April 29, 1975 was a significant day in history. It was the day that a young man named Bill arrived in Thailand with his wife and 2 daughters to begin their missionary career.
However, you're more likely to remember this date as the day Saigon fell to Communist forces, bringing to an end the long and painful conflict known as the Vietnam War. Because of this major political crisis, many people--including missionaries who served in Vietnam--fled the country to take refuge in nearby Thailand.
Naturally, Bill was confronted by these fleeing workers staying in the same hotel with many questions including why he would be bringing his family so close to danger, and when he was going to request a transfer to a safer part of the world. But Bill and his wife had no plans to leave the place where God had led them.
One by one, the retreating missionaries began telling Bill of all the things they had to leave behind. Some groaned about losing houses, cars, and libraries of books. Others grieved the loss of personal items like family photos and their children's favorite items. Many workers had to leave behind ministry resources such as seminary buildings, laboriously-planned policies, and training materials.
But one man had a unique answer to what he left in Vietnam. His reply was simply, "I left behind a few good men." He wasn't lamenting the loss of houses, personal belongings, or curriculum. He was simply focusing on the investment he made in some local fellows who were committed to bear the torch of the gospel to their own people.
Twenty years later Bill, representing humanitarian agencies overseeing development projects, had the opportunity to meet some of these men who had been left behind. These men had multiplied disciples and house churches to places missionaries never would have been able to reach. God used these faithful men to do His work in the absence of missionary support. All they had needed was a good grounding and the encouragement to run with the Holy Spirit leading them.
And now, over 40 years later, this unique story still stirs our hearts toward an incredible value in kingdom movements. As gospel servants, most of us begin with good intentions to bear much fruit. We reach out to people and bring the good news, and we enjoy watching them take gradual steps forward. We train them, but before we know it we become more and more focused on our methods and physical structures; indeed, we can truly get lost in the mechanics of ministry. The danger is that we inadvertently create a dependency on ourselves and our materials rather than giving away responsibility by investing to outward-focused leaders. When a crisis comes like that of 1970s Vietnam, the rug can easily be pulled out from beneath all we've built.
Let us ask ourselves, Who are the few faithful ones I'm investing in who are carrying on the work without depending on me? Am I investing in a few good men?