Why Do Mission Work?

David S. Parsons, MD


I would like to tell you about a life changing experience.  But before I do, I would like to tell you a brief story of my life, and why I needed…

“a life changing experience.”


Like many of you, I grew up attending church.  When I became a husband and a father, I continued that tradition, not because of my faith, but because it just seemed like the right thing to do. 


I experienced some interesting successes in my life and soon began living life in the fast lane.  I loved it.  It was fun.  As you can imagine, my faith… well… it went to sleep.  Then I ran into the fabled brick wall, and I learned what failure was all about.  I was miserable. 


That is when three friends, who did not know each other, changed my life.


The first friend invited me to a men’s Bible study.  The second friend took me to a retreat called “A Walk to Emmaus.”  I almost always said “no” to such invitations because of my religious skepticism, but I was in such need that I said “yes.”  Both of these events were vital in my building a deep and personal relationship with Jesus Christ. 


But what I really want to tell you is where the third friend led me…  to taking my skills to the Third World as a missionary.


At the same time I started in Bible study and the Walk to Emmaus, I was asked to go to a rural, impoverished village in central Mexico.  I’m a surgeon, so what I am about to tell you may seem like it doesn’t apply to you… but listen carefully.  You may be surprised.


Our team to Mexico consisted of 100 people: 50 were medical – 50 were just nice helpful volunteers.  We used all sorts of people… nurses, dentists, dental hygienists, pharmacists, technicians-of-all-types, mechanics, truck drivers, electricians, homemakers, and people with Spanish language skills. 


There were only two requirements to go:  1) at least 12 years old, 2) had to be a nice person!


We worked as a team with three primary goals.  The first goal was to build relationships with the Mexican villagers. 

How do you do that when you don’t speak the Spanish?  Smile.  In fact… you need to smile a lot. 


The second goal was to offer something they wanted… quality medical care.  We created huge long waiting lines for the free medical care and that allowed us to accomplish our third but most important goal… evangelism.



The long lines gave a captive audience for our Spanish speaking missionaries to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to people who had never heard it before.


What did I learn?  Let me tell you three things I learned.  First, you don’t have to go to the Third World to be a missionary.  Next, you don’t have to have a specific technical expertise.  The third lesson I learned was about evangelism.


Evangelism is not standing on a soapbox pounding a Bible.  I already mentioned what it is.  It is building relationships.  And it is showing love.


Perhaps I can best tell you about showing love by telling you two reasons why a person might go on such a trip.  


The first is a desire to offer humanitarian service.  This is an excellent motivation to get you out of your comfortable environment and into an area of the world desperately in need of help. 


But what is the underlying motivation for humanitarian serve?  It is love… love of your fellow man… love of those less fortunate than you.  This is admirable, and good, and a wonderful reason to serve.


The second reason to go to the Third World is spiritual.  Jesus told us that “all the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  The first commandment is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your strength.”   The second is to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 


The action verb of both statements is love.  Interesting… both the humanitarian and spiritual reason for going to the Third World is the same… Love!  There is no doubt about my personal motivation in doing mission work.  It is the same… to show and share love.


But how do you do that?  Let me read a scripture known to most of you.  Matt 5:16  “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your father in heaven.”  Hmmm…That is simply letting His light shine through you by the way you live your day to day life.  It is by the way you act, and by the way you react.


I told you that you don’t have to go to the Third World to be a missionary.  But I also learned that you don’t have to go to the Third World to be an effective evangelist.  In fact, the very best evangelism is done in your own backyard...  by building relationships and letting others see Christ in you.


Going to Mexico as a short-term missionary changed my life in more ways than you can ever guess.  The most important change in my life was that I finally understood what having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ was all about.  Phrases like “accepting Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior” never really meant anything to me, until this experience. 


I would love to tell you the passion I now have for Jesus, but my words are truly inadequate when I try to express the way I feel about Him.  You just have to look into my heart to know how deeply I have come to love Jesus Christ.


Going to Mexico was a true life changing experience.


I just returned a few days ago from my 8th trip to Vietnam.  The first was not for mission work.  I was there as an American fighting man in 1969-70.  But the next seven trips were specialized medical education opportunities where we went into the major medical hospitals to teach-the-teachers about modern medicine and surgery. 


But the goals are still the same as I learned in rural Mexico.  1) Build relationships, 2) give them something they want, which in Vietnam is modern medical education, and 3), which is again the primary goal, evangelism. 


 Evangelism can’t be Bible pounding in a communist country.  That is illegal, and when you are an American in a communist country, you don’t want to do anything that illegal. 


In fact, it is illegal for us to even mention Jesus or our faith in public.  But how often do you mention Jesus or your faith from a lecture podium in the USA?  To be honest, it is very rare that we ever do that.  So we evangelize in Vietnam the same way that we would do it in Simpsonville, South Carolina.


Let me explain.  First, we work hard on building a friendship.  Our platform for friendship building is our work.  In my case, it is teaching medicine.  We work on building a trusting relationship where they respect what we have to say. 



That respect allows us to gain credibility with them.  And that leads to our being able to share our lives with them.  You may how do you do that.  Your most effective evangelism tool is your own story.  The story of your walk. 


There is no question that they begin to see something in us that is different from other international teachers that come to Vietnam, and they begin to ask the “why” questions.  Why are you here?  Why do you want to help us?  Why are you different?


We are allowed to answer questions, and that is when we can share Jesus Christ in our lives.  You see… evangelism is simply building a friendship.


In the evenings, I invite the Vietnamese doctors to be my guest for supper…  one-on-one… building a friendship… and answering their “why” questions.


Among my American friends, I have developed a reputation.  They call me a “recruiter.”  Perhaps it is true because in three months I will lead a team of 70 medical professionals from all over the USA to do the same things in Havana, Cuba that we have been doing in Vietnam. 


But I don’t ever intend to recruit anyone to the mission field.  I simply am overflowing with the love that Jesus has given to all of us, and I am enthusiastic about telling everyone about the joy of serving Him. 


If any of you ever have an interest in having your life changed, and you would like to join us in Mexico, or Vietnam or Cuba, just let me know. 

But I hope you’ve learned from what I have said that you don’t have to go to the Third World to be a missionary or an evangelist.  The job is every bit as important right here in Simpsonville, South Carolina. 


You may be the only Bible some people will ever see.  Make sure that when they look at you, you let your light shine before them, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.     Amen