The Expendable Crewman

When we were younger, my siblings and I loved to listen to Adventures in Odyssey. In one of the episodes, Connie starts a kids’ radio show which is a spoof on Star Trek. One of the characters in the episode is the “expendable crewman”. We laughed because we all know it’s true – every show has them: the character that you don’t get to know very well who gets eliminated at the first sign of danger.

So, when this quote by Nate Saint came up in our Sunday School lesson a few weeks ago, it struck me: “The way I see it, we ought to be willing to die. In the military, we are taught that to obtain our objectives, we have to be willing to be expendable. Missionaries must face that same expendability.” Missionaries expendable? Aren’t missionaries essential to God’s mission?

As humans we naturally see our own perspectives and our own lives most clearly, so we also naturally don’t see ourselves as expendable. We think, “Of course I’m not expendable. If I’m out of the picture, the story ends.” In reality, our lives are only a small part of the story.

As Christians, we can recognize that we are part of a spiritual battle which is much larger than our individual lives. It rages whether we live or die. Do we trust our General enough to place us strategically, though we may not appear to be an important part of the battle?

Growing up reading missionary stories, I always dreamed that I would be one of these “great” missionaries, doing great things for God. As I read about them from an adult perspective, I realize that they didn’t know they were great. The only thing they saw was God’s mission, and they toiled forward, often seeing very little fruit. Amy Carmichael said, “Missionary life is simply a chance to die.” They considered themselves expendable, and only later was it revealed that they were a main part of the battle.

For myself, I have considered this as my life circumstances have caused dreams of greatness to fade. Will I accept a position in the battle that seems less glorious? Will I toil forward where God has placed me? I am learning to accept with joy the directives of my commanding officer. “Yes, I will serve you here! I will take whatever position you have placed me in, and I will devote myself to your mission.”

So maybe the expendable crewman isn’t so bad after all. And in that episode of Adventures in Odyssey? The expendable crewman saves the day.