Today’s missionary navigates his faith in strange waters, crowded with other craft. It taxes all his powers to contend with the swift currents of nationalism, superstition, Communist subversion, and resurgent indigenous religion. He requires—and profoundly deserves—the total support of his homeland constituency.
Missionaries are painfully aware of their vulnerability in these changing times. Perhaps the most damaging area of this vulnerability is at the point of racial relations. That Christians in America would tolerate, even justify, the enormities of racism is an enigma which is at once the dismay of the missionary and the delight of his adversaries. Racial prejudice today is a liability we cannot afford. It perverts our Gospel, challenges our sincerity, dissipates our witness, and gives “great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme” (2 Sam. 12:14).
Racial prejudice is, first of all, the missionary’s personal problem. This may offend the widespread angelic fallacy believers cherish toward all foreign missionaries, but it is a note of realism clearly indicated. It is altogether possible for a Christian to arrive on foreign shores and discover that any effective ministry must be deferred until he solves his own race problem. Contingent upon the solution of this problem is an entire lifetime of usefulness.
Every missionary realizes that true camaraderie with nationals is slow to congeal, quick to melt. The faintest hint of racial prejudice in a missionary’s attitude cannot be concealed from nationals; it is almost as if they can smell it. It is regrettable in the extreme when any missionary gives the impression, “The Lord has led me out here to help you people; kindly ...1
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