Many of you may have seen the news about Randy Hentzel and Harold Nichols. They were American missionaries killed in Jamaica within the last few hours. An article on this is HERE. I never met either of them, but Harold was a friend of a friend. It is a pretty early article. Hopefully, by the time you read this, you will be able to find an updated article with motive, suspects, and perhaps some modicum of justice.
Of course, they are not alone. Two years before my family and I arrived in the Philippines Martin Burnham died due to a kidnapping for ransom activity of a semi-religious gang. A year before we arrived Bill Hyde, mentor of a minister friend of mine, was killed by a bomb set by a similar group. I teach students here who, in some cases, are from countries where mistreatment of Christian workers is tolerated, and occasionally supported, by regional officials. An acquaintance of mine this last weekend was showing me a picture of a friend and fellow worker who was recovering from having throat slashed by an individual driven by religious animosity. This man survived the attack by biting the hand of his attacker.
Of course, this is a drop in the bucket. Our former church in the States has just finished hosting a “Voice of the Martyrs” conference. We weren’t there, living presently 9000 miles away. That organization tracks the religious killings, tortures, and such perpetrated against Christians. The numbers are disturbing… but should they be surprising?
What does one do with this information. For some, it is to hide. For others it is to share and sensationalize these activities so as to engender more hate. FB is full of such painfully misguided reports.
For me, I am not sure how to respond. I serve in a relatively safe place, although no place is ultimately safe this side of heaven. But it gets me thinking about one of the great “bumper sticker” lies in Christianity. I would not be surprised if you have heard this one a few times:
THE SAFEST PLACE TO BE IS IN THE CENTER OF GOD’S WILL
There really is no obvious truth to this. One could make it correct by saying something like, “The BEST place to be is in the center of God’s will” but that really changes the message. Perhaps one could mean “safest” in some eternal other-worldly sense, but that seems abusive to the term (An example, one of many, of such deceptive misuse is in a CBN devotional “The Safest Place to Be.” Of course, CBN is never a place for solid theological insight.)
Being in God’s will (though I am not so sure God’s will has a “center”) doesn’t necessarily guarantee persecution or danger, but it should certainly be anticipated. Hebrews 11, the “Hall of Faith” lists those who lived according to God’s will. It is an inspiring and sobering description of great victories, and horrible ends.
We pray for our own family, and for friends in ministry, especially those in dangerous places due to dangerous people.Yes we pray that God will keep them safe. I hope you do the same.
But the Good Shepherd leads His faithful followers to green pastures and still waters via the valley of the shadow of death. Sadly, the risks are, for many, far more than mere shadows.