Wednesday, May 29, 2024
Wednesday, May 29, 2024
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Go Together

By Buddy Johnson, Regional Coordinator for South America BMA Global

What an honor to be elected to preach the annual sermon at the Baptist Missionary Association of America. It’s a little tough standing up here trying to preach while watching you eat dessert! Thank you for the privilege.

When I was a kid preacher, E.L. Jones, my pastor, called me to his office one day and asked me to go to a small church out in the corner of Nacogdoches County, Texas and preach. I quickly said, “Bro. Jones, I can’t preach.” He said, “Buddy, you and I know that, but they don’t. Just go and preach Jesus and we’ll see what happens.” Well, tonight you will learn what Bro. Jones and I knew. But I do have a message for us tonight.

It was at this meeting exactly 50 years ago, in Sacramento, Calif. that Jerry Kidd, Chapman Davis and I were elected to serve as missionaries with the BMA of America. Jerry went to Bolivia, Chapman went to Israel, I went to Mexico and Lynn Stevens was elected as assistant director of Missions. Today at this meeting, all the missionaries of the BMA of America are here, thanks to the planning of our Missions leaders. Fifty years from tonight, perhaps some will have memories of this meeting.

I’ve chosen a message from a missionary to whom many of us who serve in missions can relate. Any missionary who leaves home and country to take the gospel to other parts of the world has some experiences, which are in some way related to the experiences of the Missionary Paul. We can all tell of different experiences that are unique to our part of the world. Jesus, the greatest of all missionaries, said what we could all repeat — “We speak what we do know, and testify that we have seen…”(John 3:11). I will share a little of this tonight. Each of the missionaries present tonight can testify of what they have seen God do around the world.

In Paul’s writings to the church in Corinth, there could possibly have been four letters and not only the two we have in the Bible. Theologians classify them as Letters A, B, C and D. He mentions letter A in I Cor. 5:9 — “I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators.” This one is known as the letter of morality. Letter B is the letter we know as I Corinthians. He mentions letter C in II Cor. 2:4 — “For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you.” This one is known as the sadness or severe letter. Then Letter D is what we know as II Corinthians. He seems to open his heart and write as never before about himself.

John Macarthur states that, “Second Corinthians is the most personally revealing of all Paul’s epistles.” Rightfully so, because in it we see the defense of his integrity and apostleship. Some think chapters 10-13 should not be included in II Corinthians, but they are included in my Bible and I believe them to be inspired by Almighty God for our good and His glory.

I have chosen to preach from II Cor. 11:16-28. Since our missionaries are here tonight and many can relate to these events in Paul’s life, and since the majority of my life has been involved in Mission work with the churches of the BMA of America, I feel that God has led me to this message for all of us. In verses 16-21, Paul seems to set the stage for his coming defense. He more or less says, “Y’all tolerate what I am about to write. This bunch of Israelites, Hebrews, seed of Abraham, so-called ministers of Christ have belittled our faith in Christ. If they have caused us to suffer, bringing us into bondage, devouring us, they exalt themselves, belittling us, treating us as weaklings, and acting like bullies. Well, y’all stick with me while I tell you ‘bout me!”

External Consequences of His Work for Jesus (vs. 23-28)

Paul basically says, “As a minister, I work more, have been whipped a bunch, in jail a lot, deaths all around. I’ve been beaten almost to death by the Jews five times. They beat me with rods three times, stoned me almost to death, been in three shipwrecks and treaded water a day and a night. I’ve been on many long trips, in a lot of danger of waters, flash floods and raging rivers.”

This reminds me of early one morning in Mecatlan, Hidalgo, Mexico, about a two-hour walk from where we left the old Jeep. We had preached late and slept a little on the log benches in the little church house when one of those torrential rains awoke us. Bro. Catarino shouted, “Tenemos que ir!” — “We gotta go!” We hurriedly put on our boots, grabbed a piece of plastic sheet each and began the walk back to the Jeep, which was about 30 minutes on the other side of the river between Tlachiyahualica and Huiyatl. When we got to the river, it had already become a raging torrent!

At that time there were no paved roads, no bridges, no electricity and no communications outside of earshot. We sat on some big rocks, under our plastic and noticed four young men wading in the river. It was about chest-deep on them. It was apparent that they were under the influence and were having fun doing what they had learned to do all their lives — wade in raging rivers. About that time, shortly after daylight, a schoolteacher came to the edge of the river on the other side from where we were sitting. She was expecting a child and was really large! Two boys took one of her arms each and, believe it or not, walked across the river with her. I noticed that she gave them a peso, about a dime! I shouted to Cata, “Shoot! I have two pesos, let’s get them to help us cross.

We undressed down to our skivvies, put our clothes and boots in our “morales” (woven grass bags) and they took me first, one on each arm. I never imagined what was about to happen. If that woman could pass, surely I could. We had reached midstream easily enough when a huge round rock bowled the feet out from under all three of us. They struggled to hold me above the water while trying to get their feet back to the bottom. Finally, they let me go in order to save themselves as the water churned and tumbled me for about 200 yards.

I remember thinking only one thought as I struggled to hold on to my bag with my clothes. I thought, “Lord why am I going to die so early in the morning? We have so much to do today!” (We were to have a service with the village where we had left the jeep.) In a bend in the river, I escaped the current and checked my wounds — shoulders, elbows, hips, knees. I wrung my clothes and tried to get them on over the bruises and cuts and just sat down trying to breathe. Bro. Cata came jogging up to me (he had crossed without incident) and helped me dress. His only words were, “All I could think about as I saw you go, was ‘What am I going to tell Hermana Martha?’ There’s a lot more to the story.

Paul simply said, “Perils of waters.”

“Perils of robbers.” Most of us who have worked in foreign countries have been robbed. Some have been robbed at gunpoint or knifepoint, and had break-ins and cars stolen.

“Perils by my own countrymen” (I could tell you stuff about this), in perils by the heathen, perils in the city, perils in the wilderness, in the sea, perils among false brethren” (there are always a bunch of those).

“In watchings often” (vs. 27). Watchings. The worst night I have ever spent in my life was in Cochescuatitla, where I was hidden by the brethren in a little corn crib about three by six feet full of corn. During the agrarian reform, different political groups were fighting other groups in order to get more farmland and they were all opposed to the believers and especially the gringo who was in and out of their villages. In the corncrib, filled with newly harvested corn, still in the shuck, I could hear gunshots and screaming voices of opposing men. I tried to peep through the cracks of the crib as I shooed the rats that were all over the place. Miserable, I prayed that day would come! I’m sure this is nothing compared to what Paul was reviewing! He only said, “Watchings”!

“In hunger and thirst.” (We’ve drunk water that should have killed us.) “Fastings, cold, nakedness.” Some of us can relate to Paul’s missionary dilemmas, many cannot! We all have memories of how God has brought us through many circumstances in our respective mission endeavors. All these things in Paul’s report to the church were external, physical and temporary. They were everyday happenings in everyday mission work. The pain passes, weariness wanes and we overcome the physical. The sick get well, the hunger gets fed, the thirst gets quenched, the cold gets warmed and the naked get clothed. These are all temporal, external and passing details. Most of us missionaries have learned some of what Paul had learned.

One area that he didn’t mention was loneliness! Somebody was always accompanying him. Some missionaries are the lone rangers in their areas, and this becomes a big deal at times. We’ve all had to adjust, adapt and keep going. We’ve all had car problems, money shortages, school problems, family problems, illnesses, visa issues, etc. I don’t miss that stuff in my old age. These are the things Paul calls “Without” — external, passed events. But the things that linger, are constant, daily, ever-present, internal, spiritual, heart-throbbing, soul-aching and sleep-robbing, he mentions in verse 28.

(To be continued in next week’s issue.)