Are you a disciple of Jesus, or are you kidding?