The rough attic room hovered close around us as we gathered in near darkness. It was cold above the machine shop, so we kept our coats zipped and hats on. We bowed our heads in prayer, remembering those who met in hiding out of necessity. We did it out of choice, leaving the comfort of our warm, well-lit college campus facilities to remember the Christians who meet in hiding. We talked about sending help and being sent as help. They need us.
Some weeks we focused on traditional mission fields of Africa, Asia and South America. We talked about poverty, hunger and oppression. We discussed lack of education, ignorance and crime. Perhaps we could send food and other resources? Maybe we could become overseas teachers? They need us.
Occasionally, we would acknowledge the needs of the Western world. We talked about the growing secularization of Europe and Oceania. How sad, we thought, that so many ancient cathedrals sit empty, that fewer and fewer attend church. We spoke about possible missionary trips to England or France. They need us.
These were natural activities for a college missions club in the United States. We had always been told that the world needed us. Those without democracy need our freedom and style of government. Those in ignorance need our educational system. Those who are hungry need our agricultural knowledge. Those who are poor need to be taught our conception of free enterprise. The sick need our medicine. Even those who believe need to be instructed by our theological expertise. They need us.
And we Americans have been willing to share our wealth of property, knowledge and spiritual tradition. Of the 400,000 international Christian missionaries in 2010, 1 in 3 were sent from the U.S.
Thinking back to my college days, it is ironic that we spent so little time discussing the country that receives more international missionaries than any other. In 2010, there were 32,400 missionaries to the U.S., surpassing any other country by 12,000.
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