Text and Context in Dialogue
Of Maoists and Missionaries
So Baburam finally admitted it "the one who made a great impact" on the Maoist ideologue's childhood is, wait for it, a Christian missionary (letter from Baburam Bhattarai, Nepali Times No. 153, 11-17th July 2003)! Miss Eleanor Elkins was "single-handedly instrumental for the excellent quality of education and discipline in our school for more than two decades". While not at all wanting to disparage Miss Elkins' sacrificial devotion both to her Lord and to the children of Amar Jyoti High School in Gorkha, the outlaw's confession forces us to step back and reflect on the purpose of mission. And I am not just referring to that of foreigners. It is well for us to remember at least the following principles as we go about our ministry in this needy land:
- No amount of education, economic uplift, disease prevention or conflict mitigation can make a person good. David says, "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me (Ps 51: 5). We need to figure into our projects and programmes the great Reformation doctrine of man's entire corruption. To teach a child to be a responsible member of his society is to teach him to be something he cannot be without the grace of God. That is not to say that we shouldn't do that. In fact, such an education may be used by the Lord to awaken a person's conscience to his need of salvation. But it can do no ultimate good for that person. Only God's mercy in the gospel can change the heart. So the priority of evangelism must never be compromised.
- We are not ultimately responsible for the way a person responds to our ministry. We don't know how many times Mr. Bhattarai heard the gospel explained to him. We do know that he received as good an education as any Nepali of his generation. Miss Elkins may regret that he misused his education so dramatically, nor yet come to put his trust in the Lord Jesus. But she must not take it personally. Miss Elkins is not ultimately responsible for Baburam's actions. He is.
- We can theologise and strategize but unless the Lord blesses our efforts they are empty. The Psalmist says, "Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labour in vain" (Ps 127: 1). Let us, then, demonstrate our complete dependence on him in prayer.
This issue of Voice of Bhakti focuses on how people come to Christ. We can call such a process a yatra a pilgrimage. We hope you find it helpful as you seek to call others to be fellow yatris in Christ.
Letters to the editor:
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. bhakti, nom. devotion, love, loyalty