‘To live is Christ, and to die is gain’“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21
By Gayla Parker, BCM/D WMU Executive Director, Missionary for Missions Education and Customization, Missions Innovator Specialist (WMU, SBC)
Mission trips always come with lots of surprises, stories, laughter, tears and adventures. Our mission trip this summer was no different as eight of us headed out to South Asia. Fred and Kay Dyer, Harold Phillips, Ron and Terri Yost, James Dixon, Freddy and I spent ten days serving together in a ‘new and strange’ land. It was not long before “what happens on the road stays on the road” became a common phrase in an effort to save ourselves from embarrassment on this side of the ocean.
After all there is something humbling about a taxi driver getting out to check his tires when four Americans pile into the car! Did he really think we would cause his tires to go flat????? And then there was the baby python that joined us for breakfast. Some of the wiser ones in our group (the women) stayed away while others chose to pick him up and play (the men). There were days when shirts were changed almost every hour because of being drenched in sweat. There was the adjustment of using local currency where $100 is only $2 in American monies. How much did that cost?!
There were rides in motorcycle sidecars, hikes down rocky paths, walks through busy city streets, and very long busy days.
Along with all the funny and embarrassing moments were the amazing God moments and God stories. Perhaps none so moving as hearing from a local missionary who is living out “to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
The young missionary is living in an area where sharing Christ can mean a death sentence. The living conditions are harsher than anything we can imagine in America. There is no such thing as a private moment even in your own bedroom. And yet the young missionary has a sparkle in the eyes and a smile that is full of genuine joy when sharing the story of the call to serve: “When I knew this was the place God was calling me to serve I had to decide that I was already dead. Much like hearing a diagnosis of a terminal illness. Most of us would live life differently if we knew our death was just around the corner. My body is healthy but I live in a place where sharing Christ with even one is a death sentence. My goal is to share Christ with as many as possible before my death sentence comes.
”Paul, in Philippians, tells the same story. “Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me…to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.” (Philippians 1:20-24)
Like this young missionary, Paul sees each day of life as a day to share the message of salvation with one more lost soul. Eventually it was this very life style that led to his physical death. But my guess is he had to die to ‘self’ every single day. He left his own desires for the sake of others. Like my young missionary friend he left the comfort of home for the sake of the call. Like my young missionary friend he left the safety of being with fellow believers for the sake of the call. And like my young missionary friend he lived his life knowing that his death was just around the corner.
The testimony of this young missionary has caused me to think through my own life. Do I bear fruit everyday? Am I willing to die to self-everyday for the sake of the message of salvation? Am I willing to talk about Christ outside the safety of my church family? Am I willing to be where I am not comfortable for the sake of Christ? Am I living life as if my death is just around the corner?
“I live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me…for to live is Christ!”