“To Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before….”

Most people today would recognize these words as those spoken during the opening credits of Star Trek, the original series.  As you may know, one of my heroes in life (even if he is a fictional character) is Captain James T. Kirk.  You can read about that in my earlier article here.

In this posting I want to tie two events together and relate it to what most people call “The Great Commission”.  Matthew 28:19-20 says:

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Now let me relate the first of the two events that were very significant moments for me.  It happened quite by accident really.  I was on the bus going home after finishing the day at my high school.  I was talking with a casual friend of mine and at some point he asked me, “So what do you want to do after you graduate from high school?”  I very quickly replied, “I want to be a missionary.”

This seemed to really surprise my friend and he asked me a lot of questions as to why I would want to do that.  So I explained to him my understanding at that time, that God wanted the message about Jesus to be proclaimed even to people at “the ends of the earth”.

He listened politely for quite a while, but then he said this, “So you want to go to these primitive tribal groups and tell them that if they believe in Jesus, they will go to Heaven.  But if they don’t believe in Jesus, they will go to Hell.  Don’t you think it would be better to leave them alone, so that God will judge them based on their good works and their limited knowledge of God, then to go and condemn them to Hell?”

Needless to say, as a 16-year-old still young in the faith, it was quite a challenge to me to consider his question.  And in fact, this is a very good question: Will God punish those who have never heard about Jesus?  I wrestled with this, and I will spend an entire article later to deal with this question.  But my conclusion then, and still is today, is that we do need to go to people everywhere and give them the opportunity to hear about Jesus.

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And this leads me to the second event that had quite an impact on me, an event that occurred to me in Papua New Guinea in 1999.  I had heard rumors and reports from some of our national friends where we lived in the jungle that there was a small collection of hamlets to the southeast of our village where they spoke a dialect of our village language.  This was definitely something to check into.

We checked with our mission office in town, and there was no clear data for this area of PNG and so we had no idea of who lived up in the hills there or what to expect when we got there.  So we prepared all our supplies and together with our national guides, we began our 10 hour hike through very rough terrain to find these “hidden” people.

So what did we find?  About a dozen little hamlets with anywhere from 20 to 40 people living in each hamlet.  After doing some simple linguistic testing, we did in fact find that they spoke a closely related dialect to our language.  And that was an exciting thing to find out, but there is something else that I found even more amazing which I want to share with you.

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For about two months before we went on this hike, we sent word of mouth down the jungle trail to let them know we were coming to investigate their area.  So we knew the people would be expecting us, but we didn’t know what kind of reception we would get.  And when we approached the first village, we were told to stop, and wait till we were invited to come into the village.  What did that mean?

Then they said it was okay to come into the village.  And do you know what happened?  The people had decorated the pathway, had put on all of their traditional tribal face paint and wore all their colorful native decorations.  But more fascinating than this was the fact that they sang a song to welcome us into the village.  They sang a song in their language which reflected their joy that we would come to learn their language and bring the Bible to them in their language.

It was at that moment that I wished my friend was there with me.  Rather than living in ignorance of the Living God, and hoping that He will be merciful, I still believe that most people in the world would like to hear the message about God’s love.  Even if some will not receive the message, those who do make it all worth while.  And so it is still my heart’s desire to take the Gospel to “the ends of the earth.”

PS.  The next most fascinating thing I heard in those hamlets was, “You are the first white person to have ever visited our villages.”  Mission work certainly has its interesting and exciting moments.