Strong Gospel.

This past week, Angel and I had the opportunity to participate in a missions conference at Mitchell Road Presbyterian Church in Greenville, South Carolina. Missions conferences are really amazing times. They offer you the opportunity to meet people who serve all around the world, seeing first-hand how Christ s building His church. I wanted to share a story that was told by one of our fellow missionaries who was participating in the conference. My motivation in sharing this are two fold. I want to encourage you by the power of the good news that we proclaim and to record this for my recollection years later.Hopefully I can properly recall all the details that Tohrue Inoue shared about his experiences in South Sudan.



How strong is the gospel that you preach?

In the village of Malakal in South Sudan, a few missionaries took refuge under the bed for the better part of 10 days as opposing forces battled for control. This conflict did not pit Muslims against Christians. This conflict was taking place along tribal lines. The conflict has become quite brutal and widespread. In the village of Malakal, control of the village changed hands 6 times.

As these missionaries hid under the bed, listening to the conflict erupt outside and praying that the fighting would cease, they sought comfort in the Bible and in an old hymn book that happened to be close by. As they sought out a comforting song, they came across a Christmas classic. They were continually drawn back to this hymn, reciting it over and over. How fitting it was for these circumstances…

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

     During a lull in the conflict, the trapped missionaries were able to evacuate to the safety of Kenya. As they gathered to talk about what had happened, their thoughts turned to some friends who were left behind. Tohrue reached for his phone and dialed the number for Rachel, a member of their church in Malakal. After a couple of rings, Rachel answered her cell phone with a hushed voice. She said, “I can’t speak any louder because the rebels may here me. They are outside of my house now. I need to go!” She hung up.

     Out of fear of alerting the rebels by calling back, the gathered missionaries began to pray for the safety of Rachel and the other people of Malakal. The next day, Tohrue attempted to contact Rachel. This time, a man answered.  He claimed to know nothing of a woman named Rachel. All attempts to communicate with Rachel or any other members of the church there were unsuccessful.

     A few weeks later, while visiting a UN refugee camp in South Sudan, Tohrue and his fellow missionaries were excited to find Rachel alive! After the joy of the reunion, Rachel began to recount her experiences. She had been attacked by a rebel soldier, probably the same man who had answered her phone. She had been abused and then discarded. When the opportunity presented itself she made her escape, fleeing her home village. As she moved through town, she passed friends and family who were left in the streets where they were shot. Rachel shared that one of the hardest decisions that she ever had to make was to leave these people where they laid.

And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

How strong is the gospel that you preach?

     In the face of unspeakable atrocities, how strong is the gospel that you preach; that I preach? Rachel had lived through unspeakable cruelty. Maybe the greatest cruelty of all was that her attacker had shed his uniform and sought refuge within the same UN camp as the survivors of the attack on Malakal. On a regular basis, Rachel was confronted by the presence of her attacker. Rachel though, trusted in Christ’s mighty gospel. She believes in a gospel of reconciliation.  As Christ chose to reconcile sinners, so likewise Rachel chose to share reconciliation with her attackers. To the amazement of the gathered missionaries, Rachel led the charge for forgiveness and reconciliation… light was shinning out of the gathering darkness.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Till, ringing singing, on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men!

    On an earlier occasion this month, I was honored to hear a sermon by Dr Henry Krabbendam. Dr K is a retired professor at Covenant College in Chattanooga and is one of the foundational workers in Ugandan outreach and evangelism. In finishing his sermon, he closed with two simple but powerful statements. 1) Christ died for propitiation. 2) We die for propagation. So simple a statement, but it took hearing of Rachel’s heart for Christ to make me fully understand it’s meaning. Rachel had “died”. She had died to self so that she could live for Christ. I pray that the gospel that I preach will be as strong as Rachel’s.

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