Years ago I had the privilege of kneeling at the grave of Abram LaRue in a cemetery in Hong Kong. (To give you an idea of how long ago it was, I took a picture – a slide – on Kodachrome film.) I felt like taking off my shoes…holy ground. LaRue was the first American missionary from my faith group to China.
When he wrote to mission headquarters in 1886 and asked for permission to go, he was denied. After all, he was 65, and everyone knows that’s too old. When he disputed their decision, they replied by telling him they didn’t have any money to pay him, anyway. So he decided to go as a self-supporting missionary, jumped on a ship where he earned his own passage and beginning in 1888 spent the next 14 years selling books from his little mission and to sailors who docked in the harbor, to pay for his support.
Stories like LaRue’s are multitudinous…men (and women) who sensed a call from the heart of God. With no visible means of support, fragile contact with home, superhuman language barriers, primitive medical care, not even a strategy manual, driven only by the needs of a group of people who needed to know Jesus. I stand before them in awe.
Even today. We have some dear friends serving in really scary places. Perhaps you do, too. Their creature comforts may be more predictable, but their future may not be. I salute them and I pray for them. In my mind, their decision places them in a noble queue.
And while we’re on the subject of noble assignments let me mention the street that runs in front of your house. For some of us, crossing it to share a hug may be as formidable as the South Pacific. Yet that’s as much a mandate for us as China was for LaRue.
“But, brother Don, I just find it really hard to show love to other people. Especially folks I don’t know. Especially creepy ones.” But Jesus sought out and hung out with the kind of people I tend to ignore. Something about that admission makes me uncomfortable. You and I will probably not spend the rest of our lives walking the streets of a strange city across the seas where we don’t understand the language, but we could start with a pie and a prayer across the street. That would be noble, too.
By Don Jacobsen