This Tuesday, allow me to introduce Kenneth Daniels, a former missionary with Wycliffe Bible Translators.
Ken was born in Africa to missionary parents. I could so relate to his story of praying to receive Jesus into his young heart during a frightening thunderstorm. (I prayed through every thunderstorm I experienced between the ages of about 5 and 12.) When Ken was a teenager, the movie Peace Child inspired him to prepare for missionary work himself and after years of preparation, he ended up in Niger as a linguist and Bible translator.
But Ken had lots of questions. And kept looking for the answers. He documents his struggles with the Bible's reliability in this chapter and with the whole issue of Biblical prophecy here. The account(s) of David and Goliath gave him particular difficulty. Needless to say, his wavering belief in the Bible did not make him a model member of WBT. In his marvelously honest and detailed book Why I Believed, Ken records some of his poignant prayers from that period when he still believed in God but had serious doubts about the accuracy of the Bible.
Ken and his family returned to the U.S. so he could spend time in counseling. His faith was temporarily restored, but he ended up resigning from Wycliffe and later embracing his atheism.
"It's so sad." This is the most common response I have heard from family, friends, and other interested believers upon learning of my loss of faith on the mission field.
I have been told that if I had embraced a slightly different brand of Christianity, I could have avoided coming down this path....Ken's experience feels so familiar to me. I, too, wanted to believe for many years. Like Ken, I was able to sustain it for a long time. I hear "It's so sad", as well.
But while losing faith in God is associated with some painful adjustments, the freedom to think honestly and to make choices fearlessly is an earth-shaking relief. I imagine slaves traveling north on the Underground Railroad. When they arrived on free ground, who would say to them, "It's so sad"? Indeed, they may have left loved ones behind and suffered on the journey, but the destination--a new life to be lived in freedom--was worth the price.