Since childhood, most of us have heard a parent, family member, friend, or boss ask us a four word question when we arrived late on the scene: “Where have you been?”
Several years back I read about George Stadsklev, a missionary in the West African country, Ivory Coast.
George Stadsklev was working hard to complete a building before the rainy season arrived. During the construction, a woman from a distant village approached him and said, “I am told you are a man of God.” She then insisted that Stadsklev return with her to the village.
She declared, “We’ve been waiting for you for many years.” George informed her that he would be delighted to come once they had finished the building. She then replied, “All right, I will wait for you.”
A local man explained that culturally what she meant by this was that she would live in George’s home with him until he was ready to make the 30 mile journey to her village. This revelation, coupled with the woman’s urgency, caused George to break away that day and go with her.
When he arrived at her village, George was introduced to a village elder who asked him, “Where have you been these many years?” George said, “What do you mean?” The old man explained that many years earlier, someone in their village had gone to a neighboring town, where he had heard a Christian missionary. The man became a Christian, and the missionary told him to return to his village, tell the people to burn their fetishes, and to build a house of God. “And soon,” the missionary said, “someone will come and tell you more about God’s love.”
The man returned to his village. The people burned their fetishes. They built a house of God. The old man said, “We waited and waited, but no one came. The house of God became old and fell down, so we built another, and we kept waiting.” He explained that this had happened several times.
He pointed to the little church building and said, “This is the fifth house of God we have built.” George, knowing the materials and construction techniques these people used, realized that each church would have lasted about five years. These people had been waiting for more than twenty years for the promise of the missionary to be fulfilled.
George stayed for two days, teaching them about God’s love in Jesus Christ, and he promised to return as soon as the building in the other village was finished.
Before George left, however, the village elder insisted that George accompany him to the cemetery. He pointed to grave after grave, saying repeatedly, “Where have you been? So many have waited. So many have died. Where have you been?”
Can you hear this haunting refrain from unreached people in unreached people groups around the world? Like one of Scrooge’s ghosts, their voices call out to the church today. “Where have you been? So many have waited. So many have died. Where have you been.”
At this Christmas season, may God remind us once again that we are all debtors to the unevangelized around the world, as Paul says in Romans 1:14.
Emmanuel, God with Us, has come. His name is Jesus. How can we not give, go, and pray on behalf of those who have never heard the gospel?
When we stand before the Lord in eternity, may we never have to hear the words from an unreached people group, “Where have you been?”
In that day, may we never have to hear from our Lord’s lips “Where have you been?”