EDITED – If you are interested in helping this family, a GoFundMe account has been set up. Click HERE.
When we departed for Liberia, West Africa in 2012, we had an understanding of the risks. Our family was moving to an area that was 3-hour drive from any other missionaries. We would be living in an old mission house that sat on a hill that was considered to the “Devil’s Hill” due to wicked practices that took place before the first missionaries arrived. Nobody else would live on the hill and many of the villagers would avoid it, especially at night.
To make matters worse, we lived in the heart of what had been rebel-held territory during a very brutal 14-year civil war. The war claimed the lives of approximately 10% of the population of Liberia. The ramifications of that war, which ended around 2004, are still being felt today. Violence and vulgarity were constant reminders of what surrounded us, and ex-rebel soldiers surrounded us on every trip into town.
Our plan involved spending 4-5 years in the jungle training pastors and starting churches. However, that was cut short when one of my 6 year old daughters and I became deathly ill. There were nights that we thought she would not make it until morning and times like that really make you consider your priorities. A few days later, I spent my first night in a mission clinic being tended to in highly unsanitary conditions. As my fever and delirium grew, I would learn later that another pastor had entered the clinic the same day with the same symptoms. Three days later his wife and family buried him.
Less than three months later, I was diagnosed a second time with a completely different strain of both typhoid and malaria. Much of the time is but a dark cloud over my mind, but I remember the times of pain. The chief physician at the Firestone Plantation hospital informed me that my immune system was shot and I needed to get out of the country. If I did not, my next time would probably be my last.
Heartbroken, we began to make the arrangements to return to the USA. I was leaving behind what I loved, but I still could not help but wonder why I had lived when others had died.
The following year, a severe epidemic of Ebola broke out in the area of villages where we lived and thousands died. During that epidemic, I lost some pastor friends and their wives to the disease.
Since then, I continue to keep my finger on the pulse of the missions world, and the news that I read yesterday brought some painful memories to my mind.
The day started with an email from one of the brothers I trained in Liberia. We had been praying for God’s will to be done in regards to the health of Pastor Harrison Margai. He was the pastor of a brand new church that had been planted in an unreached village. The email informed me that this man had closed his eyes in death and left a wife and children.
Later that day, I read the news of what took place with another missionary in Cameroon, West Africa.
Charles Wesco, a Baptist missionary from Indiana, had surrendered his life to serve the Lord. In particular, he and his wife believed they had been called to minister in the country of Cameroon. After raising funds, they departed just over 2 weeks ago and began the process of settling into their new home with their eight young children.
Yesterday, another missionary was taking this man into town for some supplies. A situation erupted between a separatist faction and Cameroonian soldiers. In the crossfire, a “stray” bullet crashed through a car window and entered the head of Charles Wesco.
In a matter of minutes, this man who loved the Lord went out into eternity. Immediately, the news erupted along with the comments. I read several that were hateful, but some extended sympathy. I finally had to stop as the comments began to infuriate me.
The bottom line is not that this man gave his life needlessly. The bottom line is that God is and always will be sovereign. For reasons that may never be understood, this brother in Christ never planted a church, nor saw a Bible Training institute started in Cameroon. This family is devastated as they face a new life. Soon, they will return back to the US and will try to pick up the pieces. Questions will be asked, and many will never be answered.
Today, many hearts are breaking and while I have connections with others who knew this family, I did not ever have the privilege of meeting them myself. However, I know that one day I will, but before that day comes, this brother has already gone to his reward. He was welcomed with the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
We could ask, why, why, why, but it would do no good. There is nothing wrong with seeking the face of God and asking Him for understanding. Where we tend to go wrong though is when we want to question His sovereign purposes. We cannot find fault with the Almighty, but we can learn to trust in His grace and mercy.
In a village close to where we lived in England, there is a cemetery. In the cemetery, a tombstone tells the brief story of a young pastor who lost his infant son and his wife. In the tragedy, this man had inscribed the following words on the tombstone.
“We cannot Lord, Thy purpose see,
But all is well, that’s done by Thee.”
Through what is a tragedy to human eyes, we pray for strength and extreme comfort to be provided to this dear sister, their eight young children, and extended family, friends, and church members.
For those who know the Lord, the Bible is clear that when we become absent from this body, we are forever present with the Lord. The apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonians and told them to not only find comfort in these thoughts, but to comfort others as well.
May His will be done and may all find peace through this time of turmoil. Our prayers also go out for the people of Cameroon that they will one day learn of the Prince of Peace, who alone brings salvation.
Brethren, Pray For Me
2 Thess 3:1-2 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you: And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith.
One thing that is hardly addressed these days is the desperate need of prayer for pastors and missionaries. These men are in the forefront of the spiritual battle. We see so many fall to the wayside due to many reasons both physical and spiritual. Sometimes, they give in to the pressure of being told not to stand for the truth, maybe they become afraid in the battle, or grow weary because of the fight. Maybe they have been ill used by the congregation and their very soul is tattered and torn, maybe they struggle against sin or a specific sin, maybe their family is falling apart and they feel overwhelmed by everything going on, or maybe they are in a deep depression at this point.
Yes, we can all feel those things at one point or another yet how few people realize the tremendous pressure these men are under. They are in the front line of fire, spiritually speaking, and there is much they have to endure that most wouldn’t allow. A lot of people in the congregation think that because they pay the pastor or missionary that he has to obey them in everything. Don’t get me wrong as I believe in accountability but the people don’t own the heart and soul of the pastor and missionary. God owns their soul and is the One whose will should be followed completely and wholeheartedly.
Preaching in the right spirit and with all a person’s heart is quite similar to a day’s work. It’s easy to complain that the pastor doesn’t do anything but a person who says that hasn’t watched a true pastor give himself up in his preaching.
Brothers and sisters, pray for your pastor. Pray that he will stand true to the Word of God and do what’s right regardless of the cost. Pray that his heart will be touched by what he studies and that the Holy Spirit will speak to him, first, then speak through him when he preaches. Pray that his heart will be renewed day by day. If he has a secular job as well as the ministry, buckle down and pray the Lord will give him strength for both positions. It’s not easy on a pastor to work, take time out for his family, and do what he needs to do for the family of God. Pray also for the health of the pastor who works as he will very seldom get time off.
Brothers and sisters, pray for the missionaries. Pray the same thing for the missionaries except they need added encouragement when they live in a different country. There will be culture shock on their parts and will need extra grace to adjust.
One more thing, pray that the Lord will cover both pastors and missionaries with His cloak of protection. May they each stand firm and do the Lord’s will. A strong man of God will mean one who’s ready to follow the Lord and guide his ministry in the way that they should go but a weak man of God means his ministry will fall into apostasy.
At DefCon, we holistically support men who support their families. Men who make discipleship and love a priority for the home. The home is one of the central building blocks for a society, and the marriage is the sun by which everything in the home orbits. Having said this, there are many priorities that pastors, open air preachers, and everyday christian men have that may sometimes burden us. We can become anxious, stressed, and overwhelmed with the multiple obligations that we are to tend to. And yes, wives are included in this list of feelings. And the one thing that is not helpful are Christian cliches like, “Your wife is your first ministry.” It has a nice ring to it, and for the most part it is well meaning, but it does not properly convey the responsibilities and obligations a Christian may face on a day to day basis. It has also been abused by certain preachers that wish to exclude certain men from ministry.
I have attached a blogtalk episode that I and a pastor friend of mine recorded about this topic. My hope is that we would all take into consideration the biblical model of men not just in ministry, but just being men in general. All the material discussed in this episode may or may not reflect all the views of contributing bloggers here at DefCon. Here is the narrative and link of the episode below.
“On this exciting episode of G220 radio, George will be joined by Pastor Tom Shuck from Pilgrim Bible Church. Pastor Shuck is a graduate of Master’s Seminary and Columbia Evangelical Seminary and was a missionary to India for 12 years. He holds both a Masters of Divinity (MDiv.) and a Doctorate of Ministry (DMin.). He has been a pastor of Pilgrim Bible Church for 4 years and helped start a seminary in India as well as planted a church there. He enjoys sports, music, family trips, and George’s personal favorite, linguistics. He has evangelized in cities like Oakland, Orlando, Mumbai, Pune training believers how to evangelize, preach the gospel, and make disciples. His wife is Lisa Shuck and two children.”
“This episode we’ll explore the cliche “Your wife is your first ministry.” Is it Scriptural? Are there other primary biblical responsibilities? Can you make ministry your idol or mistress? What should a man who is called to preach do with this kind of cliche? What about missionaries and evangelists of old that we look up to that sacrificed much, even their marriages, for the gospel? What about Matthew 22:35-40, 1 Corinthians 7:32-34, Ephesians 5:22-33, and 1 Timothy 3:5?”
-Until we go home
Long time readers will know that I have had a love for the people of Liberia for many years. In fact, I have been involved with Liberia longer than I have been writing for Defending Contending. The older I become, it seems the faster the years go.
Nine years ago, I was recovering from a debilitating illness while pastoring in England. I was contacted by a man who later proved to be a scammer. However, it was not until I had flown from England to the steaming jungles of West Africa that I realized that I was in a very dangerous situation. Still, the Lord showed His grace and love and protection. During that trip, I was brought to love these Africans who were, and still are, in need of a Savior.
Many of you also know that our family moved to Liberia in 2012 only to have to return six months later. It was supposed to be a permanent trip, but one of my daughters and I contracted a severe case of malaria. I actually contracted malaria and typhoid two different times in less than three months.
During the intervening years since our return, I often wonder what our lives would be like had we been able to remain. We could have been there during the outbreak of Ebola which claimed the lives of several thousand including some Christian brothers and sisters that we personally knew. We could have been there for the first baptisms that took place in the villages of Foloblai and Tamayta where we started two mission works. We could have been there when Cyrus Smith began his first work in the village of Dentaa. We could have been there when the first Biblical marriages took place. There are many things we could have seen and been involved with.
However, today the work that God graciously, and in His sovereignty, only allowed us to plant seeds for continues to flourish and grow without the white missionary. The Bible Institute of Church Ministries still continues to train jungle pastors to teach the people of their village churches. Baptisms continue to take place as testimony is shared of the saving grace of God. Lives are still being changed. Another church plant is getting ready to take place under the guidance of Cyrus Smith.
The short time in Liberia still makes a difference in our lives today. We are thankful for every experience — the dangers, the lack of food and provisions at times, the fellowship of fellow missionaries who had no idea what we had or didn’t have, the prayers of family and friends through the dark nights when death was so close at hand, the village chief (Cyrus Smith) who surrendered all and became my Timothy, but most of all, the privilege of having served the Lord in a country where so many still need the Lord.
My prayer is that you will enjoy these pictures. They are not the best quality, but they represent a work that grows despite all the opposition. They represent part of my heart, but more importantly, these pictures show a Church and Bible Institute growing to the glory of God.
The world undergoes change every single day. Some changes are for good, but many prove to be detrimental at best. This last week has produced many noteworthy events.
1. Cyprus has decided that every person who has a bank account should forfeit amounts up to almost 10% of what you own. This has transpired because of greed and poor fiscal management within the government.
2. Obama is making a trip to Israel but has no expectations that they will accomplish anything.
3. North Korea continues to rattle sabres and threaten the world with destruction through the use of possibly a single nuclear weapon.
This and more dominates the headlines in our newspapers, but the one aspect that many might have missed took place in Rome. No, I am not talking about the election of a new pope. That was an expected event. No, I am not talking about the election of a new pope from someplace outside of Europe. That was also expected to a large decree especially considering that 40% or more of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics come from Central or South America.
What caught my attention was some of the first words from the first ever pope that hails from the ranks of the Jesuit order. Before we speak about those words though, a brief history lesson might be in order.
The Jesuits were founded by Ignatius Loyola of Spain. He was from a noble family and after founding the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), he would ultimately become the order’s Superior General.
Further, the Jesuits were the primary tool used by the Catholic Church during the Spanish Inquisition to persecute and murder tens of thousands of true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. This order has long been held as the military arm of the Roman Catholic system.
The Jesuits sought to “evangelize” the world by subjecting entire countries through whatever barbaric means possible to the teachings of Rome. The Bible was deliberately kept from the people and even many priests knew little more than the doctrines with which they had been indoctrinated in their training. Anybody caught reading or studying the Scripture for themselves was subject to torture on the rack or other brutalities up to and including outright murder.
Through fear of physical harm to the body, as well as the teachings that enslaved the spiritual soul of men and women, the Jesuits were instrumental in ensuring that the Roman Catholic system would have a steady influx of funds and wealth for her coffers.
When soldiers sent from the courts of Europe “discovered” the New World, they came with a show of arms and required the local populations to accept the heresy of Rome at the point of a sword. Women and children were sexually abused, some were tortured, while many would be put to death – ALL in the name of Jesus Christ. The priests leading the charges were in many cases from the Society of Jesus or Jesuits.
What a way to evangelize! Will you convert or would you rather be abused or murdered? Today, the poor peoples in many lands, but primarily Latin and South America, have been under bondage to the evils of Rome. Her priests continue to be abusers and her teachings are nothing short of heresy. She preys on the innocent and all who get in her way eventually feel her wrath.
Visit the hinterlands of Mexico, Columbia, Peru, or Bolivia, and declare yourself as an evangelical devoted to the sharing of the gospel of Jesus Christ. You will face immediate opposition and evangelical missionaries in these countries are still struggling and have suffered at the hands of the local peoples who have been incited to anger by the priests of the Roman Catholic Church.
Fast forward to this last week with the election of the new pope from Argentina. Argentina, a land that was settled by immigrants from Europe over the last almost two centuries. Argentina, a land that has ruthlessly murdered all the native inhabitants by several hundred thousand at the lowest estimate. Argentina, a land that holds many in poverty while her people watch the Roman Catholic church grow richer and richer at their expense. Yes, this is the same Argentina that the new pope hails from.
The new pope has chosen the name of Francis as a way to honor Francis of Assisi. Francis of Assisi, the priest who preached heresy and was known for baptizing and preaching to birds and animals. Francis, from Argentina, has declared that he desires to represent the poor of the world. However, I do not think that we will ever see the Catholic church giving her vast treasures back to the peoples from whom they were stolen through the last 1500+ years.
The words the new pope stated though should strike a chord in the heart of every true believer. In his words, he desires to evangelize the world and to “re-evangelize” the areas of the world that they are a predominant force. Remember that at the heart of this very fallible, very sinful, very depraved man from Argentina is the fact that he has long been a cardinal of the order of Jesuits.
I am afraid that there will be many, even in evangelical circles, who will laud this man and the work that he says he wants to accomplish for the poor and downtrodden of the world. They will claim that he is a brother and knows Christ just as they declared about John Paul II and Theresa of Calcutta.
In the meantime, the Catholic machinery will move into action once again against the peoples of Latin and South America. Evangelicals will come under fire for their teachings, and some may even face martyrdom all for the sake and testimony of Jesus Christ.
The harsh reality is the truth of Scripture does not line up with the teachings of Rome. Jesus Christ said that He alone is the way, the truth and the life. Further, He made it clear that nobody could get to God unless they go through Jesus Christ.
However, Rome has duped her followers into believing that they can pray to the saints, or to Mary for deliverance. She has told them that they can do penance and somehow atone for their own sins. She tells them at every mass that the death of Christ was not a one-time sacrifice and that in order to be assured of a short time in Purgatory that they must each physically and literally eat and drink of the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ. She teaches her priests to ignore Scripture because the end justifies the means. She leads her people astray and when they die, the priest solemnly atones to the gathered crowd that they have departed to be with God, but must first do time in a non-existent location called Purgatory. More money and more masses are encouraged so that the people foster a false hope that their loved ones will be able to escape the fires of hell.
Sadly, while many will go to serve as “missionaries” to these gospel-deprived lands, those who go will not be taking the truth with them. More and more will be encouraged to be led astray into the Roman Catholic system with the rallying cry to follow the first Latin American pope.
However, all of that is to be expected. Rome is not stupid and she will use whatever means necessary in order to not only attempt to keep her share of the market, but to also gain more converts. For 1500+ years of her existence, she has ruthlessly, barbarically, and coldly gathered millions to follow her teachings. Constantine, who was the first pope of Rome (NOT PETER), started the process by mixing paganism with Christianity. The result dominates many lands today in what is known as syncretism. Rome does not care who you worship during the week as long as you play your part in the theatricals of the mass and give of your wealth to ensure that she grows richer.
Yet, the reality is that there are many in our neighborhoods who are being led down the same primrose path. You may find an increase in social events being led by a local priest. There will even be further attempts to draw more back into the fold from mainline Protestant denominations. You can be sure that they will adopt more of our language, and they will declare that they teach the same truths we do. The truth though is very dark, and for many, the light will be extinguished as they go into a lost eternity. An eternity that was declared to be the way of God, but that was nothing more than the figment of the imagination of a group of men who are no more concerned about their own souls than they are the souls of those who follow them.
My challenge to those of us who have been washed in the blood of the Lamb is this – what are we going to do to reach out to lost within our own circles? Will we stand idly by while the priest continues to lead our friends and co-workers down the path to hell? We each have a calling to tell the truth, no matter what it costs. May our heart’s desire be to pray for those trapped in their sin and religion, to pray for those who serve at great cost to life and limb as they share the truth in the face of great opposition, and to pray that God will burden our hearts to see beyond the trappings of religion and look for a people who need the Lord.
I have family and friends who are caught in the traps of Catholicism. My heart breaks for them for they have been indoctrinated very well. They believe that they are correct and that heaven awaits their arrival regardless of the truth that they have flaunted the Word of God in favor of the teachings and leading of depraved men.
Who is my neighbor? Jesus made it clear that the Good Samaritan was the type of neighbor we are to be. We must care for others from a social aspect, but not at the expense of the preaching of the gospel. We must be willing to reach out to others when nobody else is willing. We must care enough to forget about our own self-importance and remember that each person we meet will face eternity very soon. Many will blindly walk the broad road to destruction while very, very few will find the path to life.
May it not be said when we stand before Christ that we allowed ourselves to become an obstacle to any to find the path to life.