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MacGorman’s 8 weeks in Asia stir comment on ‘cost & celebration’

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–A Pacific summer illustrated a valuable paradox for Jack MacGorman. “There is a direct relationship between cost and celebration,” he said. “Those who suffer most as they give themselves to the Lord’s work have corresponding joy.”
While speaking in six Asian cities this summer, the emeritus professor of New Testament from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas, witnessed missionary after missionary tell of God’s provision in lands of few Christians and of persecution for their faith.
News of this summer’s Cambodian coup reached MacGorman at the Thailand Baptist Mission meeting in Bangkok. A team of student workers from Oklahoma Baptist University and other Cambodian missionary personnel were airlifted to safety in Bangkok. “It was like an Acts passage featuring endangered Christians being enacted before my eyes,” MacGorman said. “Their lives had been at stake and the Lord rescued them.”
Danger often lurks behind every element of change, the professor reflected; crises during national elections or currency devaluation often jeopardize ministry and even lives. “It’s difficult to devise a sound budget at a mission meeting,” he said, “when the value of currency floats up and down.”
Persecution dogs many Christians in the region, MacGorman said, telling of a young couple he met whose home was marked for demolition due to the family’s faith. “I’ve lived in the same house for 41 years and I’ve never noticed a mark of destruction on it because I’m a professor at Southwestern,” he said. “You must have a high commitment to stay under those circumstances.”
In addition to external obstacles, MacGorman witnessed the wear of everyday living, such as missionaries who struggle with some of the world’s most difficult languages, often taking years to learn a tonal vocabulary in which words sounding essentially the same are worlds apart in meaning. And he cited physicians who could be commanding substantial salaries on a hospital staff working in small mission stations on a missionary’s salary.
Simply breathing the air in some areas can be life-threatening, MacGorman said. During his eight weeks of travel, his only sickness came as a result of air pollution in Bangkok. Traffic police wear masks. A Thai doctor claimed breathing in Bangkok is equivalent to smoking three packs of cigarettes per day. “Imagine a father and mother willing to run health risks on their own life for the cause of Christ,” MacGorman said. “Think of the dedication it takes to follow the Lord’s calling into an air-polluted city.”
Animism — a belief in ruling spirits — dominates the lives of many Asians, MacGorman continued.
“Imagine living with that fear all the time, trying to appease the spirits so they won’t do you in,” he recounted. “What a release of fear they can find in the gospel of Jesus Christ!”
Yet in the midst of such spiritual darkness MacGorman found “one of the most upbeat group of people I’ve ever met, especially when we think of how little it takes to upset us on this side of the water.”
“Missionaries face persecution so often because they are following divine command above human command. Theirs are the words of Peter and John in Acts 4:19-20: ‘Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.’
“These are a praying people,” MacGorman added. “If a need is made known, it is prayed for on the spot, not talked about and possibly remembered later. I will now know how to pray more intelligently.”
Teaching the Bible to missionaries is a treat for MacGorman, a 77-year-old triple-bypass survivor who likens the Bible to a pantry. “As a Bible teacher I am very much like a chef. The Scriptures are a pantry, and with a pantry like this we have no excuse of ever serving a poor meal!”

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  • Cindy Kerr