Vol. 1 - No. 2
Something Wrong Here
by W. E. Brightwell
Gospel Advocate, December, 1935
(W. E. Brightwell served as news editor of the Gospel Advocate for many years. Finally, he could no longer work with it, conscientiously, so, in December, 1949, he came to work with us at the Gospel Guardian in Lufkin, Texas. He was a close personal friend of mine and although he wrote but little, what he wrote is worth repeating.-Bob.)
A brother reports that a missionary in China is starving, but does not give the name of the missionary, for the missionary requested that his name be withheld. Here is the quotation by the missionary:
"Living too cheaply for the past eighteen months is responsible for my present weakened condition. I have lost thirty five pounds. Could do fine if we dropped the work, but will not do that. Am now in the hospital. Thanks for ten dollars just received from Huntsville, Ala."
Who sent this man to China? Did they promise him a decent support? Why have they not kept their promise? If I were the man and could "do fine" by dropping the work, I would most assuredly drop it in preference to starving in a foreign land. What good can a starving man do holding on to a work when he is already in the hospital? If he does not drop the work, the work is going to drop him, if it has not already done so. It is as much the work of the people that sent him as it is his own, and those who sent him should so regard it. If the brethren at home have dropped him, what can he do but drop the work? Brethren cannot afford to drop their promises and leave a man stranded thousands of miles and hundreds of dollars from home.
The readers do not want anybody to starve. On the other hand, it is a serious thing to charge the brethren with letting somebody starve. There is surely something wrong here. The first thing wrong is that the name of the man is not given. That would go a long way toward clearing the confusion. This blind report may or may not enable some of the readers to know who the man is.
One cannot avoid recalling the words of J. M. McCaleb, our oldest missionary in foreign lands, carried in an article in the Gospel Advocate of October 24:
"The above are matters not to be decided by brother Janes in consultation with the missionaries, but by the entire brotherhood. In the outset 1 wish to say that all the responsibility for the present condition as pictured above should not be put on the churches. If all the facts were brought out and carefully compared, 1 think they would show that the churches have been as faithful in their support as we missionaries have been in our service."
Brother McCaleb then proceeded to clear up a charge that certain missionaries had been allowed to starve, or impair their health.
The facts are woefully lacking in this instance-too meager to hope to accomplish very much by this blind appeal. It was not brother Janes, of course, who reported this. (Don Carlos Janes was a one-man missionary society of the 30's and early 40's who propagated premillennialism -Bob) But why did the missionary report his condition to this brother? If this brother is expected to look after this missionary, why has he let him get in this condition? and why does he not take the matter up with those who are supposed to support this brother?
This hit-and-miss, dribs-and-dabs, everybody’s-business-is-nobody's- business-like method of supporting missionaries is calculated to produce just such heart-searching and confusing problems as this one. Why cannot a church support a man in the foreign field with as much business-like certainty as it supports a located preacher, or an evangelist and singer to conduct a two weeks' meeting? The church has the money when it is due.
There are scores of churches which could each support a preacher in the foreign fields. They might have to draw in some of their scattering contributions to this and that, and concentrate upon the task; but they are abundantly able to do it. Then they would know that the missionary was not starving to death. There would be no confusion. The fewer churches involved the more certainty there will be about the matter of supporting a missionary.
It must be placed on a business basis. There is no other basis. We cannot expect the people in the foreign land to take care of the missionary. A missionary should never go to the foreign field until the matter of his support is absolutely settled in a straightforward, business way. The task demands that certainty, and the man must insist upon it before making so important a move. Contributing to a general missionary fund, from which missionaries may be supported-a fund presided over by those who appoint themselves to the responsibility because of their zeal for the work-is too indefinite a proposition to justify any man going China or anywhere else. It is too indefinite to justify any individual or church contributing to such a fund.
It is high time to know what we are doing in missionary work!