Last year I wrote about Don Richardson and his book, Peace Child. I wanted to include one passage that I thought was somewhat symbolic of what most missionaries, and indeed, what most Christians must face at one time or another if they want to shine light into darkness. This was written about Don’s first foray into the jungle in which he was going to work:
The wildness of the locale seemed to taunt me. Something in the mood of the place seemed to say mockingly, “I am not like your tame, manageable Canadian homeland. I am tangled. I am too dense to walk through. I am hot and steamy and drenched with rain. I am hip-deep mud and six-inch sago thorns. I am death adders and taipans and leeches and crocodiles. I am malaria and dysentery and filariasis and hepatitis.
“Your idealism means nothing here. Your Christian gospel has never scrupled the conscience of my children. You think you love them, but wait until you know them, if you can ever know them! You presume you are ready to grapple with me, understand my mysteries, and change my nature. But I am easily able to overpower you with my gloom, my remoteness, my heedless brutality, my indolence, my unashamed morbidity, my total otherness.
“Think again before you commit yourself to certain disillusionment! Can’t you see I am no place for your wife? I am no place for your son. I am no place for you…”
The voices of the leafy arena seemed to swell and then fade into the masses of creeping tendrils and twisted vines…
It’s only a bluff, I thought. This swamp is also part of my Father’s creation. His providence can sustain us here as well as anywhere else. Then the peace of God descended on me, and suddenly this strange place became home! My home! I turned to Ken and John and said, “This is where I want to build!”
His lamp am I, to shine where He shall say,
And lamps are not for sunny rooms,
Nor for the light of day;
But for the dark places of the earth,
Where shame and wrong and crime have birth,
Or for the murky twilight gray
Where wandering sheep have gone astray;
Or where the lamp of faith grows dim
And souls are groping after Him.
And as sometimes a flame we find,
Clear-shining, through the night
So bright we do not see the lamp,
But only see the light:
So may I shine — His light the flame,
That men may glorify His name.
~ Annie Johnson Flint