“But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.”—Matthew 9:36–38
Volunteers are missionaries in the making. What makes the missionary is the movement of compassion—that is, the compassionate heart of Jesus in your heart, throbbing with the same desires and the same ambitions, and then compelling you through these longings to do something real and effective for God. There is a spurious compassion, there is counterfeit money. Sometimes people are afflicted with the disease of counterfeit sympathy. They dab their eyes when they hear some thrilling missionary story, and then they shake hands with themselves internally and say, “I am a tender-hearted person, and I love the heathen.”
There are women in the theaters tonight who will rain tears over the woes of the heroine; the villain is pursuing her, and as they see her imaginary troubles enacted before their eyes they are all stirred up, and they dab their eyes with their perfumed handkerchiefs and think they are very tender-hearted people—sickly sentimental and as selfish as hell.
Sometimes when missionaries come home and picture the agonies of the foreign field, people say “O, we cannot bear, because of our tender hearts, to hear about such things.” Sometimes God has given me a message and I have stood on the platform, and have cried out and told about the awful things we have seen in the heathen world, and the cries that came up into our ears night after night, that would have crazed us if God had not been with us, if we had not been able to keep our balance by His power, and somehow retain some vestige of a sense of humor. When we have talked about the cruelties and the horrors over there some have shut their ears and said, “We don’t want to hear about such things; they are unbearable to listen to.”
Since those cruel deeds were unbearably hard to hear about in the homeland, what must they have been in the foreign field for the men and women that endured them? When we talk to you about girls of fourteen years of age that are bought and sold just like sheep, or hunting dogs (because a Congo native puts his women in the same class with his dogs, and a good dog and a good woman are estimated on the same scale, they are good for the same purpose as far as he is concerned, to breed more valuable property)—when we talk about such matters people say of the natives, “Well, they are different from us, they can stand hardships, we don’t want to hear about them at all.”
The heathen are the same kind of flesh and blood that you are made of. You ought to be crying out to God in praise and thanksgiving that you are in a country like this, living under such conditions. We decry conditions here and belittle them, but you have had the privilege of being carried into church in a loving mother’s arms, surrounded by care in a Christian home, under good influence. As you think about these dreadful things how your heart should go out, and how you should hasten as God enables you to help those oppressed people.
The Missionary Heart
God makes a missionary at home. That is one truth I try to impress upon every young heart. Sometimes when I look into the faces of young women and young men there is a kind of a desire that weighs upon me, a kind of an “O God, if I only had the health and strength and youth of that young man or that young woman!” I covet you young people for God and think of the wonderful possibilities in your life if you will only yield yourselves, and take His path, and let Him have His way with you. He will make of you a missionary at home before ever you get into the fields beyond.
Volunteers for the “foreign field,” we call it (I do not find that in the Bible. “The field is the world,” that is the Scriptural term). Volunteers for God you should be and say “I don’t care where I go at His command.”
Somebody remarks, “You must love the Africans intensely to give your life for them.” Love the Africans? I did not love the Africans any better than I did the Chinese, any better than I did the Japanese! Why, it isn’t a question of loving a certain brand of people better than another tribe; that isn’t it at all; you are a thousand miles off the point if you think that! Somebody says, “I think I will go to China, I always loved Chinamen; there is something attractive about the odor of those laundries, and I like to look at their peculiar eyes.” A million miles away from the point altogether. If you love souls, you do not care what kind of skin is around them for a wrapping. You are not choosing your own field; but your heart is open toward God, and you will go to Africa, China, Japan, to Mars; you will go anywhere under the sun or over the sun, or in the world, or outside of it in the universe of God. That is the missionary heart. It is not that you like the climate of the tropics or enjoy the eating with chop-sticks in Hong King—that has nothing at all to do with it.
God is making you now. Sometimes you squirm and say, “If I had another kind of a home.” Well, you would be worse in that other home than you are in this one. “If I had another kind of a job.” O, if you could only see the people I have to associate with!” Another kind of a job? You would fall down in that place. “If I,” “If I,” “If,”—these ifs and buts and question marks ought to be put into a sack and thrown down to the devil from whence they come.
If you are in a loveless home tonight, if you are in a trying place, if you are in financial, or physical, or some other stress that is peculiarly difficult—if you are in that kind of a place, do you know what you ought to do? You ought to throw up your hands to God and say “Father, I am sorry I was such a fool to complain. Why, Lord, I am so glad you think enough of me to make me a missionary; and Lord, I have not had sense enough to see that you could never make anything out of me unless you used fire. I have been a poor boob, and I pray that you will forgive me; and Lord, I take this thing, and I take Jesus, and I take victory in it and I take all the development that you want to put into my life now so that my ministry will be more effective when I get there. I take it, Lord, thank you, praise you, Lord. Lord, I am so glad you think enough of me to let me stay in the fire.” He has to pull some people out of the fire; they squirm and squeal and kick so that it makes a noise away up there in heaven; and the angels cannot stand the racket, and for their sake God takes folks out of the fire and lets them cool off before putting them in again.
Sometimes I have said that a sea voyage never made a missionary. Did you think it did? You say, “O, I have the hardest kind of a time here, I am not appreciated; nobody knows my real worth; I would like to be out there. O, how wonderful it would be in the jungles of Africa, or what a cracker-jack of a missionary I would make if I were in dark China!” A sea voyage will do lots of things to you. I have had some experiences. My wife comes of Scandinavian pirate ancestors who fed on raw fish each morning, and filled up on salt water and could not possibly be seasick, and she has had the privilege of nursing me through several experiences, and if you would hear her tell them, and could listen to some of the details, you would agree with me that when I got to the foreign field I was always less of a missionary than when I started out. When you get over to the foreign field you are going to be so, O so effective as a missionary! God does not make missionaries at sea, God is trying to make you before you go, and the missionary that is not made here is going to have an awfully hard time in the process over there.
There have been a lot of failures in the foreign field. Did you ever study missionary records? Missionary records will tell you that there have been a number of “Returned Empty’s.” The cars go East loaded with grain, and then after they are unloaded by the stevedores they are tagged “Returned Empty’s,” and one of the reasons is they were not made before they went, they were immature, and when they got to that hard and difficult place in the foreign field, they “fell down on the job” that they thought was going to be so easy.
A missionary is made here, is made here before he goes’ but God can work very fast on a soft heart. I had the privilege of going with a friend of mine to a great missionary rally, where I heard a man of God deliver a masterly missionary address. It was so comprehensive, and so clear, the duties and responsibilities of Christians were set forth in such an unmistakable way, it made an indelible impression upon my heart, and O how glad and how happy I was at the close of that meeting, when he asked for volunteers, to spring to my feet. He said, “There may be young men, there may be young women who will go.” I put up my hand, and it seemed to me that I was going right then and there, and from that day I determined to go. When I came before the missionary board they said, “Why, brother, you are a young Christian, and you have not had many years of training, and you perhaps need a four year course and a few other things in preparation.” I said, “Why, God called me to go to the foreign field.” “But wouldn’t you be willing to stay?” “Yes, if the Lord calls me,” I said.
In just a few weeks after that interview I was on my way to Congo, after the very first missionary message—and God trained me. I am not setting myself up as something marvelous, but the fact is, if you mean business with God, He is decidedly in earnest, and will train you quickly and thrust you forth. If you mean business with God He will supply every deficiency, He will supply your lack: but you must be in earnest. He will take that brain of yours and put something in it that will make you amount to something. Your forehead may not bulge out to look like Paul Rader’s, and you may not have to comb your hair over your ears so people will not know you know so much, but God will build on your sincere compassionate heart and He will surely use His own handiwork in His work in the world.