Our Graves a Stepping Stone

In 1988, my best friend asked me to join him on a clandestine mission to smuggle the Jesus Film into Afghanistan. As our departure grew near so did our excitement. Backpacks, camping gear, thousands of dollars in cash, and 500lbs of film equipment boarded a plane for Karachi, Pakistan as did two young and idealistic missionaries who were determined to see the Pashto translation of the story of Jesus make it to people who desperately needed to hear the life-giving message of the gospel.

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Our plans, as idealistic as they were, were very simple. Once we arrived in Karachi, we would buy a four-wheel drive vehicle, load the equipment, and travel to the Northwest Frontier Province. While there, we would connect with others to take the film across the fluid border between Pakistan and Afghanistan which was under the control of the Mujahideen who were fighting against the Soviet Union. As the Lord would have it, the equipment never made it out of the Karachi airport. Our customs contact saw us collecting so many boxes from the baggage carousel that he determined it was too risky for him to help. So, all of the equipment was confiscated at customs, except for the master copy of the film hidden in a backpack and needed for mass reproduction.

Jesus Film showing in Pakistani village in 1988

Ultimately, the film made its way into Afghanistan and has been used by many Christians to share Jesus’ life with those who live in one of the most dangerous places in the world, then and now. Even in dangerous places, perhaps especially so, the gospel must go forward, in spite of the threat of persecution. After all, what risk is not worth the price of sharing the precious good news with those who have never heard? Is that not the same risk Jesus took when He came to a hostile world determined to silence Him? 

While reading reports of the current circumstances in Afghanistan, I must admit that I have mixed emotions for the safety and well-being of brothers and sisters living through these days in that war-torn country. On the one hand, I am deeply desirous for their security. No one should desire otherwise. On the other hand, I am cognizant of the well-meaning intentions of Western Christians attempting to extricate the gospel witness from Afghanistan. Yes, that is the unintended consequence of their rescue efforts; as if to snub their noses at God’s ability to protect and care for those called by His purposes to be a light to a dark world. It is Paul who says that suffering for Christ’s sake is a grace (Phil 1:29).

Pres. Biden quotes from book of Isaiah 6:8 during remarks On Kabul Afghanistan ISIS Terrorist Bomb. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yHO90WMg3AQ

But what these attempts reflect more than anything, in my opinion, is an impotent American Christianity paralyzed by its right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness-and those same rights for others-rather than catalyzed by passion for the lost, risk for the gospel, and disregard for our own lives for the sake of others.

But what these attempts reflect more than anything, in my opinion, is an impotent American Christianity paralyzed by its right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness-and those same rights for others-rather than catalyzed by passion for… Click To Tweet

Even now, as Isaiah 6:8 has been lifted out of context by President Biden to bolster his agenda and claim that America is on God’s mission, Christians around the world should be raising their cry to the Lord, “Here I am, send me.” If that costs us our lives, it is our gain. As Peter, writing to persecuted churches, said, “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name” (1 Pet 4:16).

C.T. Studd was a British missionary to China, India, and Africa from 1885 to 1931. In the late 19th century, he gave up his fortune and fame as a cricketeer to take the gospel where it had never been. Among the many things I appreciated about him when I first read his biography as a college student was his intense desire to reach the lost. Later in life, when confronted by his mission leadership regarding his poor state of health, he replied, “Gentlemen, God has called me to go, and I will go. I will blaze the trail, though my grave may only become a stepping stone that younger men may follow.” This, I believe, is the proper posture for the Christian living on God’s mission.

"Gentlemen, God has called me to go, and I will go. I will blaze the trail, though my grave may only become a stepping stone that younger men may follow." Click To Tweet

Since the birth of the modern missionary movement, many missionaries and Christians living in dangerous places have been inspire by saints like Studd. We’ve been targeted, followed, tapped by secret police, held in places against our will — even at gunpoint, hidden from the sight of those who wanted to do us harm, even unjustly murdered, and we’ve never feared for our lives. Adrenaline pumping for sure, but the reality is, we have nothing to fear. Right? As Paul said, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil 1:21). 

Learn more about the Church’s identity in When Evangelicals Sneeze: Curing the American Church from the Plague of Identity Loss

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