What? Me, a Missionary?
An excerpt from Tony & Pat Schmidt’s book Jesus Did Many Other Things as Well
“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as an inheritance, obeyed and went,
even though he did not know where he was going.”
– Hebrews 11:8
Born in 1942 and raised in East London, South Africa, I was about six years old when I responded to a pastor’s invitation to accept Jesus as Savior. It would be ten years before I committed myself to the Lord and was baptized at age sixteen. Years of compromise followed but I became a committed believer as a young adult.
While studying accounting, I met Pat, who was (still is!) a lovely Christian woman. We got engaged and moved to Cape Town for work and study. A few years later, at a Youth for Christ rally, the speaker asked, “Are you sure that the work you are doing is what God wants you to do with your life?” He spoke about being a missionary and challenged us to obey God’s call if it came. I felt fairly confident that I would not be called to become a missionary. Rather, it was the first question that grabbed Pat and me. We decided to set time aside to pray, asking God to give us His peace if what we were doing was His will, or to show us if He wanted to change the direction of our lives.
As we prayed, we both began to feel that God was asking us to change course. I began to think of some possibilities where my gifts might be useful to the work of the Lord. Perhaps as an administrator working at a mission hospital while doctors, nurses and evangelists administered medicine and proclaimed the Gospel? I had read stories of Christians who were called to be missionaries pleading in prayer, “Anywhere, Lord, but not Africa.” I felt just the opposite. I had grown up in Africa and I wanted to serve God there if possible.
Pat and I began to knock on a few doors. At the time, we were running a Saturday night Youth for Christ club. Three of the teens were children of the Overseas Missionary Fellowship’s South African Director, Don Houliston. We felt he was a suitable person to ask if he knew of any openings for a Christian businessman or administrator.
Two weeks later, Don phoned to say he had just received an urgent request from OMF in Sapporo asking for an accountant/administrator to come as soon as possible. The name Sapporo did not sound African! To our horror, we learned it was a city in northern Japan! We discovered Sapporo had an average annual snowfall of six meters! We had prayed earnestly for God’s guidance. I felt we needed some time to think of a good excuse why it should not be us but, rather, someone else.
We prayed and fasted, seeking God’s will. As we read the Bible and prayed each night, it was as if God came into our living room to talk with us. He was giving us an opportunity to put forward all our fears. What about the cold climate? We had never experienced snow before. Where do you buy clothing suitable for sub-zero temperatures in South Africa? Japanese eat raw fish and seaweed. Would there be other more edible foods in Japan? I worried about financial security. I was after all an accountant!
One day I had a brilliant idea! I was hoping the Lord would agree. Looking at a world map, I saw that Canada is relatively close to Japan. Why not call a Canadian Christian to go to Japan? They are accustomed to the cold and snow. Economically, climatically, recreationally it all made better sense to send Canadians rather than South Africans to Japan. I almost felt the Lord might say, “What a good idea, Tony!” But He did not.
Meanwhile, we found our thoughts turning more and more to the Japanese people and the small Church in Japan. We found out that less than half of one percent of the population there was Christian. As we praised God in worship on Sundays, I would wonder how many of my brothers and sisters in Japan were worshiping as we were. What difficulties were they facing? How were they doing as Christians in a Buddhist/Shinto country? Were they lonely?
One Sunday in March 1971, our pastor preached from Hebrews 11:8: “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as an inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” Abraham did not know where God was going to lead him. We knew where we would go! But Abraham trusted God. Should I not trust Him too? I had been given an even greater knowledge of God than Abraham had. I knew about God’s plan of salvation. I knew about the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. He who gave His life for me can surely be trusted. Convicted, embarrassed, repentant and joyful that God had brought us to the point of being willing to go where He was leading us, we decided together that we would follow the Lord to Sapporo, Japan.
Looking back on our lives, Pat and I continually give thanks to God for His guidance, and for not giving up on two of His fear-filled children.
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