“Helen,” I asked, “if someone asked you what your biggest problem was, as a missionary, I guess you would say finance, wouldn’t you?”
“Oh no,” she answered, and there followed a conversation that I have never forgotten.
It was during my first term when I had spent several extremely hard, stressful months caring for the little children and babies in our Garden of Happiness in Bissau, while Helen McKenzie, a senior missionary, was off sick. It was particularly stressful because money was so short. I was certainly relieved when Kathleen took over until Helen returned to take charge again.
“No,” Helen had replied thoughtfully, “money isn’t a problem. My problem has always been to keep the fire burning in my own heart.”
Helen’s wise words have lived with me, as I have found again and again that it has been, and still is, my biggest problem. Finance for God’s work, worrying though it may be at times, is God’s problem and not mine. However, it is my responsibility to keep the fire burning in my heart. What is the answer?
I have had to keep coming back to Leviticus chapter 6 verses 8 to 14, where a vital truth is hidden in a difficult book to read. Three times in seven verses it says: ‘The fire must be kept burning’ and it tells us how.
First is the clearing out of the ashes each morning. The tiny particles of ash that clog the fire are like the little, unrecognised sins of thought and word that need daily confessing and clearing away.
At one time Brenda and I realised that we were becoming habitually critical, so we decided not to say anything about anybody that we wouldn’t say if that person were present; and we would prompt each other when needed. Brenda had no difficulty with it, but I did. I found I had no conversation! What was more I resented the promptings! There were many other things too that dulled the fire, each small and apparently insignificant in itself, but clogging together they would eventually put it out.
Second is the need for daily fuel. Not all wood is good fuel; some will just smoke, other wood will put a fire out. I learnt that when, on one occasion, I had helped to gather firewood for our women. They had great fun, laughing together and saying to me: “This piece would make my eyes stream with the smoke. This piece would send sparks and set the straw roof on fire. This piece would put the fire out!” All the wood looked acceptable to me and I thought I was being helpful. We need to be discerning in what we take in, what we read or watch or relax with, and the time-consuming things that are of little value spiritually. Aren’t we so blessed with the availability of the best fuel – our Bible?
Third is the whole daily sacrifice. The whole purpose of the fire is to consume the offering. A daily dying to self, our rights, our pride, our comforts and all the many things that go to make up our ego. It’s a daily taking up the cross, not just to carry it but to die on it.
Taken from God's Needle by Lily Gaynor and John Butterworth, published by Monarch and available through worldmissionbooks.com
This is a great story of mission to people who had no knowledge of the gospel, and lived in absolute poverty, but it is also a great mine of spiritual value. If you enjoy this extract, get the book!