TAKE THE WORLD.

 

BY STEPHANIE QUICK (@QUICKLIKESAND)


 

ALL IT’S JOYS ARE BUT A NAME

Westerners are accustomed to a standard of living unseen in most of the world. More than 85% of Brits and Americans alike live above their respective national poverty lines, and the poorest 5% of Americans are yet richer than 68% of the global population.[1] While there is much work to do amongst unreached, unengaged or simply unchurched people with plenty of money in their pockets—you know, the whole “camel” thing[2]—and much of that wealth is in the Middle East, where many Muslim-majority countries are full of Arabs who’ve never heard the name of Jesus, there is a cost in going that our standard of living has made us very hesitant to pay.*

As we call young adults to consider investing their youth on the frontier, we know what we're asking. We're asking you to take stock of what you'll leave behind in doing so. We’re asking you to give up your specialty cafes and settle for at-home pour-overs made with stale beans you bought at Starbucks during a layover in Istanbul three months ago. We’re asking you to downsize your wardrobe to a 23kg piece of luggage and probably live pretty far from an H&M—certainly beyond the shipping vicinity of online shopping. We’re asking you to realistically forfeit several valuable friendships, because distance makes a difference and “out of sight, out of mind” is often painfully true. We’re asking you to raise your kids oceans and continents away from grandparents who can only pray the internet has sufficient bandwidth for a Skype call.

This may all sound trite, but the day-to-day intangible costs of living on the frontier are real, and felt. Waking up in a hostile territory every day, grappling with a new and markedly different second (or third) language as you try to buy bananas at the market, and missing out on holidays back home so far from loved ones and lifelong friends is not easy. We won’t try to sell it as though it were, but we also won’t paint you a hero if you do it. You may well #liveauthentic as a pioneer, but you probably won’t get a ton of Instagram likes because your followers back home can’t relate. It is an isolating gig.

Will you consider it anyway?

 

CHRIST’S LOVE ABIDETH EVER

The disparity between what you leave and what you gain will be visible and felt till Kingdom Come. However, there are precious opportunities to fellowship with the Lamb of God unique to suffering. It is difficult to relate to the Man who “left” home and “poured Himself out”[3] when you’ve never done so yourself. It is easier to “lean”[4] when a plane ride kicked out all your props and maybe a handful of your neighbors can hold a conversation with you while you tackle language acquisition. It is harder to skirt by on cheap grace and bankrupt theological depth when you liquidated your life to make disciples in a region afflicted with jihad and genocide.

You’ll find Him there.

When Skype calls cannot sustain you, He can. When coffee tins run out, He won’t. When friends fail, He doesn’t. It is not simply mortality at stake when we seek to “gain what we can’t keep” and lose in the process[5]—it is our soul. Our “psyche”—the “wellspring” of our affections, dreams and desires.[6] Simply put—our ability to live fully is knit into our ability to love Jesus fully. Can you love Him well without ever leaving your hometown? Absolutely. Can you love Him well without ever dying to yourself (i.e. “carrying your cross”)? Absolutely not.

He is the wellspring that doesn’t dry up. He is the water that actually quenches your thirst. Stop buying what keeps you hungry and sit down at your feast.[7]

 

THROUGH ETERNAL YEARS THE SAME

As we conducted interviews with underground church leaders in the Middle East,[8] one man told us the thing that gets him through the torture and persecution he and his community face is to think about the age to come. “What’s death—in light of eternity?” he asked. “What’s four years in prison? What’s forty years in solitary confinement in light of the millennium?” These questions challenge me—haunt me, even. We can have Christ now, and have Him foreverfully. What right do we have to this treasure? None, save for the grace given to us and upon which we may lay bold claim. It is because He is good and kind and faithful and “with us”[9] that this man can face the lashes. It is because He is good and kind and faithful and “with me” that “I can sing, though billows roll.”[10]

 

 

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*This doesn’t mean that the frontier is affluent across the board. It isn’t. But the Middle East is also more than bombs and burning tires.

[1]  "Countries Compared by Economy > Population below poverty line. International Statistics at NationMaster.com", CIA World Factbooks 18 December 2003 to 28 March 2011. Aggregates compiled by NationMaster. Retrieved from http://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/stats/Economy/Population-below-poverty-line

Worstall, T. 2013. “Astonishing numbers: America’s poor still live better than most of the rest of humanity.” Forbes Online. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2013/06/01/astonishing-numbers-americas-poor-still-live-better-than-most-of-the-rest-of-humanity/ 

[2]  See Matthew 19:24; Mark 10:25

[3]  See Philippians 2:5-8

[4]  See Song of Solomon 8:5

[5]  Jim Elliot’s now-famous quote from his journal, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose” became widely circulated after his journals were posthumously published following his martyrdom. It is a reference to Matthew 16:25, “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it,” but is also a loose paraphrase of Phillip Henry: “He is no fool who parts with that which he cannot keep, when he is sure to be recompensed with that which he cannot lose.”

Henry, M., Williams, J.B. 1839. The life of the Rev. Philip Henry, 35.

[6]  The Greek word for “life” in Mt. 16:25 (see above note) means both literal life and the sustaining breath thereof, as well as psyche. See Strong’s Lexicon, G5590. Also see Proverbs 4:23.

[7]  See John 4:13-14; Isaiah 55:1-2.

[8]  Watch Sheep Among Wolves: Chronicles of the Persecuted Church, Volume I here

[9]  See Matthew 28:20

[10]  See “Take the World, but Give me Jesus” by Fanny Crosby.