The WHY of Why missionaries help the sick and the poor - a matter of motivations in missions.

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Ordinary Guy (TM)
A reporter wrote a summary of our jungle missionary work in 2014. I am hoping they correct this sentence: "[The Pergmeister and his wife] use their medical background to open doors so they can share the gospel with this tribe..."

And through the years I've had many supporters conclude that we treat the sick to "gain a hearing" for the gospel.

This is an important distinction, so I just want to clarify:

We treat sick tribal peoples because they are sick. Period.

No ulterior motive.

We treat the sick because they are God's creatures and are made in His image and deserve love.

One does not necessarily need a prosyletizing motive to do good to others. We should do it anyway.

We should do good without hidden agendas. If we treat the sick "in order that we may gain a hearing for the gospel" then this is merely a bait-and-switch tactic and is often why people do not trust the church.

I've even seen orgs that won't even hand out food to the desperately hungry before there is a hard-sell for Jesus, as if we cannot possibly help in any physical way without pressuring people to repeat a prayer. They've got to give out their spiel and sell their product first, and then the food is the incentive. Just like a bank offering a free pen for you to sign up for their checking account, or a car salesman offering a free gift for you to buy his vehicle..

A clever ploy.

But we are not to follow cunningly devised strategies, but to plainly preach and show the love of Christ to all. Jesus should never be put in those same categories, nor can we buy or sell Him. We merely feebly attempt to display some shadow of His own love and kindness to others.

Do you see that this is not charity then, nor borne out of love if we trade kindness for professions of faith? I find this not only distasteful, but counter-productive. True faith can never be coerced.

If they see the love of Christ through our actions and also come to love Jesus, then that is great, but linking a full stomach or medicine only with submission to our "Sales-tactics for Jesus" will only produce false converts.

In many regions of the world people will give you the "relational yes" and gladly repeat "the sinner's prayer" 20 times a day to receive free goods or services, or to simply thank you for your efforts. They go along with you to please you. But this is not "evangelistic success" no matter how many "salvations" you report back to your church.

We treat the sick for free and without any expectations. Often we did not even receive thanks. We prayed with the sick and often told them we tried to help them because Jesus first loved us. But we broker no business deals; we push for no professions of faith in exchange for medicine.

I believe this to be a weak point among some American churches sending missionary teams or doing evangelism. They give only in order to get. They strategize to provide a service in order to gain a return (professions of faith). This is not then kindness, but an investment.

It is true, however, that kindness shown towards people does often influence them to receive what you teach them. Many recipients of your food or medical care might also hear about your Jesus. This is the frequent happy result of being kind to others. I've been invited many places because the locals knew I was there to help and be an agent of positive change. But it is important to clarify our motivations for those kind services given. There is not hidden agenda; there is no ulterior motive, no strategy to "gain a hearing for the gospel" through treating the sick.

The way in which we describe missionary work and our motivations for doing things on the mission field is very important. Let's make sure we describe our motivations in a way which honors God.

Again: we treat them because they are sick. They are creatures made in the image of God and should receive kindness and love from us. That is all.
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