My colleagues and I took a short, two-hour journey to a former Nigerian missionary retreat center established early this century. Don Storteboom, one of my colleagues, had done some history regarding the retreat center.
We toured the center – the pond, the scenic mountain offering a panoramic view of the surrounding valley, and the cemetery. All were enjoyable but the cemetery had the greatest impact.
One cannot walk through a cemetery without reading the headstones. What jumped out at me as I walked up one grave aisle and down the other was the time frame (mid 1900’s) and the ages of the missionaries and children. The deceased missionaries, mostly in their 30’s and 40’s, died overseas serving in the ministry God had called them to. They made a life commitment to serve and died in a foreign land in that service. Chances are, their families grieved not over a coffin, our cultural grieving process, but by a simple memorial service. The children, who died either shortly after birth or within the first 3-4 years, more than likely died from malaria or some other medical malady.
I was awestruck with the commitment, the sacrifice, and the service of those that came before me to Nigeria. To me, they are some of the true heroes of faith.
But I wonder, do I share that same commitment to service? Am I willing to sacrifice? Am I willing to serve knowing that I may not return to “atta boys” and “well dones”? And, am I willing to travel overseas knowing that I might not return?
I haven’t resolved the questions yet. They still linger in the greatest distance in the whole world – the few inches between my head and heart.
How about you?