by Lucinda Secrest McDowell
In 1982 I gave over a million dollars to missions! Well, that’s not exactly true, my church – Menlo Park Presbyterian in California – gave the money but I was the Missions Pastor there and helped make decisions on which people and projects we would support. One year I also helped train more than 60 members to move beyond their comfort zones into a cross-cultural experience. After receiving my seminary degree and working overseas with the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization I was thrilled to have a career that lifted up the need for all of us to be World Christians and have a global impact. Having taken Islam (with mentor Dr. J. Christy Wilson who had just been run out of Afghanistan) I fully believed that I would end up living in the Muslim world and furthering God’s kingdom in that way. Meanwhile, the day before I was to leave on a missions speaking trip to various African countries, I had a life-changing appointment with an InterVarsity ‘campus missionary’ from Seattle — Mike McDowell. Long story short. When God brought Mike and me together, I ended up also being called to a different life than I had envisioned. As the parents of a son with very special needs (educational and otherwise) we did not end up raising our family in a cross-cultural environment, though we did spend years working with international students in Seattle and beyond. God is always writing our Unique Story, remember that!
Fast forward 30 years….that ‘son’ is on the mission field this week! Yes, our Justin is fulfilling one of his dreams as part of our church’s Dominican Republic Missions Trip – helping the poor Haitians who work in the bateys in DR. He has spent the last year in training and fundraising and spiritually preparing for this adventure. And each day he works in a different aspect of the ministry there: construction, evangelism, food, medical, and children. As I was praying through the team names yesterday I began singing the words to a favorite hymn “O Zion Haste.”
Give of thy sons to bear the message glorious;
Give of thy wealth to speed them on their way.
Pour out thy soul for them in prayer victorious;
And all thou spendest Jesus will repay.
Publish glad tidings, tidings of peace;
Tidings of Jesus, redemption, and release.
In my youth I read every missionary biography I could put my hands on. I got a graduate degree in theology and cross cultural communication so I’d be prepared. I lived with veteran missionary Elisabeth Elliot and typed her manuscript “The Journals of Jim Elliot” copying that matyred missionary’s own water stained journals. I vowed “Where He leads me, I will follow; what He feeds me I will swallow.” (and swallow I did – dog in Thailand, fried grasshoppers in Kenya). I traveled around the world twice before I was married – flying in the luggage compartment of a small plane in Oaxaca Mexico, riding a camel in Tunisia, speaking off a flat bed truck in Malawi — but never quite ‘landing’ for long periods of time. God had other plans for me and I can’t regret my path. But I do often thank God for those dear friends in my small Islam class back in 1977 in Boston (our seminary offered this class because prophetically Dr. Wilson said that our generation would need to understand Muslims in the days to come…) – Dave who still serves as World Vision Director of all Muslim countries, John who has spent his life in Bangladesh reaching out to people there through his Music School, Marty who leads an Iran Christian church in Los Angeles and others too numerous to mention who daily lay down their lives to ‘publish glad tidings of peace, redemption and release.’
My four years as a Missions Pastor in the San Francisco area taught me much about global Christianity, generous believers, and my own pilgrimage. I’d like to think that I have indeed spent the last 30 years ‘bearing the message glorious’ in a variety of ways – radio, speaking, writing, but — perhaps best of all — raising 4 young adults who today EACH invest in helping the less fortunate, the hungry, the poor, in Jesus’ Name.
Meanwhile I daily do what I can to further God’s kingdom through prayer, investing in others, building awareness of things such as trafficking, and trying very hard to be a Good Friend to so many of my friends who are overseas missionaries (I don’t always succeed in this, but I try). In just a few days Justin will return from his time in the Dominican Republic – cannot wait to hear the stories he will tell….
“We are all asked to do more than we can do. Every hero and heroine of the Bible does more than he would have thought possible to do…In a very real sense, not one of us is qualified, but it seems God continually chooses the most unqualified to do His work, to bear His glory. If we are qualified, we tend to think we have done the job ourselves. If we are forced to accept our evident lack of qualifications, then there’s no danger that we will confuse God’s work with our own or God’s glory with our own.” (Madeleine L’Engle in “Walking on Water”)
under the mercy, Cindy
©2012 Lucinda Secrest McDowell