What is your legacy? Each of us will leave a legacy, the accumulated wealth of our lives, to those who follow after us.
Early American missionaries came to West Africa steaming across the Atlantic on ships. These men, women and their families willingly lived a candlelight existence in a modern world. They carried the gospel by firelight into the bush to find the lost villages, met with chiefs and established tabernacles among them.
Missionaries like Harold and Marge Jones who took their young family deep into the heart of Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso). They left modern medicine behind to reach unreached peoples. When their three year old daughter Peggy lay dying with blackwater fever they could only put their trust in the Lord to save her life. The Jones left a legacy in West Africa of creating space to grow a church planting movement.
Miraculously, Peggy recovered, and grew up dedicating her life to reaching the nations. She and her husband Bill Lasley arrived in Senegal in 1959 pioneering the work in Tambacounda. After working many long and hard days, waiting for any sign of a harvest, they cried out to God. Why had they come to Senegal only to find opposition and resistance. It was then that the Lord told them, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you,” (John 15.16). They stayed in Senegal and the Lasleys were the first missionaries with the Assemblies of God to lead Senegalese to Christ. They were the first to baptize those new believers. They were the first to perform weddings. They were the first to create space among the Serer people group and countless others.
Speaking with Peggy on the phone this month and hearing her story firsthand encouraged my heart. We are working in the space they made for us, the legacy they left for us. A common phrase we hear often is that we stand on the shoulders of giants and that is true, but it is only possible if those giants allow us to.
As we approach a new era in missions, as the world around us goes through a global culture shift, we must ask ourselves, like Bill and Peggy before us, like Harold and Marge before them, how are we changing to see the lost nations transfigured by the glory of Jesus?
I am reminded of the conquering king David resting in his palace (2 Samuel 7). Surveying the great favor God had given him over his enemies and the grand home he had been able to build. His heart became unsettled as he thought of the ark of God camping out in a tent. At the height of his success he called the prophet Nathan and told him his plans to build a temple for the Lord. Nathan was thrilled with the idea and encouraged David, but that night, as he listened to the voice of God, Nathan had to go back and deliver a different message to the king. Nathan had to go back and tell David that he would not build a house for God, instead it was God who would build a house for David, a royal dynasty, an everlasting legacy. David was a good king, but his legacy extended beyond himself and what he could accomplish by himself. The greater things were in the days to come!
David could have responded several different ways. He could have discounted Nathan’s words. He could have built a temple for God anyway. He could have dedicated himself to building up his own kingdom apart from God. David could have easily derailed his life and the legacy God had for him if he’d held on to his limited vision of the future.
Instead, David received the word of God from Nathan. He humbled himself and found a legacy sweeter and more profound than any he could have every asked or imagined. He dreamed of a Temple and the act of worship in its construction; but building the Temple wasn’t his worship to bring, but his legacy to leave for his son.
As Brandon Baldwin says, “We tend to overestimate what we can do in a year or two, and underestimate what God can do in ten or twenty.” We overestimate what we can accomplish alone and underestimate what God can accomplish through us together. The Lasleys baptized the first Senegalese believers in our fellowship, but they generously passed that legacy on to us. Bill and Peggy created space to grow a church planting movement and we share in their work. United in Christ we rejoice together!
Each of us will leave a legacy. What is yours?