graveyard of missionaries; resistant belt

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The graveyard! Why would Christians want to talk about graveyards and death?

graveyard of missionariesChristians sometimes get the rap of being too happy for their own good. For example, have you heard the Christianese term happy-clappy? It refers to those Christians who always have a smile on their face and a song in their heart. And don’t even get me started on those bumper-sticker slogans such as “Too Blessed to Be Depressed,” and “Too Anointed to Be Disappointed.” I mean, come on. Even Jesus wept once in a while!

So maybe it’s a nice change of pace to learn that Christians have a slang metaphor involving the graveyard: “graveyard of missionaries.” And the origin of the term couldn’t be more serious. The term graveyard of missionaries originated in the late 19th century to refer to any of various parts of the world where missionaries regularly died from tropical diseases and from fatal encounters with the indigenous peoples of those places. If you were sent to one of these “graveyards of missionaries,” you knew there was a very good chance that you were going to die on the mission field from either sickness or violence.

Over time, and with the development of better medicine and with the gradual modernization of many parts of the world, it has become much less common for missionaries to die from diseases or violence while on the mission field (though, of course, it does still happen). Because of these changes, the term graveyard of missionaries underwent a change in meaning, and nowadays it doesn’t mean a place where missionaries die so much as a place where missionaries have a very difficult time achieving success in their mission work.

These two meanings of graveyard of missionaries, the literal “death” one and the figurative “difficulty” one, are represented separately by sense 1 and sense 2 in the definition below.

A second Christianese term, very similar in meaning to sense 2 of  graveyard of missionaries, is resistant belt. This is a fairly modern term, originating perhaps in the early 1980s, and it refers to those parts of the world that are “resistant” to accepting the gospel. In fact, missionaries most often use the term resistant belt to refer to those countries in the Eastern Hemisphere where the religion of Islam is deeply embedded in people’s social and cultural history.

Since resistant belt has a somewhat negative connotation, some missionaries don’t like to use it. A more hopeful alternative term, preferred by many missionaries, is 10/40 Window. 10/40 Window is a much more neutral term, simply describing the lines of northern latitude that a lot of these Islamic countries fall in. You will sometimes hear Christians say that they feel called to minister “in the Window” or that they spend a lot of time “praying into the Window.” Those terms certainly sound a lot more positive than someone describing their mission work as “scrubbing like the dickens at the resistant belt.”

What other terms have you heard for places where it is hard to evangelize or hard to do missions work?


graveyard of missionaries n. See various senses.
1. Historical. Any of various mission fields during the late 19th century and early 20th century where Western missionaries were commonly killed by diseases or were murdered by the indigenous people.
Some of the places that have been called graveyards of missionaries in this sense are: Burma; the West Indies; Sierra Leone; Mosul; Suriname; Africa; Liberia; western Africa.
1872 Baptist Missionary Mag. 52/6 o.s. (2/6 n.s.) (Jun.) 189 : Even in Arracan, the disappointer of hopes and the graveyard of missionaries, there was light. Mr. Ingalls went there in 1846. Soon there was one conversion. Then, one night in an inquiry meeting ten presented themselves for prayer—a rare thing indeed for Burmans. 1880 The Christian Treasury 441 : Fourteen brethren and four sisters had arrived to found a missionary colony at St. Croix, an island which Dober knew to be fatally unhealthy, and nothing but a rank wilderness. He looke dupon the colony as doomed to failure. A few months proved his fears to have been correct, as no less than ten of the settlers fell victims to the pestilential climate, and the rest had to take temporary refuge on other islands. It was many years before this “Graveyard of missionaries,” as Zinzendorff called it, became habitable, though now among the most flourishing and healthy of the missions in the West Indies. 1884 American Bookseller 16/10 517 : Our Missionary Heroes and Heroines, by Daniel Wise, D.D., contains sketches of the most devoted missionaries sent out by the Wesleyans. It narrates the thrilling adventures, sacrifices, and sufferings of the noble men and women who bear the banner of Christ into far-off lands…. Mrs. Casgill’s death after her toils in the Tonga and Fiji Islands, and of the numerous victims who laid down their lives in that graveyard of missionaries—Sierra Leone. The missions in Burmah, Japan, and India are also subjects of pathetic anecdotes. 1885 The Gospel in All Lands XI. 126 : It was because of the self-denying spirit of this noble missionary lived in the Wesleyan Church that it never lacked volunteers eager to go to that grave-yard of missionaries, Western Africa. 1889 Sunday School Times 31/9 (Mar.) 139 : William Frederick Williams went to Beyroot and in 1851 joined the “forlorn hope” which calmly and bravely faced the pestilential heats of the Tigris valley to re-establish the gospel in Mosul, graveyard of missionaries as it is. 1900 Beach Protestant Missions in South America 51 : The securing of a native ministry is the more imperative on account of the unhealthy climate of Surinam. The interior in particular has proven the graveyard of missionaries. In certain years epidemics of yellow fever have carried them off in appalling numbers. With great reason, therefore, the hope is entertained that men of African blood trained in the Moravian Theological Seminary at Buxton Grove in St. John’s, on the island of Antigua, may gradually replace the white agents in Surinam. 1901 Sunday School J. 33/1 (Jan.) 27 : Liberia Conference…. Many other missionaries followed and have been laid to rest in that “graveyard of the missionaries.” But Africa must be redeemed. 1903 Wells Into All the World 163 : About a third of Africa is Mohammedan—the most difficult of all religions to dislodge. A still greater impediment to missionary enterprise is the climate, which is the most unhealthy in the world. Africa is the graveyard of missionaries. About one hundred missionary societies are now working in Africa. Mr. Taylor, in his “Price of Africa,” takes only seven of these—all American societies—and gives a list of 190 of their missionaries that have perished in the Dark Continent, chiefly from the ravages of the dreaded fever. 1904 Missionary Rev. of the World 27/3 o.s. (17/3 n.s.) (Mar.) 172 : It strikes the reader as very sad, in reading this little book by Mr. Arnot, that there should be recorded the frequent death of missionaries—almost as tho every other page were occupied with a record of tragic deaths, and the consecration of others who step into the places so rapidly made vacant. Africa has earned its name: “The graveyard of missionaries.” Nothing would sustain the faith and courage of His servants were it not for the occasional and often frequent evidences of God’s mighty working. 1906 Missionary Rev. of the World 29/6 o.s. (19/6 n.s.) (Jun.) 410 : Already a costly price has been paid for the key to Africa’s arcana. To pierce her “unknown realm” over six hundred explorers have given life itself; and, within seventy years, seven societies have sacrificed nearly two hundred missionaries for Africa’s illumination. The Dark Continent has come to be known as the graveyard of missionaries, their average life on the field being but eight years. 1909 Mission Studies 27/4 (Apr.) 118 : Africa may or may not be the “graveyard of missionaries,” but certainly it has been the battlefield upon which many a Christian hero has won victories for the kingdom of God. 1914 Presbyterian Survey III. (Mar.) 220 : We are glad that you are willing to go out to the relief of the hard pressed force on the field, the field which has been called the “Grave yard of missionaries,” but remember there is no doctor there, and there is none in sight, nor is there a single hospital: if you get sick you must simply put your trust in God. 2008 Klauber, Manetsch, eds. The Great Commission: Evangelicals and the History of World Missions 80 : The Liberian mission never succeeded in its touted goals on the other side of the Atlantic. Emigrants died of disease within months of their arrival, confounding the hopes and prayers of many. West Africa became “the graveyard of missionaries.” 2009 Strom In the Presence of the Poor: Changing the Face of India 127 : Not many English men and women were willing to leave the cool climes of England for the steamy, hot, mosquito-infested jungles of India. It was mainly Christians who went. The opportunity to take the Word of God to people who had never heard the name of Jesus compelled them. In time, India gained a grim reputation as the graveyard of missionaries.
2. Any of various places where Western missionaries have encountered great difficulty in their missionary work. This sense is a figurative extension of sense 1.
Some of the places that have been called graveyards of missionaries in this sense are: Bihar; northern India; northern Italy; Japan; Africa; Morocco; France.
See also *graveyard of missions; *resistant belt.
1992 Albert Bihar: Church and People Groups 44 : continue to be highly resistant to the gospel. The efforts of the missionaries in the past got little or no response from the communities of North Bihar. Bihar is commonly called “the graveyard of missionaries.” … Not many missions have worked in Bihar especially in the northern districts. 1995 Eshleman The Touch of Jesus 133 : This part of the Bihar state had been known as the “graveyard of missionaries.” For several years, they worked there with no visible results. Everything they tried was opposed. The leaders in the area told people that if any of them believed in Jesus, they would not receive their monthly subsidy from the Indian government. 1999 McClung Light the Window: Praying Through the Nations of the 10/40 Window 10 : This phenomenal growth includes the northern states of this vast land [=India], which were once considered the graveyard of missionaries. 2007 Cook Mission-Minded Skits: Getting the Best Out of Teen Drama 9 : There is an area in northern Italy where Satanism is active, and the region is often referred to as the graveyard of missionaries. 2007 Spectrum XXXV. 9 : It is said half-jokingly that Japan is the graveyard of missionaries. So much effort and time have been spent on evangelizing Japan, but there has not been much of a harvest. Japan is considered the most difficult country to be evangelized apart from Muslim countries. 2009 Smith A Lover’s Quarrel with the Evangelical Church 199 : The influence of Christianity had not been widely felt in the northern part of the country [=India], and Bihar came to be known as the “graveyard of missionaries” because of the difficulty the church had in establishing a foothold there. 2009 Pierson The Dynamics of Christian Mission: History Through a Missiological Perspective 293 : Africa, once known as the graveyard of missionaries, continues to be problematic. On the one hand, the Church has grown to be very large. On the other hand, it is the continent where poverty, warfare, and political corruption seem to be endemic. 2011 Ma, ed. Korean Diaspora and Christian Mission 122 : Morocco has recently become a graveyard of missionaries as government officials identified and expelled the majority of the missionaries from Morocco in early 2010. The Moroccan government is determined to keep out all Christian influence. The evangelistic efforts in Morocco have been significantly curtailed as a result of the expulsions of the missionaries and the arrest and imprisonment of Moroccan believers. 2012 Manoli My Treasured Possessions 127 : There are more mediums than medical doctors in France. Several French believers told me shortly after my arrival: “France is known to be the graveyard of missionaries.” I was also told that the average endurance of missionaries was six to nine months after which they leave France. This was not an exaggeration, because during my long stay in France, I have witnessed the truth of this statement. In general, France is a tough mission field, but Paris is the toughest of all of France for several reasons. 2013 Kim The Pilgrimage to Heaven: How to Have Eternal Life and Enter Heaven 133 : Long-time foreign missionaries in Japan warned us that Japan is the graveyard of missionaries.
resistant belt n. Also resistance belt. Sometimes also resistant belt of Islam. An area of the world in the Eastern Hemisphere comprising many countries in which evangelistic and missionary efforts have had little success due to deeply entrenched traditions of Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism. In addition, in this area Christian missionary work and proselytizing are typically restricted or prohibited by law.
Resistant belt has largely been superseded by the term *10/40 window.
See also *graveyard of missions; *graveyard of missionaries.
1989 Bright, Jennings, eds. Unleashing the Power of Prayer: Messages from the International Prayer Assembly 209 : Islam, therefore, remains perhaps the greatest single challenge to the gospel in this generation. The concentration of Muslim populations is in the so-called “resistant belt” stretching from Senegal in West Africa, through North Africa, the Middle East, the Arabian Peninsula, all the way to Bangladesh and down to Indonesia. 1989 Bush “The 10/40 Window: Getting to the Core of the Core” (1990) : The core of the unreached people of our world live in a rectangular-shaped window! Often called “The Resistant Belt,” the window extends from West Africa to East Asia, from ten degrees north to forty degrees north of the equator. This specific region … has increasingly become known as The 10/40 Window. 1993 Church of God Evangel LXXXIII. 42 : Approximately 90 percent of these unreached people live in the 10/40 Window…. This area has formerly been called the “Resistance Belt” because of minimal or meager evangelistic response. 1995 Morris The High Impact Church: A Fresh Approach to Reaching the Unchurched 54 : The so-called “10/40 Window.” … This area is often called the resistance belt because it encompasses the majority of the world’s Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists—the “final blocs of resistance to world evangelization.” 1996 Van Rheenen, ed. Missions: Biblical Foundations and Contemporary Strategies 212 : Unreached peoples are generally resistant to the gospel. Bush himself calls the 10/40 Window “the resistant belt” of the world. 1999 Lang 1,001 Things You Always Wanted to Know About the Holy Spirit 434 : In the 1990s, evangelists and missionaries made it a priority to spread the gospel to this section, which has the lion’s share of the world’s unreached people. Some missionaries call it the Resistance Belt because of the anti-Christian bias of the Islamic nations and the more passive resistance of the Buddhists and Hindus. 1999 Outlook V. iss. 1–11 16 : India falls in what’s called the “Resistance Belt,” an area extending from West Africa to East Asia which is home to a majority of the world’s Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists. 2003 Phillips Exploring the Pastoral Epistles: An Expository Commentary 105 : The least evangelized countries, including communist China, are located in what is often called “the resistant belt.” It reaches all of the way from West Africa to East Asia and lies between the latitudes of ten degrees north to forty degrees north. 2007 Majid A Call for Heresy: Why Dissent Is Vital to Islam and America 42 : “Evangelical Christians [now] speak of the great missionary territory of the future as ‘the 10–40 window.’” This is the “Resistant Belt” of Islam. 2010 Tennent Invitation to World Missions: A Trinitarian Missiology for the Twenty-First Century 16n1 : The actual terminology of the “10/40 window” was not coined until 1989 when Luis Bush introduced the concept at the 1989 Lausanne II conference in Manila. When I was being trained, it was still called the “resistance belt.” 2012 Barnett, ed. Discovering the Mission of God: Best Missional Practices for the 21st Century 299 : As the search for hidden peoples began, a pattern emerged. The unreached peoples on earth lived in the same global neighborhood. They lived in countries perceived as resistant to the gospel. And in this global neighborhood, government authorities restrict travel and residence. Different names for this region evolved, including “resistant belt,” “unoccupied fields,” “restricted-access countries,” and “World A.”
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