Perseverance: A Virtue Needed for Harvesting the Remaining Unreached Nations

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Without perseverance, all the anointing, the preaching ability, the power and miracle gifts cannot be planted in the new and unreached territories that we aim to bless. We would only be moving in circles making rounds among certain fields while neglecting the core of the unreached.

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”

1 Corinthians 15:58

If we must build God’s kingdom among the remaining unreached peoples, missionaries and mission supporters need perseverance. However, this is a virtue that is becoming lost in today’s Christianity. Missionaries as well as mission supporters are becoming very edgy and jumpy. They quit too easily.

The Mandinkas of Gambia have a proverb that says ‘no matter how long the log of wood lies in the water, it would never become a crocodile.’ While in nature this may be true, in missions it is not. Missionaries through perseverance and patience can become all things to all men in order to win some. Satanic gate-keepers of most unreached tribes and places try to keep us estranged and unsettled while we live among them, so that we get frustrated and shift focus. But if we keep on enduring despite the odds we will succeed.

There is an intolerably high rate of missionary attrition among African missionaries. One recent study indicates that 6 out of 7 missionaries of the Newer Sending Countries (NSC) come home for totally preventable reasons. The rate of missionary supporters’ attrition may even be much higher but no study has been done to really capture that.

Once, while bidding fare-well to a retiring western missionary who had put in several decades in Africa, I asked her what she thought was the most important spiritual quality a missionary in North West Africa needed. She said ‘perseverance’. Overtime, I have proven her word to be true. Without perseverance, all the anointing, the preaching ability, the power and miracle gifts cannot be planted in the new and unreached territories that we aim to bless. We would only be moving in circles making rounds among certain fields while neglecting the core of the unreached.

Why is missionary attrition so high? The same study cited above indicated five top reasons:

  1. Lack of a clear call
  2. Inadequate maintenance of personal spiritual life
  3. Irregular financial support
  4. Poor relationships with missionary colleagues
  5. Poor supervision.

I would like to share my own perspectives of these points.

Lack of a clear call

I believe missionaries need more than passion for lost fields. There must be a clear sense of divine call that they would always cling to during tough times. As Paul lamented as he was being hounded by his fellow Jews, ‘wherefore, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision’ Acts 26:19 (ASV). He had a vision that was driving him. Missionaries and missionary supporters need this sense of divine call as they labour among the unreached peoples.

Inadequate maintenance of personal spiritual life

The mission field can be like a desert. Temptations are common. Spiritual support and encouragement for the missionary and his family can be very low. One of my colleagues, a British missionary, who had labored in Gambia for over ten years, shared with me how poorly nourished (spiritually) they were by the Church fellowships within the country. This is common with missionaries in unreached places. But there is a well spring within from which the missionary must learn to always draw. There is also the need to come aside for a while to rest. (Mark 6:31). Many missionaries are too busy to nurture their inner life and hence grow too lean, only to cave in under pressure. Some do not also have retreat times when they and their families get off the routines and rigors to be refreshed. Missionary, you need such retreats. Supporters, you can help provide it for the mission team you support.

Irregular financial Support

Wars are fought with resources. Without regular financial support, many missionaries would be weakened and even tempted to abandon the field. The levels of support may vary but consistent support enables the missionary to keep effective. I appreciate the CMF’s ministry encouragement towards “tent-making”. This can really be helpful in seeing that the missionary is not hamstrung in the face of unreliable financial support from elsewhere. Many missionaries feel guilty when they spend time to earn an income, but this should not necessarily be so. Good funding helps a missionary to be at rest to pursue the heavenly vision. This may come through diligent supporters and/or through good tent-making efforts. Without it, the missionary’s home-front would be weak and the vision may be aborted too early.

“Christian, What exhausted you? Is it God’s battle or your personal pursuits? Divine pursuit always attracts Divine commendation.” – Rev Ezekiel Akintayo

Poor relationships with missionary colleagues

One of the highest causes of missionary attrition is poor relationships with other colleagues. It should be expected that where the temperatures are very high, people clustered together would sweat and smell. The mission field raises so much interpersonal crises. However, it is essential that missionary team mates always keep their focus on the common goal that has brought them into the field. It is important to always realize whenever tension mounts, that your colleague is not your foe. He may act or react in ways you do not understand, but you are on the same team and hence should be treated with grace.

Poor supervision

Missionaries need good supervision to keep focus. The mission field has so many inexplicable turns that make it so easy to lose one’s bearing. With supervision, the missionary can keep focus and reach the goal the mission was set out to attain. Without supervision, we may waste our strength, punching the air and achieving nothing. Good supervision will always bring out good performance.

If we must harvest the remaining unreached nations before the coming of our Lord, then there is a need for an army of missionaries with a staying power; men that will persevere and endure any furnace of affliction that may come their way. I believe that there is no unreached field that can withstand the perpetual presence of God’s light, when we persevere and remain there long enough.

Chinedum C. Meribole is the Regional Director for Christian Missionary Foundation in North West Africa.

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