So Send I You...
Like to travel? Enjoy exotic foods and people? Want to have other people pay for you to live out your dreams? Do you love to live life on the edge of your seat, just waiting for the next adventure to start? Then try missions! What do you have to lose?!?!
If that was the missions pitch at your church this weekend, how many people do you think would sign up? Probably more than a missions agency could handle. While those exact words are not normally used during missions emphasis months, those expectations are held by more than people than you would think who express an initial interest in missions. No, I’m not saying that people who express a burden for missions are just in it for the adventure. I’m sure that they are experiencing a call they believe to be from the Lord. The reality that I am proposing is that there are some who begin their journey into missions based on an emotional high and hunger for sanctified adventure.
Now, the pendulum swings both ways. While some today may over market the adventure of missions, there was a time when the suffering aspect of missions was highlighted. In 1954, what would be considered one of the finest missionary hymns of the twentieth century was penned. That was when 22-year-old Margret Clarkson wrote the song “So Send I You”. For years to come whenever a missionary family was sent out by a local church, that song was sure to be sung. If you are not familiar with the original version of this hymn, here is a brief overview of its origin.
Clarkson grew up in Toronto at a time when jobs were scarce. In her earlier years, she found herself in the far north working in lumber camps and gold mines just to make ends meet. Reflecting on those early years in the far north she said that she experienced the deepest mental, physical, and spiritual loneliness imaginable. She found herself in an area where there was no bible teaching, Christian fellowship and only one or two scattered Christians with whom to engage. While studying through the 20th chapter of John, she came across the phrase, “so send I you”. Reflecting on her own loneliness and hardships, she drafted a poem that would later become the original version of the song we know today as “So Send I You.” Here are a few lines from the song.
So send I you to labor unrewarded, To serve unpaid, unloved, unsought, unknown, to bear rebuke, to suffer scorn and scoffing — So send I you, to toil for Me alone. So send I you — to bind the bruised and broken, O’er wand’ring souls to work, to weep, to wake, to bear the burdens of a world a-weary — So send I you, to suffer for My sake.
Encouraging right? While the words to this song are a reality experienced by many missionaries, they do not make the most attractive slogan for modern-day mobilization. It’s almost like going to a missions conference with this presentation:
Who wants to sign up to go to a foreign country where you don’t know anyone, don’t speak the language, and will feel like a child having to be taught how to do things like buy groceries? Sounds pretty awesome right? If that were the sales pitch at your church missions conference this year, I doubt anyone would be quick to enlist.
My family and I served as overseas missionaries for about 10 years. When my family and I were initially sent out to be missionaries in Liberia, West Africa, you guessed it, this song was slowly sung as we were heroically sent out. To be honest, for years I kind of hated this song. As a young missionary, I thought… well that is a bummer! Are my wife and I along with our 4 little kids really being sent out to unrewarded labor, unsought rebuke, suffer, scorn, and scoffing? I don’t remember all of that being in the brochure.
One thing that the song does well is it presents the reality that the unbelieving world is a harsh place to stand firm for Christ. But what Clarkson’s original version of “So Send I You” did not address was what was to keep a missionary on the field when faced with all of those harsh realities.
Those harsh realities are faced by missionaries around the world every day. When we arrived on the field, it was not as we had expected it to be. Our past experiences and romantic memories of missions trips are what helped to fuel the fire which helps us get to the field. But, once we arrived what we really needed was to learn what would keep us on the field now that we were there. Our family experienced pain, suffering, and hardships. What kept us? It wasn’t our love for the people. It wasn’t our love for the location. It wasn’t our enthrallment with having the title missionary. What would keep us on the field was our love for God and the knowledge that He had called us to serve for His glory and that He had placed us exactly where He wanted us. What encouraged us was knowing that it was by God’s grace that the ministry would triumph. Knowing Christ was the one who had conquered gave us the ability to boldly proclaim His Truth without fear.
In 1963, after gaining more life experience and contact with real-life missionaries, Clarkson saw that her poem didn’t tell the whole story of missions. She had focused only on the hardships and suffering of the missionary call but none of its joys and blessings. Clarkson decided that her original song needed to be updated so in 1963 “So Send I You by Grace” was released.
1963 version: So send I you — by grace made strong to triumph O’er hosts of hell, o’er darkness, death and sin, My name to bear and in that name to conquer — So send I you, My victory to win. So send I you – to take to souls in bondage The Word of Truth that sets the captive free To break the bonds of sin, to loose death’s fetters — So send I you, to bring the lost to Me.
This updated version is wonderful. It expresses the reality that we are to go as ambassadors for Christ boldly proclaiming HIs grace to the world. Clarkson expressed well the truth that God’s Word is the only Truth that sets captives free and breaks the bondage of sin. Even in the face of the hardest trials, Christ's name is proclaimed and the lost are pointed to Christ.
Are you considering missions? I hope you are. Are you considering becoming more active in your community for Christ? I hope so. If you are considering missions, let me do you this service and tell you that hardships, difficulties, and heartache awaits. It’s a reality with which you have to wrestle. The better reality to wholeheartedly embrace is that when we are sent out, we are sent out being strengthened by the grace of God, we are sent out armed with the inspired Word of God, and we are sent out bearing the name of Christ in whose presence darkness, sin, and death are overcome. Our love for God is what drives us to experience hardships, if necessary, to see His kingdom proclaimed. The gospel of Jesus Christ is beautiful. Christ is worthy of all glory and honor and the proclamation of His Truth is the core that drives ministry.
So Send I you to labor in God's vineyard. By God’s grace, we strive to seek the lost. When we toil for Christ, we never find ourselves alone. We are equipped by the Holy Spirit for battle and in Jesus' name, the victory is won.