Acts 14:26-27 From Attalia they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now completed. On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles
We forget how utterly groundbreaking this 1st missionary journey was. In the first place, travel wasn’t nearly as common or as safe then as it is now. The very fact that they returned intact was worth celebrating! On top of that, the idea of sharing the Gospel freely with Gentiles, though it had started in Antioch, was still very new, to the point that the very next thing that happened after this was the Council of Jerusalem, debating whether this whole thing was to be accepted or not. There were many firsts, but the principle of missionaries reporting back to their sending body was a precedent that has been followed to this day. Everyone is called to be a witness, (Acts 1:8) but not everyone is sent great distances to do so. Those who have stayed closer to home need the opportunity to be aware that they too are part of what God is doing. God isn’t just interested in the “far lands,” any more than He is just interested in your next door neighbor. As Paul later wrote to Timothy, God “wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4) When missionaries report on what God has done through them, it should encourage those who have supported them in prayer and finances, for mutual rejoicing and praise to God, strengthening the faith of everyone involved.
This is in some ways very close to home and in other ways distant from me. My parents were Southern Baptist missionaries, and at that time the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board was the largest missionary-sending body in the world. My grandfather, W. O. Carver, had been very instrumental in that, and at one point over half of all Southern Baptist missionaries were graduates of the Carver School of Missions and Social Work (now absorbed into Southern Baptist Theological Seminary). My parents were appointed as single missionaries in 1934 and 1935, respectively, and in those days it was no small matter to travel to the other side of the world. Ocean trips took several days, at the very least! Travel was such an issue that the cycle was five years “on the field” and one year “home” (though the emotional home eventually became the field of service). In contrast, when my immediate family came to Omura we had no “sending body,” (long story there) and visits to the US have been strictly a matter of finances and arranging schedules. I have never “reported in” on visits to the US, and even the church I pastored before we came to Omura has given us little opportunity for that sort of thing, other than on a personal, individual basis. Frankly, I think I’m the poorer for it. I’m not just talking about finances, though that has been an issue for us, but much more the feeling that people were lifting us up in prayer consistently. I am an “independent, self-supporting missionary,” but there is no such thing as genuine independence in the Body of Christ, and every one of us is ultimately supported by God. I have failed to acknowledge that properly from my side, as well. I have told people that rather than being a missionary, I might more accurately be called a Caucasian pastor in Japan. I cannot change the past, so my focus is to be faithful and obedient right now, whatever that may mean.
Father, I didn’t expect to write on this today. Thank you. Thank You for the message You’ve given me for this morning on being filled with the Spirit, because it’s inseparable from being witnesses wherever we are. I do pray that all of Your children in this city (since this is where You have given me responsibility and authority) may be filled with Your Holy Spirit to be Your witnesses indeed, wherever You want to use them, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!