Steve Burkholder Missionary to Tanzania
As Christians we are compared to many things in the New Testament. In Matthew 5:13 we are compared to “salt.” Salt has many practical uses including the preservation and enhancing of food. Application can be made to all Christians to be effective witnesses by being a preserving agent in a world rotting with sin and by bringing flavor to a world that is bland and has nothing to offer of eternal value. This verse can be applied to foreign missions as we consider being the salt of “the earth” and in light of Jesus’ command to go unto the uttermost part of the earth as His witnesses. (Acts 1:8)
However, the verse goes on to say “but if the salt have lost his savor.” Salt can accomplish its practical purposes only if it keeps its “savor,” meaning its “saltiness” or “effectiveness.” If salt does lose its “savor” there are two problems. First, once the savor is gone it cannot be regained. “Wherewith shall it be salted?” Secondly, salt loses its purpose without savor. “It is thenceforth good for nothing.”
Like salt, the foreign missionary must guard against losing his “saltiness” and becoming ineffective on the mission field. There are many things that cause the missionary to lose his effectiveness: burn out, discouragement, interpersonal conflicts, cultural differences, language struggles, government requirements, monthly support, sickness, and the list could go on. I have faced these challenges personally as a missionary and have been in danger of losing my effectiveness.
Missionaries and their families need a regular time of getting together for encouragement, fellowship, and fun in order to keep their saltiness and remain effective. Sometimes this is done in the US every two to four years as they have access to supporting churches, family and friends, missionary conferences, debriefings, and other resources provided by their sending agencies. Thank God for those times that missionaries can be ministered to during their short visits to the US! But to be honest, there are times that “furlough” (defined as “a short leave of absence from work”) can actually be more challenging than life on the foreign field as missionaries travel, struggle to find housing, have added financial burdens, and are away from their home and ministry. Having an “on the field” missionary enrichment conference for the whole family is a much-needed but sometimes-neglected ministry. That is why we started the SALT (Serving And Living Together) Conference—for missionaries at their field location, so that they might keep their saltiness and stay effective on the mission field to which God has called them.
More information on the SALT Conference ministry in the next blog . . .