As Christians, we honour many heroes of the Bible: Noah, Moses, Esther, Rahab, Peter, Mary Magdalene and Paul. We also cherish modern heroes of the faith like Hudson Taylor, William Carey and Corrie ten Boom.
These people became heroes by the paths they chose, not by talents they were born with or skills they developed. They were ordinary men and women who chose to obey God’s call regardless of the sacrifice required.
John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, is certainly a great hero of the faith.
Son of an Anglican clergyman, Wesley was a godly man who became an ordained Anglican minister himself. Yet, he was plagued for many years by doubts about the genuineness of his faith.
Wesley made only one missionary trip overseas, intending to convert Native American Indians. That trip did not work out as planned and he was forced to leave Georgia after two years.
Instead, God led Wesley to share the gospel of salvation with thousands of men, women and children working in factories and coal mines scattered throughout Great Britain. Although only 5 foot 3 inches tall and weighing 128 pounds, Wesley commanded the attention of hundreds who gathered to hear what he had to say. Some mocked and ridiculed him, but many others committed themselves to Christ.
Wesley preached the love of God far and wide and personally showed love for others through his actions. He established orphanages and set up funds to aid widows, orphans and the poor. He founded schools to give access to quality Christian education to all children, regardless of ethnicity, gender or socio-economic status.
He eventually married but differences in temperament and lengthy periods apart because of his constant travel led to the marriage ending in permanent separation.
Wesley was certainly not a man of great physical stature. Nor was he always easy-going and agreeable. His failed marriage is a reminder that even spiritual heroes are far from perfect.
Today, the missionaries of Methodist Missions Society (MMS) carry on John Wesley’s legacy.
These ordinary men and women courageously leave families, friends and careers to answer God’s call to expand his kingdom throughout Asia. They make sacrifices, endure hardships, and suffer rejection with humility and perseverance. They perform daily acts of heroism that rarely attract any notice.
They toil selflessly to share God’s love by teaching in Methodist schools, discipling students in Methodist residential homes and providing aid to communities in need. They share the message of God’s mercy and grace by planting churches and equipping locals to become faithful followers of Christ. They demonstrate concern for others through prayer, acts of kindness and outreach programmes that help transform lives.
There are many ways to define or describe a hero. However, as one writer observes, great heroes have certain traits in common, including courage, selflessness, humility, patience, and caring.1
It is no exaggeration to say that our MMS missionaries share these traits!
Yet, it is important to remember that like John Wesley, missionaries are human. They are not impervious to daily frustrations and setbacks. They suffer periods of doubt, depression and sadness.
Missionaries need your prayers. Prayer is the greatest gift you can give them.
Please continue to hold them close in your hearts as heroes of the faith and join me in a prayer for each and every one of our missionaries!
Loving Father, thank you for the men and women who serve you in mission fields. Bless them as they reach out to people and cities for your glory. We ask that you take the seeds they plant and bring them to the fruition you desire. Open the hearts of the people in their areas to your truth. We pray especially for your covering over their physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being. Bring them encouragement when they feel despair, resources when they feel exhausted and strength when they feel weak. Be their shield, Lord; guard and protect them.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.