1 Corinthians 15:58
“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)
Some people are immovable, all right. We spent more time in annual conference debating mission policy on flush toilets than on evangelistic methodology! Some people think no music written after the death of Bach should be permitted in church. Actually, that kind of immovability is the temptation of the veteran — hardening of the categories! Change is threatening. But that’s not what Paul is speaking of. He means we must never be shaken by the enemy’s assault, by looming difficulties, by failure. I met an immovable missionary once.
The annual Pakistan-wide missionary convention was held at Murree on a ridge of a mountain in the foothills of the Himalayas. At 8,000 feet, it was a mere foothill in that company of giants! We stayed at the MK school and each morning traveled in the school van the length of the ridge to the church where the missionaries gathered. On that van was Earlene who, though a graduate of our seminary, didn’t say much to me, or to anyone for that matter. She looked the stereotype of the veteran missionary, as anyone might after 25 years in the hinterland of Pakistan. Someone asked if I had talked with Earlene Voss and I said I had, but not more than passing greetings. “You’d better talk with her,” he said. So I did.
“Earlene, tell me about your work. I hear you work among Muslims. Do you believe Muslims can become Christians?”
There was a reason for the question. I’d just spent a week at a pastors’ conference and they didn’t believe Muslims could be converted. They worked exclusively in the tiny subculture of “Christians” descended from a tribal movement Christ-ward generations earlier. Then I spent several days in a seminar on church growth and the missionaries in attendance didn’t believe Muslims could be converted, at least not enough to have what you could call “church growth.”
“Certainly they can,” asserted Earlene with greater force than I had anticipated.
“Because I’ve seen them converted,” said Earlene.
“How many have come to Christ in your community,” I asked.
“About 400 at the last count,” she said.
“Four hundred Muslim converts! I should think that would cause a riot.”
“Well, now that you mention it, I guess we haven’t had a riot in two years.”
She told me how she handled the last riot. An angry mob approached her refuge for abused women. Earlene stepped outside and shut the door behind her. As the lead thug approached she gave him a swift kick in the shins and told him he should be ashamed of himself and to get out of there. Obediently, he complied!
An MK school teacher would spend vacations with Earlene. She told me that on one occasion she heard her name and Earlene’s over the public address system on which the mullah provided the town “newspaper” as well as the calls to prayer.
“What did he say about us?” the young missionary asked, apprehensively. Earlene laughed.
“He just told everyone to gather at our place to kill us!”
For a quarter century, most of the time alone, Earlene labored among a hard-core Muslim people, loving 400 of them to Christ. Unmovable.