BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe (BNc) — W.N. Short went to Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) as a missionary in 1921 and served there for 59 years until his death in 1980.
He wrote the following letter to a young missionary on April 25, 1965. They had met at a lectureship in Michigan in 1962.
Dear Brother Davison,
Your letter received some time ago, too long ago. What with company and work — but no need to offer excuses.
J.D. Merritt came to Africa in 1926 and is still here. S.D. Garrett came to Africa in 1930 and is still here. O.D. Bixler went to Japan in 1919 and is still there. Myself, came to Africa in 1921, still here, and hope to be the remainder of my life.
What is mission work? Is it a job, working for some concern? Is it a pleasure trip? Is it a holiday occasion? Or is it a life work for the Master to save souls?
Brother Sherriff came to Africa in 1897 and stayed here until his death. He did not have to run home every two years, making the excuse ‘health’. The wife and I stayed on the field for 17 years without a break. Brother and sister Scott stayed 20 years before he went back home. Then he returned to Africa and stayed until he was 80 when he passed away.
People are always saying, “But you must get away every two or three years for health.” I do not believe it. I believe that is only an excuse to get away.
Even in Nigeria where we are told you must get away every two years, I do not believe that either. Mary Slessher stayed there forty years without a break doing mission work.
Certainly if I do not have any interest in saving souls, two years is long enough, or five, or seven. But if I am interested in the souls that are lost, why should I try to run home every few years to save my earthly life? What do I love most? Earthly pleasures, my life, mother, father, children, possessions, worldly profit? Is that what I prize most? Or our Lord Jesus Christ and lost souls?
Certainly I know a few individuals are exceptions. But when these exceptions include three-quarters of the workers, there is something wrong.
The statement you heard, that five to seven years is as long as a man can do effective work in not true. The ripe years of a man’s life are some of the most powerful.
And why run home just because I might die on the field? Do people not die in the homeland? Is that a guarantee that I will live?
The task before us is tremendous. Then let us be at it, and stay at it, until the Lord calls us home. If we do not, I fear that dreadful sentence may be ours: Depart from me, I never knew you.
Wherever the Lord calls a man, there let him labor for the Master until his laboring days are done.
Please excuse the pen, my typewriter refused to work any longer.
May the Lord bless you abundantly.
In Christ, W.N. Short
The missionary to whom this letter was written was 24 when he received it, now he is 68. He had already determined that, Lord willing, he would dedicate his life to mission work. It seemed to him such a waste of resources that many missionaries went home just when they had learned the language and become familiar with the field.
The Lord gave him a good wife, Rita, who could share his dream. With help from the Lord, and from her, he has now been serving in the Dutch-speaking part of Europe for 45 years (2 years in Holland and 43 years in Flanders, Belgium).
Jim and Ruth Krumrei have been in Holland for 46 years. Doyle and Barbara Kee have been in Switzerland for 38 years.
May brother Short’s letter encourage others to dedicate their lives to world evangelism.
Update 2020: Doyle Kee passed away on January 25, 2019 at the age of 80 after serving as a missionary in Geneva, Switzerland for 47 years. Jim and Ruth Krumrei are still serving in Holland after 57 years. Roy and Rita Davison are still serving in Belgium after 57 years.
Roy Davison devotes himself to the gospel in Belgium, as well as being a part-time translator. He is the creator of the Old Paths websites (http://oldpaths.com).