Why I am a Missionary
by Pr John Dever
Before I was born, my mother vowed that if the child she was to bear should be a son, he should be given to the Lord. He was. I am. I could not go back on my mother's dedication, nor would I want to on my own.
About the time that I was born, our church moved from our home to a dance hall, where a set of spears on the wall reminded me every week that there was a world of heathen lands "beyond', that called boys to grow up and be missionaries.
Amid the gaudy tinsel, a notice which my eldest brother had had professionally printed (as a matter of fact, I think it was probably my second eldest brother, an apprentice compositor, who did it) beckoned down to me from above the window where it usually hung each week. It read, "You need the Sabbath school and the Sabbath school needs you".
We never had a pastor of our own and rarely merited a "big time" evangelist on the plan. But missionaries on furlough and conference workers who had no appointment to a big church would come down to our little old dance hall in the back street, often quite unexpectedly, or when my older Sanitarium Health Food Company working brother got to know that "there were people in town with nowhere to go but with a story to tell". Our elderly church elders were always willing to step aside for such a visitor.
Mother had the blessed gift of hospitality, and always "set the table" before leaving for Sabbath School. There was always a special dinner on Sabbath (Lima beans, fried potatoes, tomato, toast, and custard and jelly) and many a time I heard mother breathing a prayer out loud as she dished it up, "Lord make it go round" as most often the visitors ate with us. It always did.
Dad, though not a professing Adventist, imbibed the stories of mission lands and of conference growth told around our table, and we youngsters all learned to know and respect our missionaries and leaders.
It was in the days when the old "Missionary Leader" contained a cut-out programme for MVs (usually an afternoon programme for Missionary Volunteers - Editor), and because the adults in our church were old and wise, they gave out pieces each week to young folk and children to read, or else simplified the too-hard articles for us, and they always made a feature of the Report of Work.
And there was the Sabbath school teacher who heard me complaining one Sabbath afternoon because "I was left to put the blackboard and the things away," and who said to me "Why, they left it for you to do because they knew they could trust you". Ours was only a little church but it was one in which little people were important, and were missionaries, teachers, health food workers and ministers in the making.
The years have only added to those early foundations. The idea of being a missionary was sown and nurtured in our home, in the Sabbath School, in the MV meetings, and in our hearts.
From the old dance hall grew a church that plays a part in the homeland, and whose influence has extended far beyond its walls.
That's why I'm a missionary. I couldn't be otherwise. Could you?
Oh, by the way, our son with his little family is in the mission field now. We wouldn't want him to be anywhere else just now. Would you?
Editor - Motivation is an interesting subject. Service is always valuable to both the one in action and to the recipients. John Dever saw service in New Guinea, Pitcairn Island, Townsville, Christchurch, and Sydney. He passed away at 96 years of age confident in his choice of service. The above article was penned in 1971.
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