Thursday, April 7, 2011


I'm spending more and more time thinking about our return to Africa. We've been on a rather extended furlough from our work in East Africa and the horn of Africa. The time away has been good. Needed. My parents needed me as they are aging and there have been health issues. My wife has used the time to pursue a nursing degree, something that will be helpful both here in the US and so helpful in Kenya. As the time approaches, I wanted to address the issue of a missionary "call." I know this isn't exactly writing related, but I think many of us approach our writing as calling much as I do with my work as a surgeon in Africa.

The question always seems to come up. How do you know you are "called"?

This puzzles me. Really. We've all read the Great Commission in Matthew 28, right. It doesn't say, "If you are called, go..." or "If you've got your future finances in order, go" or "If your family won't miss you, go..." No, it simply says, "Go."

But I've found that Christians play something of a game with the Great Commission. They read the words and say (with relief), "Well, I'm not called, so that doesn't apply to me." But when they read other verses, say "Come unto me all you who labor and I will give you rest," the filter comes off and they don't respond, "Well I can't do that, I'm not called to rest." Funny. It's a double standard.

But Christians seem to misunderstand the concept of a call. They act as if it is mysterious and spooky. I jokingly tell a story about how I developed a rash on my arm while I was considering whether to go to Africa. The rash looked strangely like the continent of Africa. Oooh. Was that a call? NO! It was poison ivy!

But listening to others talk about a calling and you might think it is something as mysterious and spooky as that.

When my wife and I were considering working in Kenya, we read a verse in Galatians 6:10 which essentially said, If you have opportunity to do good, do it. So there it was: our call was that simple. We had an opportunity to serve patients in Kenya and it seemed to be good, so with the opportunity, we obeyed and did it. There was nothing written in the sky. No audible voice, just an assurance from the Bible that we were to do "good things."

Of course, I understand God doesn't ask everyone to be a foreign missionary. By in large, I think Christians should stay put and minister to others where they find themselves. I believe in indigenous missions, that is, outreach accomplished by other people from within your own ethnic group. But that only works if there is an established church within that ethnic cultural group to do the work. When there isn't, work like I am doing is not only valid; it is desperately needed.

I love the body of Christ metaphor. He makes some to be eyes, some ears, some fingers and some toes. We are not all to be foreign missionaries; but we all, as a part of one body, function to get the job done.

When looking at the Great Commission, we have three options: Go. Send. Or disobey.

How are you answering the call?


  1. Thanks for sharing about your call, Harry. Be blessed as you return back to your ministry.

  2. Oooo. Don't like that third option. I am a goer, too. I would have needed a strong call from the Lord to stay home, and yet here I am now after spending most of my adult life overseas. But the call to minister doesn't change. It just involves different neighbors. May God guide you clearly as you look toward returning to Kenya. You know Litt-World 2012 is going to be in Nairobi. I doubt it will actually be in Nairobi (last time we were at Brackenhurst), but Nairobi is the nearest airport.

  3. Glad you are sure in your own mind about your call to Africa and for sharing part of your story. We live on the South Coast of Australia and I know without doubt that we were called specifically to that area and to serve him there.

  4. Excellent,Harry! My darling husband is known by our adult children for saying things like "if the Word of God says to do something, you simply do it!" A few years before I met Ray and when I was three quarters through my nursing training, the Lord shook me up until I completely surrendered ALL of my life to Him. I took it for granted that meant being a missionary nurse and the automatic thing was to do a Bible College course to prepare further for it after I became a RN. There I met Ray but believed he could be a side-track to God's "call" on my life. I went through much time in the scriptures, prayer and pain until God clearly showed me marrying Ray and becoming a minister's wife was all part of His guiding my surrendered life. Our missionfield was to be - and still is - primarily in "Judea", our own country. And yes, I sure don't trust my human emotions and so glad God does use His Word as you described to confirm what He wants us to do each step of our intimate journey with Him.
    Thank you so much for the reminder once again to listen with faith, and then to obey. Wonderful, wonderful life in Him!