I am thankful that I live in the United States of America, a land of prosperity and freedom. I am fully aware that the freedoms we enjoy here have come at an extremely high price. That price is the life-blood of many soldiers who, in various wars and conflicts, have carried the battle to the enemy in order to keep us safe here.
Veteran’s Day is a time that we have set aside to remember with grateful hearts those who have given all to preserve and protect our freedom. We are also mindful of those whose lives are daily on the line as they track down the enemy elsewhere so the enemy can’t come here. The words ‘thank you’ seem terribly insufficient, but it’s all I have so, thank you.
However, there is another group of freedom fighters that is often overlooked. They are missionaries. The missionary is one who takes the great commission seriously and personally. He hears his Master’s call and readily obeys. He immediately begins to downsize and make preparations to leave. He says goodbye to loved ones and friends. He packs his bags, and together with his wife and kids, leaves behind the comfortable familiarity of his homeland to go to an unfamiliar place where they have not asked for him and possibly may be hostile to him.
These faithful soldiers of the cross boldly enter territory where Satan has for centuries maintained a death grip on the souls of sin-hardened men. They land behind enemy lines with no protection but the providence of God. They fear nothing but failure to declare the message of their King. They carry no offensive weapon but the gospel of Christ; knowing that the gospel is the only weapon that has the power to bring real and eternal peace.
Many missionaries are currently working in hostile environments where their lives are in constant jeopardy. Many of them have died in faraway lands where their bodies lie in unmarked graves. Some of them have been attacked and killed by the very ones to whom they were ministering. Others have succumbed to diseases or other dangers that are inherent to the harsh environment in which they lived and worked. They are like those of whom the writer of Hebrews says “…the world was not worthy” (Hebrews 11:38).
While the value and success of a military veteran can be more or less easily assessed, the contribution of these largely unsung missionary heroes cannot be calculated by human reasoning. Only in eternity will the value and fruit of the missionary’s service become evident: “…and their works do follow them” (Revelation 14:13).
In the eternal state we shall hear the story of the potentially successful terrorist who, through the preaching of a missionary, surrendered to Christ. We shall rejoice with the one-time political rebel who was transformed by the faithful gospel witness of a missionary, and through the teaching of that missionary, began to preach the good news too. In eternity we will fellowship with many who would have been our enemies, but because of a missionary, they are our brothers in Christ.
As we remember the awesome contribution of those who have served in the armed forces of the United States of America, let’s not forget the soldiers of the cross. When we get to Heaven, we might learn that they contributed more to the preservation of our freedom than all the wars ever fought, without firing a shot.