Missionary Martyrs: Are We Paying Too High a Price to Evangelize the World?

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Craig Toliver's picture

How Wesco are Chau are different

  • Many ways but with this comment - the FAMILY!
  • Brother Chau didn't leave a wife and eight children!
  • I trust that Wesco's mission board insisted he have life insurance! 
  • The stated dangers in Cameroon: "Avoid all travel to areas within 30 km of the borders with Nigeria, Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR), because of the risk of kidnapping and armed banditry and terrorist threat."
Rob Fall's picture

is the Wesco case than that faced by missionaries in China during the Boxer Rebellion or the Japanese invasion of China before Pearl Harbor?

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Jeff Straub's picture

I spoke with a former Cameroonian missionary today who knows the man who was driving the car in which Wesco was riding when shot. There is more to this story than is public. 

Responding to Rob . . . Missionaries were already in China when the Boxer Rebellion erupted. I know a good bit about Chinese Christian history. Western imperialism made the spread of Christianity perilous. Gunboat diplomacy, the Opium Wars, extraterritoriality, yada, yada, yada. In less than 2 yrs, China Inland Mission lost 58 adults and 21 children!

Moreover, I have been to the internment camp where Eric Liddell died during WW2 of heart problems (if my memory is working tonight).

Craig, lots and lots of missionaries have gone to the field with their families. FWIW, I understand some missions had pulled their people from the area where Wesco died. But this is always a judgment call. Did he make the wrong choice? I am not willing to say so, particularly with the minimal information we have at present.

Many, many missionaries have buried wives and children on the field. Is it worth the risk?

Absolutely! May God raise up other courageous men and women to risk all for Christ!

Jeff Straub




Jeff Straub

josh p's picture

Always loved this letter from Adoniram Judson to his prospective father in law when asking for his daughter’s hand as he prepared for missions in Burma:
“I have now to ask, whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world; whether you can consent to her departure, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life; whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean; to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death. Can you consent to all this, for the sake of him who left his heavenly home, and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing, immortal souls; for the sake of Zion, and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with the crown of righteousness, brightened with the acclamations of praise which shall redound to her Saviour from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair. (Quoted in Courtney Anderson, To The Golden Shore: The Life of Adoniram Judson [Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1987], 83.)”
Taken from TGC.

Jim's picture

Moderator note: There's a plethora of John Allen Chau reaction articles now. I'm not doing a Filing on each (as you can see from other threads!). But posting the Slate article here:

Martyr or “American Dickhead”? Why missionary John Allen Chau’s death on a remote Indian island is so unsettling to Christians.

Intriguingly, however, even Christians have not hailed Chau as a clear-cut hero of the faith. “Chau’s stunt not only had absolutely no chance of success, it also stood to bring sickness and death to this tribe,” the conservative Christian writer Rod Dreher wrote last week. “How could any Christian justify this?” Dreher was among those pointing out that Chau’s death has prompted a regional backlash that could make life harder for the minority population of Christians in India, not to mention Christian aid workers and long-term missionaries there.

Part of the reason Chau’s story has prompted a backlash among both Christians and secular observers is because Chau seemed to approach the island with a cartoonish style of Western swagger. In his diary, parts of which have been made public by his family, he wrote of attempting to befriend the islanders with offerings of scissors and safety pins, and by singing Christian “worship songs.” “There’s been such a sea change in evangelical missiology over the past 50 years about the danger of cultural imperialism,” said Thomas Kidd, a historian at Baylor University who wrote a blog post about media reactions to Chau’s death.
“There’s much more sensitivity among evangelicals than there was at the time of [the missionaries in Ecuador’s] death.” ..... 

The apparent fact that Chau was not acting impulsively or independently will make his case more unsettling for many evangelicals. “There’s a high-wire act that evangelicals have to contend with,” said Kidd. “To outside observers, they’d say of course this is cultural imperialism, you’re imposing your culture. Evangelicals say, we can set aside culture and just boil it down to the Gospel.”

That’s an idea that would not have occurred to the five men in Ecuador, who have been the subject of hagiographic books and movies since their death, including the 2006 drama End of the Spear. (Attending an evangelical college in the late ’90s, I lived for two years in a dormitory named for one of the men.) Kathryn Long points out that the deaths in Ecuador came at a critical moment for evangelicals, as they were beginning to see themselves as a distinct cohort. The influential magazine Christianity Today was founded in 1956. Billy Graham’s evangelistic “crusade” took over Madison Square Garden for 16 weeks in 1957. At the time, the five missionaries “symbolized what evangelicals wanted to be,” Long said. Now, John Allen Chau may become a symbol of exactly the opposite