Missionary to America Stanish Stanley
Let me say up front: the hope for Christianity to grow again in the United States is in the hands of the missionaries to America. That is why God is sending them to us.
I know there are impediments for those sent by the Lord from outside this country. Sometimes language is a problem. OK. Having to learn a new culture is daunting. I get that. Most will need financial assistance. True. But all in all, what these missionaries bring us is more efficacious. Stanish Stanley is a case in point.
Stanish grew up in Mumbai, India. His father was a Lutheran pastor. Even though Christians are a minority in India (about 6% of the population), Christian hospitals, colleges elementary and high schools are highly valued.
Stanish did well in school, and became an attorney. But God was not finished with him. He became seriously ill and should have died; the Lord restored the Indian man, and led him to give himself to a higher truth, the gospel. He was eager to share the good news of a God of love, One who had saved Him – for this life and the next. That is what he taught Christians in India.
It was a challenge to make Christianity understandable to Indian culture. As every good missionary, he listened to the people. From research he did for a doctorate, he learned the early Lutheran missionaries listened – they heard a fear of evil spirits, ghosts, that were ready to repay for sins committed. In response, they preached the presence and protection of the Holy Spirit. The missionaries from another culture took time to understand, and the gospel spoke, spoke to the hearts of the Indian people. And they listened.
Stanish listened to the lives of the Indian people. When a tsunami crushed houses and took lives, the Hindu interpretation was that the sea goddess was taking back what was hers. People lived in fear of such capricious gods. For Stanish, the Christian response was given by a man whose two children were lost in the disaster. Knowing we live in a broken world, the man said “The Lord Jesus has paid for my sins and the sins of my children. I do not fear God. I know I will be with Him and my children in eternity.”
Sent by his church to study in America he saw opportunities to reach out. He listened. to the Americans, and to refugees to America. Today he is privileged to share the God of love with Nepalese immigrants in St. Louis; he also sees the excess love of money and comfort in American culture. His dedication to the gospel and his simple lifestyle are a witness to many in this country – as are the lives of many other missionaries from foreign countries.
In my view, missionaries from outside the United States have an advantage over missionaries who have grown up inside our culture. Why? Besides being able to minister more effectively to immigrants from their own country and culture, in reaching out to US citizens:
- They “see” things we do not. Because they come from another culture, they have to study our culture. This makes them more sensitive to the good, and the evil, in our culture. If anyone still does not know America is a mission field, the missionaries to America certainly know it.
- Through the missionaries to America, God is giving us a model of how to sacrifice, something necessary on a mission field. They are so passionate about sharing the gospel they will give up anyting. Many suffered in jails and in torture chambers for their faith. Some were shot at, forced out of their countries, leaving everything behind, because of their passion for their Lord. They suffered for the faith. They did not fear rejection. Many churches have come to see the blessings of these “foreign” missionaries to America. Where at first barriers were put up to their ministries, today those barriers have been steadily coming down.
- The foreign missionaries are more mission minded than most Christian leaders; they grew up in cultures that demanded missionary actions. They came to America believing God sent them here for a reason – to proclaim the gospel to a hurting people. As Dr. Yared Halche said in this blog some months ago, when he lived in Las Vegas he was moved to tears by the despair he saw in that city. His words were, “Despair is the mayor of Las Vegas.” The missionary from Ethiopia had to share the good news of Jesus in that city. He had no choice.
- The foreign missionaries are used to living a simpler life. Their most important “pay” is to be able to freely share Christ, to preach without fear of arrest, to hold worship services and not be afraid of a bomb going off under a pew.
- By now everyone knows Christianity is declining in America. Some Christians and Christian leaders have resigned themselves to the idea of a declining church. Too many see withdrawal as a solution, believing, like the third steward in Matthew 25 that “faithfulness” means holding on, rather than stepping out in faith. The missionaries to America see the challenge to Christianity in America not just as a glass half full – but as the reason they were sent to this mission field. They will not stay within the four walls of their church buildings. They will vigorously pursue the mission.
In the video interview we made for this blog, Dr. Stanley shared research he had done on early Lutheran missionaries to India. Many Indian people came to faith, and he wanted to know why. His conclusion was that the missionaries listened, listened to the Indian culture. Because of their critical look at the culture they could hear the cry of the people. It was at that point, Stanish says, the gospel spoke to India.
The gospel is speaking to America through God’s missionaries to America. The message is not just for unbelievers; it is also for the church in America; the foreign missionaries are sent to us as a model of what it means to be “missionary.” . It is a message of encouragement, of sacrifice, of love, of hope. Will we listen?