It’s 12 years, 4 months and 19 days since we were commissioned in the Buchanan Street building just before we headed to Kenya. Much has changed since then hasn’t it? We went to Nairobi to begin 2 very useful years of study and training in Bible translation. We were overjoyed when Rebekah joined us after a year, putting paid to Julie’s study plans. Rebekah was 9 months old when we came back to Glasgow. Elizabeth’s arrival slightly delayed our departure for Nigeria but finally with a 2 year old and 6 month old in tow, we headed out in February 2011, arriving as unpredictable elections loomed. We always remember those who came to see us off at the airport (along with all our baggage). We felt very loved. We looked forward to the ministry that we had ahead of us but it was hard to leave friends and family behind. Especially church family.
Every so often we listen to that commissioning service from 1st of July 2007 and we’re inspired by our pastor Willie’s message that day. We had been looking at what a true missionary church is, and looking at 2 Timothy 4, Willie said a true missionary church actually prepares and sends missionaries. It would have been very easy for the church in Antioch and in Ephesus and elsewhere to turn in on themselves, leaving outreach to far-flung places to a later time, perhaps when everything was more stable. But no, Acts makes it clear that Jesus wanted his followers to go into every nook and cranny of the world, no longer just waiting in Jerusalem for people from all nations to come by, but going out. And when the first apostles seemed to neglect that, then God forced them out with a bit of persecution and then the prompting of the Holy Spirit to propel Paul and Barnabas on several surprising trips.
Did Julie and I have a ‘call’ to Nigeria, to Bible translation? Not exactly. Not like Paul’s experience. But we had and still have a conviction that Bible translation has a vital role to play in building God’s kingdom. So much pioneer mission has been done. It’s thrilling hearing how God opened up pagan hearts in Nigeria to the gospel 80, 90, 100 years ago, but in many places the church has been established without a meaningful Bible translation, and that’s storing up trouble.
It’s a mark of a job not completely done yet.
So as we listen again to our commissioning service Willie reminds us this wasn’t Paul’s private mission trying to make a name for himself. Perhaps God makes individuals aware of opportunities, but it was for the whole church to send people out; not because they didn’t need them any more but because there are other sheep far away who need to hear the gospel and grow in mature discipleship and this is God’s mission. This is still true isn’t it?