Incidents in Travel and Soul Winning – By Elmer & Julia Shelhamer

Chapter 4

Do Missions Pay?

We frequently hear it asked, “Do missions pay?” The answer largely depends upon the missionary. Some are total failures. Too bad they were ever sent. We have known cases where one said he was called to a certain field, then a lover felt called (?) to the same field. They were married, the Lord’s money was wasted, the cause greatly reproached and two precious lives were forever blasted. What a pity that the Missionary Board did not have enough insight to character and refuse to send them!

Then we have known of other cases where the missionary was partly a success — perhaps “thirty-fold”. But this is not enough! Brethren, I do not want to be critical, but must be frank: There are at least three essentials necessary for real success, especially for missionaries.

1. A settled Christian experience. Not simply a profession of holiness, as many have, but a deep inward crucifixion to pride, impatience, self-will, sensuality, jealousy, deception, touchiness, love of ease, love of praise, and every other trait of the carnal mind.

2. Ability to get along well with others. There is a vast difference between ability and adaptability, and for lack of the latter many missionaries who are otherwise good are more or less a failure. If it were not for being too personal we could relate some very sad instances of missionaries who should be recalled at once. Money would be well invested to bring them home. Carnality is an awful thing on a heathen field. It would pay to have a convention once or twice a year, for a week or two, in charge of a wise and holy leader, where little jealousies and differences could be completely obliterated. The poor natives would soon catch the flame, and instead of their heads being taught to read, their hearts would be taught to love.

3. Perseverance. It is fine to see one with fire and holy zeal; it is also good to possess physical endurance, but, above all, being a good, “plodder” is very important. The heathen mind is dark and slow of spiritual comprehension, hence great patience is necessary to clear the land, plow and harrow well, sow the seed, then watch and wait for the reaping time. As a rule, plodders will, in the end, see more lasting fruit than will enthusiasts.

Over twenty years ago, several young American men, Brothers Slater, De Weerd, and others went to Port Elizabeth and East London, South Africa. At first they held meetings for the Europeans, then for the natives. Now, after these many years we found blessed fruitage still abiding. We held a good meeting for Doctor D. R. Snyman, pastor of the large Dutch Reformed church in Stellenbosch, the college town near Capetown. Rev. Snyman told us he was converted under those noisy missionaries, and further remarked, “No doubt I would now be a modernist and smoker of tobacco, but for the imprint put upon me then.” This comes from the champion fundamentalist, called the “William Jennings Bryan of South Africa,” who stands for the whole Bible. Modernists hate and fear him!

Again, we closed a great Holiness Convention at Port Elizabeth, where many young preachers and missionaries dug their wells deeper and struck fresh oil. Later, they returned to their fields of labor aflame (some 1,000 miles) to do the devil’s kingdom more damage than did Samson’s foxes to the Philistines’ corn. Hallelujah! This is the surest way to reach the heathen. Get the preachers on fire and the natives will catch the flame. I am so glad we had a little part in it!

During the same convention, a Dutch Reformed woman arose and testified as follows: “About five years ago I had a long season of wrestling in prayer for a revival. I had a vision and saw a tall man in gray with white hair. A great joy filled my soul. At first I could not ascertain just who he was — perhaps one from another clime — but now after these five years, I see in the pulpit that same man, whom I saw in my vision; and the best of all is, my son, for whom I have been praying so long, was saved last night.” Did it pay to go to South Africa?

Yes, missions pay! We have caught the vision and cannot be content to settle down and enjoy a comfortable home in the most beautiful climate (California) in the world. This would be criminal as long as we can go and win souls. We will have a long time to rest when we get to heaven.

When Bishop William Taylor was voted a superannuate relation (against his will), instead of sitting down and enjoying a nice salary he, like a young missionary, braved the hardships and returned to Africa where he opened several new mission stations. What a rebuke to preachers who at the age of fifty retire from the battle front and spend the rest of their days paper hanging and criticizing others!