“Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.”

The quote above is commonly attributed to St. Francis of Assisi (founder of the Franciscan order of monks) and is commonly understood to mean that our actions are far more effective in bringing the gospel to the lost than our words.


The only problem (as Glenn T. Stanton points out in his “Factchecker” blog) is that there’s a very good chance St. Francis never said it.


Now, it is most certainly true that a “Christian” who talks the talk but doesn’t walk the walk isn’t an effective Christian at all. In fact, Jesus had some pretty strong words about hypocrites. (See Matthew 24:45-51, among many others.)


Beth Crosby mentioned some non-hypocrite Christians on Kinship Christian Radio recently as she talked about “one-way missionaries.” These were people who ventured into the mission field in the early 19th century packing their luggage into coffins rather than suitcases because they knew they would not return.


One of those brave souls was Methodist missionary James Calvert (1813-1892), who committed his life to reaching the indigenous peoples of the Fiji Islands. It is widely reported that upon his voyage, the ship’s captain warned him to turn back, saying, “You will lose your life and the lives of those with you if you go among such savages.” Calvert purportedly replied, “We died before we came here.” –a reference to Galatians 2:20.


Another missionary of the time who packed a coffin rather than a suitcase was A.W. Milne (1785-1822). He set sail for the New Hebrides in the South Pacific, aware that the headhunters there had martyred every missionary before him. Milne also said he did not fear for his life because he had already died to himself.


He lived among that tribe for 35 years. When he died, they buried him in the middle of the village and inscribed this on his tombstone:

“When he came there was no light. When he left there was no darkness.”


At the time, much of Africa was known as “the white man’s graveyard” as Europeans had almost no resistance to malaria and it was almost always fatal. Still, missionaries continued to evangelize Africa and today that continent is seeing rapid growth of evangelical Christianity as a result of indigenous missionaries.


In the early twentieth century, there was a missionary born into a wealthy family who gave up all his riches to bring the Gospel to the unreached people of India, China, and Africa. Charles Thomas Studd  (1860 -1931) advocated a manly, risk-taking brand of evangelism that brought him much criticism, but also brought many souls to Christ. He is famously known for having said:

“Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell.”


And, as long as we’re talking about famous missionary quotes, the pinnacle of all of them is from (of course) Charles Hayden Spurgeon who said:

“If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.”



It’s easy to look back on the lives of those missionaries from 200 years ago (or more) and think that the era of real evangelism is long past, but the truth is that there are still about 400,000 Christian missionaries in the world today.


True, probably none of them pack their luggage in coffins, but they have given up the luxury and the ease we take for granted every day to change the world for Christ.


One of them is a dear friend I met this spring named Alyssa Ann Andre, who took the picture you see above. Andre is a missionary at Prince of Peace Home for Girls in Guatemala. As I wrote about in the March 29 blog post of this year, the girls at this home have experienced some terrible situations that could have easily destroyed their very souls. But the staff of Prince of Peace rescue them with the love of Jesus Christ. They change their lives. They bring light into the darkness, and what that means is that those girls who experienced some of the ugliest situations we can imagine can go on to raise good and godly families.


And that can change the world.


It changes the world because it breaks the cycle of evil and darkness and pain and hopelessness. Jesus does indeed break those chains! Jesus is indeed the answer!


The reason I asked Alyssa if I could use that wonderful picture she took is because of a tiny detail in the upper right corner of the picture. As you can see, a Guatemalan man who is obviously living in poverty and squalor is doing something with a tarp, probably having something to do with garbage. But just above the garbage can next to the tarp, there is a hanging basket with a flower in it. Now, maybe it’s a fake plastic flower, but it doesn’t matter.


Somebody put that flower there. On purpose.


Somebody put an object of beauty in a place of utter, desperate, soul-crushing poverty.


Our souls long for that beauty because our souls were designed and built for the ultimate place of beauty –heaven.


We were designed and built to live forever with our God, in mansions of glory with streets of gold and rivers as clear as crystal. We were designed to live in a place where the Light of World shines on us every day.


The thing is, all around us there are people who have their heads stuck in tarps filled with the garbage of this world. They are looking for beauty and truth and joy and peace among the things of man when, if they would just look up, they would find what eludes them down here in the garbage heap.


That’s why words are necessary.


“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”


Once again, it all comes down to love. That’s all it takes. That is the whole Gospel. That is the One Thing all those people traveled all those miles and died to be able to speak to other people. For God so loved the world.


Those missionaries who packed their belongings into their coffins and went off to certain death did it out of love. They went off knowing they would probably die of malaria for love. They willingly worked a yard from hell out of love. They asked that if even one soul should get into hell unprayed for and unwarned, that it would be over their dead bodies.


And missionaries like Alyssa still do it out of love. They give up home and family and comfort and all the stuff we take for granted to live where God has called them to be because of the love of Jesus. They have their hearts broken by what they see around them every day because they know Jesus wins in the end. They know the darkness cannot extinguish the light, but they need to be encouraged and reminded that love never gives up.


And that is why it is my responsibility to be a missionary right where I am, even if its in this place where I am blessed beyond measure with so much comfort and wealth and blessings beyond measure. For you see, there is just as much danger to souls here where we have more than we need than in places where people are so poor they know the only way to survive is to rely on God.


The irony of the first world is that we have more and better garbage to distract us from the beauty that we could see if only we too would just look up.


Today’s Praise

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” Mark 16:15 (NIV)

Written by Dan Jones

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