Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Ugly Missionary #6: The Undercover M

I’m sorry for posting about ugliness here at the Koffi House. I do it for a purpose, however. I write these stories so that we will see what we should not be; how we should not think; and what we should not do. There aren’t any “old scores” I’m trying to settle. (Some of these stories will include my own actions.) Rather, I want us to evaluate and adjust, consider and repent, so that we will be effective missionaries wherever we are.

Brody loves a good suspense novel. The mafia. Corruption. Plot twists. Mystery. International espionage. Global politics and warfare. It is all good stuff. Brody enjoys the danger and adventure of such stories and the movies made from them. Deep down inside Brody fancies himself a courageous and “smart” undercover agent. He knows he could do the job.

Well, Brody is doing the job—kind of. He is a missionary in The Location. An undercover one, at that. No missionaries are allowed in The Location. Everyone tells young wannabe missionaries that visit the field as tourists: “If the government finds out you’re doing evangelism, you will be kicked out in 24 hours!” Oh, how this thrilled Brody! He would do it! He would dare to go where few others would tread. So that is what he did. Now Brody runs a handicraft business in The Location, sending boxes of small souvenirs to the US to be sold. But Brody is really an undercover missionary.

The only problem is that the government in The Location knows exactly what Brody is doing. And what is more, they don’t really care that much. Why? Because Brody is working in the capitol city where there is already a large Christian presence in the legal church. Most of Brody’s employees were already Christians when he met them. His Bible studies are small and consist of people who are already a part of the national Christian community. The nationals who are not Christians and join Brody’s group are mostly poor youth that the government doesn’t consider a threat.

But when you tell this to Brody it kind of peeves him. He bristles at the suggestion the government knows and doesn’t care. No, his work is dangerous, gosh darn-it! He could get arrested at any moment, put into prison, martyred or escorted to the border. And he has stories to prove it.

One morning Brody saw a policeman outside the gate of his house. “They’re watching me!” So Brody called his missionary colleagues and asked them to meet him at a local coffee shop. He wouldn’t dare mention anything about God, the government or persecution over the phone—they could be listening. When his friends gathered at the shop Brody had everyone take the batteries out of their cell phones. “The government can turn on our phone’s microphones from a remote location and listen in on our conversation. I’ve heard this was true.”

“We had a B.S. last week at my house. I was the only M there with several nationals. Perhaps we have an informer. We need to yarp.” B.S. is code for ‘Bible study’ and M means ‘missionary.’ Yarp is ‘pray’ spelled backwards. Brody would always speak in code to mask words with Christian meaning—even when in private rooms and cell phone batteries removed. “I think I’m going to have to move our B.S. to a new location. The police are on to me. If I don’t see you guys again, I just want you to know that it was all worth it!”

Brody goes a bit overboard. When you first meet him you kind of scratch your head. Then you are enthralled to hear of how many “close calls” he has had and how much danger he has braved. He is completely serious about all of his adventures. Then you realize that he is perhaps exaggerating the peril he has faced, and you find it somewhat humorous. Brody believes (and relates to others) every near-persecution rumor he has ever heard. Then, after hearing him talk over the course of years, you find it very annoying.

Brody views his missionary world as an imminently dangerous place where he is always on the verge of being persecuted, arrested or martyred. When the government tax collector comes around and asks for payment Brody sees it as persecution for being a Christian. He sees himself as a major player in this game of international intrigue. He wonders why the CIA hasn’t tried to recruit him yet. But then again, he did hear that comment from an embassy employee at the Fourth of July party softball game—“Brody, you’ve got to sacrifice yourself and grab that ball. Then send it right home to me.”

Brody wondered if this man wasn’t talking about diving for a softball and throwing it to the catcher at home plate to prevent the tagging runner at all. “No, he was talking about me risking my life to get some ‘intel’ and then feeding it to him. That’s how those guys recruit. He must really be CIA. I’ll have to yarp about that opportunity.”

The Location is in fact a “closed” country. But the government is not stupid. They know foreign Christians come to work here in businesses and NGOs. In fact, if you are European or American they assume you are a Christian—even when many are not. There is persecution against Christians and foreigners have been arrested and kicked out. But never for doing the kinds of things Brody is doing—small quiet Bible studies at his home in the big city. Those who have been kicked out are those who have done widespread Christian literature distribution, street preaching, or have been responsible for entire villages becoming Christians in the countryside. Missionaries do have to be smart here in the Location, but not as paranoid as Brody.

Brody’s supporters are inspired by him and the stories he tells of his adventures on the field. When he visits home they gather big groups of people to stand around him and pray for his safety. They compliment him for being so brave—so self-sacrificing. They applaud his heroism. Some of them call him Missionary Agent 007. Brody just smiles and soaks it all in.

“That’s M Agent 007,” he tells them.


  1. Maybe Brody SHOULD work for the CIA. He seems to fit the profile for a government employee. I used to work in the oil and gas industry. I spend a great deal of time filling out government paperwork. I'm not making a blanket statement here, but it seems that there are too many folks working for the government who derive a great deal of pleasure making "rich" oil companies jump through hoops. Sorry, bit of a tangent. Brody just reminds me of a lot of government employees who use any power their position affords them to inflate their egos.

  2. I don't much know what to say except that I feel a little less guilty for thinking some missionaries I've met might be exagerating their exploits a bit, and wondering how they can manage to convert anyone, when even I am skeptical about what they say, and I tend to be gullible. I've thought to myself "Man, if even I am doubting you, you may as well stay home..." Then I feel guilty because they are self sacrificing and I shouldn't be judging them because they are out there, even if they are "way out there..."

  3. @Katdish--I think Brody might work better as Mr. Bean in that James Bond spoof he did.

    @Helen--I am glad I can help you feel less guilty. :-) Seriously, I don't want us to pass judgement on missionaries (I'm not accussing you of that!) and my purpose in this series isn't to pass judgement. I do think it might be good to take them off a pedastal we have placed them upon. On one hand, missionaries need more accountability and not just get a free pass by those who don't know how to evaluate them. On the other hand, we must also realize that missionaries are humans with all the frailty and weaknesses we possess, and are in need of better pastoring and coaching to make them more effective.

  4. Mr. Bean.... THAT is funny Koffijah!