• W. Austin Gardner

Myths Regarding Missions 8 The myth of the closing door.



In this postcolonial period a great deal has been said about closing doors. Books and magazine articles have discussed the problem from every conceivable angle. Missionaries on furlough have added to the confusion by warning us that we have “five more years” in one part of the world and “ten more years” in another. We seem to have developed a pathological preoccupation with this particular problem.


In fact we have talked so long and loudly about closing doors that we have come to believe our own story.


It would be foolish, of course, to deny that some doors have already closed or that others will close in the future. What we do deny is that sooner or later all doors will close and the missionaries will find themselves without employment. Neither the lessons of history nor the statements of Scripture oblige us to accept that melancholy conclusion.


If one takes the trouble to enumerate all the countries that during the past twenty-five years have closed their doors to Christian missionaries, he will find that his list is rather short. In Asia it will include China, North Korea, North Vietnam, and Burma. In the Middle East it will include Libya, Syria, Iraq, and Southern Yemen.


To his surprise he will find not a single closed country in Black Africa, Latin America, or Oceania. So his list will include only eight or ten countries, and there are 141 countries in the United Nations.


Some Muslim countries, such as Malaysia, Morocco, Algeria, and Sudan are not happy with the missionaries now in those countries and may expel them in the days to come. On the other hand some countries, such as Nepal, Somalia, and Yemen have in recent years accepted missionaries for the first time. Somalia has had second thoughts and more recently has terminated mission work. Afghanistan is closed to professional missionaries but has allowed over one hundred nonprofessional missionaries to engage in medical and educational work.


Some countries, such as Indonesia, Kenya, and India, that we feared would close, are still open. Others, such as Ethiopia and Colombia, that were closed for several years, are open again. It is quite possible that other countries may do the. same. We dare not write off even Red China.


And what shall be said about the 100-plus countries that are open? In some of them the work is difficult and the response is disappointing, but in many of them the missionaries describe the opportunities as "fabulous” and "fantastic.” The United Bible Societies are publishing and distributing the Scriptures in over 150 countries. The Assemblies of God Mission has work in 92 countries. The Moody Literature Mission is producing and distributing gospel literature in 184 languages in over 100 countries. In addition the Moody Institute of Science has made its films available in 21 languages to missionaries in 120 countries of the world. If worldwide missionary activity is any criterion, it doesn’t look as if the doors are closing.


Kane, J. Herbert. The Making of a Missionary

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