"In 1912, medical missionary Dr. William Leslie went to live and minister to tribal people in a remote corner of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. After 17 years he returned to the U.S. a discouraged man – believing he failed to make an impact for Christ. He died nine years after his return."
CHAPTER I: THE TESTIMONY OF FOREIGN MISSIONS TO THE SUPERINTENDING PROVIDENCE OF GOD
BY THE LATE ARTHUR T. PIERSON
God is in creation; cosmos would still be chaos with God left out. He is also in events; the whole of mission history is a mystery until read as His story.
We are now to look at the proofs of a Superintending Providence of God in foreign missions. The word “providence” literally means forevision, and hence, foreaction—preparation for what is foreseen—expressing a divine, invisible rule of this world, including care, control, guidance, as exercised over both the animate and inanimate creation. In its largest scope it involves foreknowledge and foreordination, preservation and administration, exercised in all places and at all times.
For our present purpose the word “providence” may be limited to the divine activity in the entire control of persons and events. This sphere of action and administration, or superintendence, embraces three departments: first, the natural or material—creation; second, the spiritual or immaterial—new creation; and third, the intermediate history in which He adapts and adjusts the one to the other, so that even the marred and hostile elements, introduced by sin, are made tributary to the final triumph of redemption. Man’s degeneration is corrected in regeneration; the natural made subservient to
6 The Fundamentals
the supernatural, and even the wrath of man to the love and grace of God.
One Sunday, when I was five, I walked into the sanctuary of our small, conservative church, and there, stretched across the back of the last pew, was the skin of an African python. Our speaker for the morning was a missionary from the Central African Republic, and by the end of the service, I was certain that my future included living in a hut, facing down autocratic tribal chiefs, establishing medical clinics and schools, and rescuing orphans from dark, pagan traditions.
I grew up in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in a region dotted by dilapidated family farms and former coal towns. We are the second poorest county in the state and the most exotic animal we ever saw was the occasional bear or mountain lion. But within the church I discovered the world.
I met women like Amy Carmichael and Mary Slessor and learned that the measure of womanhood was not your relationship status or professional accomplishments, but whether you lived your life in service of God and others. In elementary school, I knew the flags of over thirty nations—not because of the Olympics but because we hung them from the ceiling every year during our missions conference week. I became versed in Cold War politics when for two summers we sent our VBS nickels and dimes to the underground church in the Soviet Union.
The story of Christian missions is a complicated one. When I was young, it was all about adventure and holy passion and converting cannibals. As I grew older, I discovered that mission efforts often ran parallel to and sometimes intersected the darker story of western colonization. I read Achebe and Paton and Forster and had to face the reality that when David Livingston was taking the gospel to free souls in the interior of Africa, the United States was embroiled in a civil war to keep their cousins enslaved.