In the past few weeks, I have read two articles in a local newspaper about firefighting woes in Cambodia. Both of these articles caught my attention because of the parallels to the missionary work in which we are engaged. Let me share a brief excerpt out of these two articles in the hopes that they will challenge you as they did me.
The article which I read today had this headline: "Not Enough Fire Trucks To Save Market From Fire". It talked about a big market fire in Kompong Thom province in which 160 of 360 market stalls were destroyed. As they interviewed officials, a major problem became obvious. Here is an excerpt from the article.
"We don't have enough fire trucks to put out a major fire," said Chhou Sam An, provincial deputy police chief, who noted that the province has only two trucks. After an hour of battling yesterday's fire, officials sent for three more trucks from far-away Siem Reap province, but the flames had been contained by the time they arrived hours later. Chan Kimseng, director of the Ministry of the Interior's Weapons Control and Firefighter Department said he was aware of the problem, but that the government simply does not have the resources to purchase fire-fighting trucks. "We don't have enough fire trucks to meet the demand," said Mr Kimseng, who noted that there are 90 trucks for the entire country of 14 million people. (The Cambodia Daily, March 3, 2010)
That's quite a number...90 fire trucks for an entire country of 14 million people! But as I considered that ratio the thought occurred to me that it is probably not much different than the ratio of Gospel-preaching missionaries to the general population in many countries around the world. There is such a tremendous need all around the world for additional laborers for the harvest. Men are dying without Christ, and there are just not "enough 'fire trucks' to meet the demand."
The other article which caught my attention had this headline: "As Buildings Rise, Firefighting Concerns Grow". Cambodia has never had a building higher than 15 floors, but a few months ago a 30 story building opened in Phnom Penh. There are currently several other 30-40 story buildings being constructed. The problems is that firefighting crews are not equipped for such buildings. Here is an excerpt from that article.
Phnom Penh's race to fill its skyline with tall buildings has sped past its ability to cope with fires on top floors, Phnom Penh's fire chief Neth Vantha said. "...we cannot respond to a fire above the 10th floor," Mr Vantha said last week. "It is a high risk to the people and it will be difficult to help them." The municipal department cannot fight fires more than 10 floors up because it lacks engines that can pump water above 30 meters and its tallest ladders only reach 30 meters, Mr Vantha said. (The Cambodia Daily, February 5, 2010)
There is a shortage of fire trucks and firefighters, but to make matters worse, the fire crews that ARE trying to make a difference don't have strong enough pumps and tall enough ladders! The first problem is injurious, but the second problem adds insult to injury.
This made me think of the irony of having missionaries on the field but without the proper funds and resources to do the job they need to do. I wonder how many times a missionary labors over a book or tract which would really make a difference, only to have it sit for years in a file cabinet due to lack of funds to print it. I wonder how many times a missionary has a wide-open door to get into a village, public school, or jail with the Gospel, but there is simply not enough help to make it all happen. I wonder how many times a soul has died without Christ, simply because not enough prayer had been made (by the missionary and/or supporters) to give his preaching efficacy. In other words, it's not enough for a missionary to just "be there".
Sometimes a missionary gets to the field having projected that a certain amount of money would be needed for the ministry, and then he finds that the buildings are taller now, so to speak. More resources are needed, including but not strictly limited to just money. What a shame it would be for the firefighters to have to sit on the curb watching the tall buildings burn because they did not have what they needed to get the job done. Likewise it is a shame when missionaries do not have the funds, literature, physical help, and prayer support that they need to fight the fires of Hell.
I would like to encourage anyone reading this article to remain steadfast in your commitment to "spiritual firefighting" across the globe. To those who are currently supporting worldwide "firefighting" efforts, thank you. You are making a difference. But there is much more work to be done. There are two basic needs: 1) more missionaries, and 2) proper funds and resources so the missionaries can get their job done. If men are to perish in the flames, may it not be due to a shortage of firemen or a lack of necessary equipment to reach their "floor".
"And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire;" Jude 22-23