Moments with missionaries: Robert Siirila

Moments with missionaries: Robert Siirila

I’ll miss the mission

I’ll miss the mission . . . but I am so thankful that I didn’t miss the mission.

Almost 37 years ago, I was given a chance to do something that most Christians can only dream of doing. God called me to leave my fork and spoon behind so I could learn to use chopsticks. God asked me to lay aside English to learn one of the most complicated languages Babel ever produced.

I’ll miss the mission. When my wife and I arrived in Taipei, Taiwan, we were met by a family with whom I have now served for 36 years. No one could have prepared me for the exhilaration of being able to sing “Jesus loves me” in another tongue. No one could have gotten me ready for the deep thankfulness to God I felt over the first convert in my work that he allowed me to see. God used me to help nurture a national church that is now a sister church with WELS.

Seventeen years ago, God called us to Hong Kong. I have had the chance to live in a Chinese culture that was stir fried with British colonialism. I followed up on work done by great men who had gone before. The part of the city where we lived and worked was called Kowloon—literally “nine dragons.” These dragons may be a symbol of power, but one Lord is greater in power than them all—and filled with a grace found only in him. South Asian Lutheran Evangelical Mission (SALEM), our sister church in Hong Kong, stands with us in proclaiming this truth.

I’ll miss the mission. I’ve had the chance to help nurture church leaders in East Asia. They endure much pressure from the outside as well as challenges from within. While Christianity is gradually on the wane in much of the world, seeds planted by many faithful workers continue to expand.

But will the mission miss me? I retired this past summer, and it made me wonder, Will they miss me? Will the work go on without a hitch? Deep down my human nature wants to believe things will slow down with-out me. I want to believe in my importance. But God doesn’t see things that way. And thankfully he doesn’t see me that way.

It has been so humbling to realize how little you actually accomplish in several decades. It’s also awe-inspiring how much God can do through the people he has chosen to use. To whichever continent God leads them, your missionaries share in this kind of experience. This is the shared experience of all who follow God wherever he leads them.

God makes sure that the mission won’t be lacking when one man retires. When God raises up a leader, he already has in mind the servant who will follow. We sow the seed. We water the new life that sprouts. We harvest as God pleases. And then another follows. Moses and Joshua. Paul and Timothy. Your retired missionaries are followed by new men with new gifts for a new age. And we all serve one Lord.

I’ll miss the mission, but she will go with me wherever I go. And God’s kingdom will come.

Author: Robert Siirila
Volume 107, Number 10
Issue: October 2020

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