Striking thought from Ross Paterson's seminar on China's minority people groups:
He says that the temptation is to organise our lives to accomplish seeing and experiencing as many things as possible. Or to organise it so as to maximise my potential, self-worth or ambitions. I know that temptation. Its a packed world, so many places to see and things to do. Ross' comment is that people who live like this never commit long term large portions of their life to any one thing for fear of missing out on something else. Therefore the cause of world missions is greatly damaged because there are so many places in the world where it is only possible to have an impact for Jesus by long term (sometimes life long) loving and relating well to people.
That means people committing long term to following God to difficult places where there might be little visible fruit for years or lifetimes. But with a confidence that God will produce it out of that foundation being laid, be it generations later. Ross said "how are people ever going to hear if nobody is there to tell them?"
I want to go one step further. Its not just in global missions outside of the UK or to unreached peoples that the principle holds. Reaching people here is essentially and always a matter of long term relationships and love. I grew into ministry through student missions which sometimes made the mistake of thinking that because people's terms as students are short, and because it is possible to see people turn to the Lord quite quickly, that the evangelistic task is complete when we have spoken to people for a short period of time. This of course effects how you see training for missions. Its easy to turn it from a matter of love and relational witness with people who we really care about, into a matter of learning to communicate the right truths in efficient and persuasive ways. (don't hear me wrong - I am a big fan of apologetics training)
At the heart of evangelism is love - first for God, then for people. Its only love that overcomes fear, desire for respectability. And only love that drives people to go difficult places for the long haul. I honour and am in awe of friends who are much further on in loving God and people like this than me (that's you Josie and Mark Plummer!), and badly need to learn from them.