Knowing your enemy

Last week, a missionary friend and I got together for coffee. In the course of a conversation about story and book ideas, we got talking about suffering and perseverance. That’s a topic familiar to most missionaries, but his next statement caught me off-guard.

“When do I suffer? When I write emails.”

This is a guy who goes to some of the lowliest slums on the face of the earth, who has given his life to bringing hope to the poorest of the poor. But suffering for him means sitting at a laptop and typing emails to solicit prayer and financial support.

I’ve known for a long time that most missionaries don’t like the story-reporting part of their jobs. It’s so critical to engaging with people who support them with prayer and money … yet it’s a constant struggle. Unless you’re wired to be a writer, or photographer, or videographer, you really don’t enjoy doing those things as part of your ministry.

My friend went so far as to say, “Satan doesn’t want me to do it.”

I’m not a Christian who believes there’s a demon hiding behind every tree, waiting to pounce on us. But I do believe we have a spiritual enemy who, when threatened, fights back. The Bible is pretty clear on that.

What if my friend is right? What if missionaries’ disdain for communicating their stories effectively is a spiritual battle? What if that opposition has been a huge, unidentified reason they don’t invest in improving those skills?

Those are questions worth processing. Imagine the Christians’ renewed engagement with the Great Commission if they could see and read what’s really happening out there. Missionaries are some of the smartest, savviest, selfless people you’ll ever meet, and they’re in some of the world’s hardest places. An intentional movement to train them to be better writers, photographers and videographers could change the face of missions.

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