For some months in late 2014 we carefully planned a trip to visit missionaries. Looking at the geography – Detroit → Seattle → Manila → Siliguri (India) → Kathmandu → Mumbai — it made sense to simply keep going west, all the way around the world. We rewarded ourselves with a few days in London at the conclusion of the trip.
We communicated carefully to missionaries in each location we planned to visit; all agreed they would receive us. Connecting with these skilled, max-powered, high-caliber people was part of our service within our missionary agency.
Fast forward to autumn, 2015. We were off. Seattle was so productive! Excellent MemberCare connections with a number of missionaries. The Philippines was also fruitful. Then on to Nepal.
But we had a different experience in Nepal when we arrived. Two of the missionaries we had communicated with – who had agreed to us visiting them – were not in the city when we arrived. In fairness to one of them, he told us six weeks before that he would not be in the city when we arrived. But in fairness to us, we had already bought airline tickets that included seeing him before he told us he would not be there.
I was ticked. That word comes from the Greek work tikeho, meaning “to be angry.”1 We had communicated carefully over a course of months. Without pressure from us they had agreed to receive us. Since visitors to these couples were few and far between, we felt we were serving them by journeying to see them. Being there was no easy — prior to the trip, getting visas required a long car trip to various embassies . . . a large out-lay of cash to fly . . . hours and hours in the plane to get there . . . navigating a new culture and language. It seemed reasonable to us they would be present at the agreed-upon dates.
We had had a similar experience with a missionary in another Asian nation some years before our 2015 trip. We had written back and forth four times and felt the arrangements were mutually agreed upon. Since the trip was several months away, I did not see a reason to continue small talk. The itinerary was in place, so I relaxed. About six weeks before we were to arrive, I wrote again to make sure everything was in place. His response was, “You did not keep in touch with me, so I assumed you were not coming.” Asians look at such things differently than Americans.
After we returned home from the 2015, around-the-world trip, I shared this no-show matter with a missionary friend. He was aghast; very sympathetic and said they should have kept their word.
But another man had a different reaction. You would have to know Thomas Smoak to understand his orientation. He refuses to complain about anything. Once he was holding an out-door meeting in Colombia. It had taken a lot to get it arranged and it had cost some money. Ten minutes into the meeting a downpour started and deluged the area. Thomas had zero negative reaction. No complaint. No grumbling allowed. His logic may have been, “We did our best. We prayed. We worked, and offered it up to God. He allowed rain. He is in charge.” So no complaint.
When I told Thomas the no-show story, I expected a supportive response. Zero sympathy. Zero rebuke of our mutual friends. By not being critical of them, Thomas was indirectly rebuking me. Still, I continued to feel justified in my displeasure – Saint Thomas Smoak not withstanding (I do not mean that sarcastically – he really is a godly man).
A cultural factor impacted the attitude of these no-show missionaries. Their country is so chaotic that things can’t be schedule very far in advance. Things change so often that two week’s notice is good. Beyond that it is tough for missionaries in that part of the world to make plans.
Fast forward to late 2021. David, a friend, was going to visit an Asian country. Bear in mind that such trips can carry a $5000 price tag (our around-the-world trip in 2015 was about $10,000). David arrived in Asia during the on-going COVID pandemic. He had people to see in various parts of the country. But as COVID intensified where he was, he felt he needed to leave, believing he might – as an American – be blamed for intensifying (or even bringing) the pandemic. Thus he was unable to achieve his goals of being in country.
What was marvelous – what rebuked me – what was grand – was how God was speaking to me through his attitude. David saw this situation as follows: “God knows all about me wanting to meet with people. It was best that I leave so as not to put the believers standing in the community in jeopardy. God has allowed this. I belong to Him; I am paid for and my time is His (I Corinthians 6:19 & 20), so I am good with it.” He was unruffled. Not bent out of shape. Not grousing about it. He was at peace.
God was teaching me.
- This is a joke. There is no such Greek word as tikeho.