Case Studies in Missions

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Case Studies in Missions
Paul G. and Frances F. Hiebert

Copyright © 1985 by Paul G. and Frances F. Hiebert

Republished 2009 by permission at


Preface 3

Using Case Studies in Missions 5

Idols and Ancestors 10

The Ancestral Feast

Greg Roth 12

Grandmother’s Funeral

Mamoru B. Ogata 14

A Wedding in the People’s Republic of China

David Wang 16

Family Gods

Paul G. Hiebert 18

Food Offered to Idols

Simon P David 21

The Neighborhood Celebration

Anonymous 22

Women and Men 24

The Law of Liberty Versus the Law of Love

Bobbie Pendell 28

Pastoral Counseling for an Abused Wife

Frances F. Hiebert 31

Wife Beating

William A. Benner 34

The Marriage Tangle

Gladwin Jaykar 36

Too Many Wives

Paul G. Hiebert 38

Adultery or Polygamy?

Stephen Asonibare 41

The Christian Polygamist

Samuel Nkulila 44

Love Him or Leave Him?

Evelyn Jensen 46

Onions and Wives

Roger David Heeren 48

Should Mrs. Leung Submit?

Ho, Kai-Ming 50

Traditional Customs 52

Can a Christian Celebrate Diwali?

Simon P David 54

Fit for the Kingdom?

Robert D. Newton 56

Banana Beer in Burundi

Nzohabonayo Ferdinand 59

The Communal Feast

Denis J. Green 62

To Drink or Not to Drink?

Dennis Teague 64

The Triumph of the Chiefmakers

Wilson Awasu 66

The Threat of the Spirit Dancers

Georgia R. Grimes 68

How Should Bashir Be Buried?

Syed Ratique Uddin 72

Sickness and Death 75

Nemon’s Death

Joanne A. Wagner 77

The Death of Manuel Vasquez

Larry W. Caldwell 79

What Is Wrong with Auntie Mansah?

Daniel Tei-Kwabla 82

A Sacrifice to the Goddess of Smallpox

Paul G. Hiebert 85

R. T. 87

Finances and Bribery 89

To Bribe or Not to Bribe?

Teg Chin Go 91

Elusive Justice

Keith Hinton 93

Fuel for the Water Pump

Anonymous 95

Bonanza or Black Market?

Paul G. Hiebert 97

The Price of Ordination

Anonymous 99

Conversion and Theology 101

Lily Liu’s Baptism

James Chuang 104

A Word for God

Paul G. Hiebert 105

A Group Conversion

Paul G. Hiebert 107

Conversion or Social Convention?

Paul G. Hiebert 109

When Baptism Means Breaking

the Law
S. J. Dhanabalan 111

Walls That Divide People 113

Peacemaker or Patsy?

Ron Priest 115

Unity and Diversity in the Church

Paul G. Hiebert 117

Conflict During the Lord’s Supper

Christopher John Singh 120

Caste Violence Among Christians

A. Raveentharan 122

Church-Mission Relationships 124

What Price the Gospel?

Carl K. Kinoshita 127

The Reverend Chu’s Decision

James Chuang 129

Partnership or Separation?

Richard C. Pease 131

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Jerry C. Wilson 134

The Authority Dilemma

Mark Danielson 137

West African Church

Dean S. Gilliland 139

When a Woman Should Be a Man

Frances F. Hiebert 141

Loyalty to Church and State 144

Christian Witness in Vietnam

Paul G. Hiebert? 146

Protest or Inaction?

Stuart Willcuts and Helena Eversole 148

The Buddha Pedestals

Lee-Lim Guek Eng 152

Summons by the Police

A. A. S. 154

Goodwill Guerrillas?

C. A. Guang 156


Paul H. Hiebert 159

Everyday Problems of Missionary Life 161

Cross-Cultural Marriage

Wen-An Andrew Su 164

Trouble with Servants

Matt Howell 167

Pastor Gopalan and His Hindu Parents

Vihari Hivale 169

Where Should Kathy Go to School?

Frances F Hiebert 171

Sex and the Missionary Kid

Dexter Teruya 175

Costly Compassion

Gary A. Glassco 178

Teaching Case Studies 180

Writing Case Studies 182


uch has been written about Christian missions in recent years. A great deal of the writing has been theoretical. This provides us with extensive discussions of the theology, history, and anthropology of missions. It wrestles with the problems of colonialism, contextualization, and religious pluralism.

Such general discussions are essential, for they provide us with the conceptual frameworks within which we do missions. But they often leave us wondering how we should apply their dictums to everyday life. Are missionaries neocolonialists when they assume positions of leadership in other lands, or when they hire servants to help in the home? Are national leaders selling out their own culture when they ask expatriate missionaries for advice? Is burning of incense at Christian funerals an inappropriate form of contextualization? May Christians beat drums or dance during their worship services? Missionaries now come from churches around the world-not only from the West-and they face many such cross-cultural situations. Like it or not, we live our lives on this level of making decisions in the context of specific historical and cultural situations. And many of our important decisions in this missionary context are made, not after long, careful deliberation, but of necessity on the spur of the moment when action cannot be delayed, or by a series of small decisions, no one of which seems important by itself.

Furthermore, few writers on missions deal with the many ordinary problems of daily living that take so much of the missionaries’ time. What kind of houses should they live in? Should they own a car? What kind of clothes should they wear? Where should their children go to school? Should they be paid in local currencies? Should they give tips to government officials, or are these bribes? These are pressing issues that missionaries cannot avoid, and the way they are resolved will have ripple effect over the whole of their ministries.

In seeking ways to bridge the gap between theory and practice, and deal with everyday problems, the Harvard Business and Law School pioneered work in the case-study method for those professions and established the Case Study Institute. The success of this method in helping people to deal with real-life situations led the Association of Theological Schools to advocate its use in seminaries. It was at one f the Summer Case Method Institutes sponsored by the ATS that both f us were introduced to the uses of cases as a teaching method. Earlier, when we were missionaries in India, Paul had used the case-research method as developed by E. A. Hoebel and K. N. Llewellyn at the University of Oklahoma. Now we began to see the importance of cases as a classroom tool.

Over the past seven years, we collected cases around the world. Many were written by missionaries and church leaders from different countries, who were studying at the School of World Mission, Fuller Theological Seminary. Others were contributed by students at the Union Biblical Seminary Pune, India. Still others came from the Hagai Institute in Singapore or from those who ministered in other parts f the world. It is to these writers-both those whose cases have been included and those whose cases were omitted to avoid repetition that we want to extend our heartfelt thanks. They have made us aware f the tremendous range of problems people face in cross-cultural ministries, and they have freely granted us time to explore details further with them.

We would also like to thank the case writers for the permission they have us to edit and publish their cases to fit the format recommended y the Case Study Institute. Much of this editing was done by Frances. lames and places have been changed in order to protect those involved. While these cases are based on historical events, their purpose not to examine specific events, but to deal with problems commonly faced by cross-cultural missionaries and national church leaders in Their ministries.

The writers and actors in the cases represent different theological and ethical positions. These do not always reflect our own positions. 1e present them as they were given to us, as they are representative of the different positions one finds in the church around the world. Because no generally accepted alternative has been found, we continue in traditional use of the male pronoun for God, although we believe that God is neither male or female.

There are many who helped make this project possible to whom we

would like to express our appreciation. In a special way we would like to thank the trustees of Fuller Theological Seminary, who granted Paul a sabbatical during which much of the work was completed. Our dear friends Jack Rogers and the late Glenn Barker introduced us to the Case Method Institute, and Jack helped make it possible for Fran to participate. Peter Chao and Mark Chan of Eagles Evangelism in Singapore lent us their computer at a crucial stage in the preparation of the manuscript. Above all, we want to give thanks to God for the privilege of learning from so many of God’s people working around the world.

We have a twofold purpose in presenting these cases. First, we hope that local churches will use them in order to learn more about the missionary task. As sending churches-whether in North America, Korea, India, or Africa-become more informed, they can pray and support more meaningfully the task of which they are an integral part.

Second, we believe that these cases can help prepare missionaries and candidates for their ministries. Cases by themselves do not provide an adequate training for missions. Added to biblical and missiological instruction, however, cases can help prepare missionaries for decisions they will face on the field.

We pray that these cases, by informing churches about the missionary task and making the ministries of missionaries and church leaders more effective, may bring glory to Jesus Christ.

Paul and Frances Hiebert

Pasadena, October 1986.

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