Saturday, June 27, 2015

this sacred loan

Elisabeth Elliot and Charleston Christians Respond to Sorrow

Last Monday, a hero of the faith went home. Elisabeth Elliot had fought the good fight and finished the race.  Almost 60 years earlier, she and her husband Jim, together with 4 other couples, devoted themselves to bring the good news of Christ to a remote people group in Ecuador. The Waoroni (or Auca) people solved disputes by savagely spearing one another.  They abandoned inconvenient babies, and strangled children to bury with their fathers who were dying of spear wounds. “In fact, outsiders were not their greatest concern; killing within the tribe was so rampant that they were on the verge of annihilating themselves.”  (Steve Saint)  In the process of getting to know the Waoroni, there was a disastrous misunderstanding, and Jim and the four other missionary men were violently speared to death by Auca warriors.

How could God have allowed such a massive, tragic slaying of His people?  Elisabeth’s response to this devastating loss was to go, by faith, along with Rachel Saint, the sister of another martyr, to live with the Waoroni, to learn their language, and to share the hope of forgiveness and reconciliation through Christ.  Now, 59 years later, the Waoroni tribe has grown to 8 times the size it was in 1956, and about 1/3 of them are Christians.  They are sharing the gospel of Christ through a clinic, pharmacy and school for their own people and as they host tourist groups in their region. (see this article on the Waoroni.)  

“Cruelty and wrong are not the greatest forces in the world.

There is nothing eternal in them. Only love is eternal.”
― Elisabeth Elliot

Elisabeth spent seven more years in Ecuador, and then continued to share the gospel right here in the US for the remainder of her life.  She immersed herself in God’s Word, and shared it with us through her writing and speaking.  Her calm, quiet faith will continue to bolster the faith of believers into the future. 

Last Monday Elisabeth realized the fulfillment of her faith, as she went home to be with her Savior.  And just two days later, a gunman sat through a Bible study in Charleston, SC, listened without hearing the Word of God, and in an unexpected way, eerily similar to the Waoroni savagery, opened fire in a violent killing of nine worshipers.  

How could God have allowed such a massive, tragic slaying of His people?  Yet the response of the church to this devastating loss was, by faith, to extend the hope of forgiveness, and to urge a repentant response to the gospel of Christ. 

“Sorrow is lent to us for just a little while,

that we may use it for eternal purposes. 

Then it will be taken away

and everlasting joy will be our Father’s gift to us,

 and the Lord God will wipe away all tears off all faces.”

 – Amy Carmichael (one of Elisabeth’s heroes).

What impact might it have on our nation, and even on our world, to see this kind of response from the church to the senseless violence and destruction that evil imposes on us?   This sorrow is a sacred loan, entrusted to us that we might use it for eternal blessing.  We wonder how God can allow such tragedy.  But perhaps the better question is, how can God use this tragedy for the eternal, long-term blessing of His people, and for His eternal glory?

God's timing of the events of our world

is engineered from the eternal silence ...

it is faith he is looking for,

a quiet confidence that whatever it is he is up to,

it will be a wonderful thing,

never mind whether it is what we have been asking for.

- Elisabeth Elliot

A wonderful thing?  We cannot in anyway describe last Wednesday’s shooting in those words.  But "Sometimes God allows what he hates to accomplish what he loves." (Joni Eareckson Tada) He hates the evil. But He’s at work redeeming what seems like unmitigated wrong to accomplish everlasting good.  He desires in His people a trusting confidence in Him, though His ways are not according to our agenda.

“Our vision is so limited we can hardly imagine a love

that does not show itself in protection from suffering....

The love of God did not protect His own Son....

 He will not necessarily protect us –

not from anything it takes to make us like His Son.

A lot of hammering and chiseling and purifying by fire

will have to go into the process.”
― Elisabeth Elliot

Elisabeth’s hope was not that her life on earth would be right and just and safe.  Her hope was to be like Christ. She chose to respond to the sacred sorrow lent to her by God with words of praise and thanks, even through her tears, for His eternal, untouchable gifts.  God was honored, and the hope of the gospel was on display.

The Emanuel AME Church of Charleston has responded to their sacred sorrow, lent to them by God, with words of forgiveness and a call to repent, even through their tears. A fixed focus on the Father’s eternal, untouchable gifts will empower them to continue to honor Him in their response to this sacred sorrow, putting the hope of the gospel on display.

Elisabeth’s tears have been wiped away.  Her Father has replaced all the sorrow with everlasting joy.  She’s home.  "Last week," Goff (interim pastor of Emanuel AME) said, "dark powers came over Mother Emanuel. But, that's alright. God in his infinite wisdom said 'that's alright. I've got the nine.' "- CNN  Those who knew the Lord are home with Him, all tears erased.  

And the rest of us?  We have a little while longer to use this temporary scaffolding of sorrow well; to display the hope of the gospel, to be purified and chiseled, and made like His Son before the loan is recalled and replaced with everlasting joy.

And the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing;

everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;

they shall obtain gladness and joy,

 and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. 

Isaiah 51:11

Monday, June 15, 2015

In the Midst of the Storm

Is it worth the risk many take to translate God's Word into a minority language in an unstable country? The following story, written by Wycliffe Bible Translator's President/CEO, Bob Creson, is a beautiful example of how God is at work behind the scenes, even through stormy times.

Ma khân cũai yoc ễ sa-âm, cóq alới tamứng nhũang. 
Cớp parnai ca alới cóq tamứng nhũang la parnai o tễ Yê-su Crĩt. 
Roma 10:17  
(Romans 10:17 in Bru: 
So faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.)


On Monday, March 10, 1975, Wycliffe missionaries John and Carolyn Miller were about to begin an eight month ordeal that would test every Christian principle they had ever learned (Carolyn has since documented their journey in her book, “Captured.”) The war in South Vietnam was raging, and the Viet Cong, supported by North Vietnam, were gaining the upper hand. Fourteen years earlier the Millers had started learning the Bru language of Vietnam and Laos, and by 1975 they and their Bru co-workers were in the final stages of checking the New Testament before typesetting and printing. But the fighting kept moving closer.

After a particularly frightening night, John and Carolyn grabbed their packed bags and, with their five-year-old daughter, sought refuge in a more secure housing compound. The situation continued to deteriorate over the next two days, and escape became less and less likely. John and Carolyn re-sorted their belongings, deciding what to take into an unknown future. The first thing they put into their single suitcase was their most prized possession: the corrected copy of the Bru New Testament.
Suddenly the door of opportunity to escape slammed shut. As they stepped from the house where they were staying, they were confronted by a North Vietnamese soldier carrying a gun. Carolyn remembers thinking, “So this is what a North Vietnamese soldier looks like!”

Her mind must have flashed back to the ordeal of their colleagues Hank and Vange Blood. Hank and Vange had been taken captive by the Viet Cong in 1968. Vange was quickly released, but for five years the outside world heard nothing from Hank. By the time of their capture, the Millers knew Hank had died in captivity.

Now Millers faced captivity as well. John and Carolyn, their young daughter, and several others from various walks of life were loaded into vehicles and taken away. Over the next few months, they were moved from camp to camp. They eventually ended up near Hanoi, where their manuscript was taken from them. Eight long months after their capture, they were released, but their manuscript was never returned.

Painstakingly, they reconstructed their work from earlier manuscripts and in 1981, 500 copies were printed and sent back to the Bru area. For years they didn’t know if these New Testaments ever reached their destination.

Finally in 1990, they were able to make contact with the Bru community. Their first translation co-worker met them in Thailand and brought with him a well-worn copy of the New Testament! The books had indeed reached the Bru, and the Bru church was thriving and growing! The Good News had spread to the neighboring country, and people were believing despite persecution. 
John talked with a leader of the national church in an area where Bru believers were experiencing persecution. He told of one situation in which four Bru believers were put in prison and told to renounce this “foreign religion.” Then he added with a smile, 
Four believers went into prison; 
eight came out.”

In recent years, religious freedom has begun to expand. Legally there is religious freedom, though Christians are still discouraged, even persecuted, for practicing their faith. The New Testament has gone through three printings, and in 2014, with the government’s approval, the whole Bible was published — the result of a continuing partnership between the Bru believers and the Millers.

The Bru are using the written Word. They are also downloading and sharing the Word in digital and audio formats. John and Ethel Ligero of Wycliffe Philippines, in partnership with Faith Comes By Hearing (FCBH) and assisted by the Millers, made the audio recording. The Bru can access it on FCBH’s smartphone app,

Ethel says that when people hear the Word in their own language, they often say, “We’ve never heard this story before!” From my experience, that’s not unusual. While they may have heard the story in Vietnamese or another language of wider communication, they don’t really “hear” it until they engage with it in an accurate, clear and natural way in their mother tongue.

We read in Scripture that the Word — Jesus himself — became human and made his home among us (John 1:14). Through the work of Wycliffe and FCBH he is now going door to door calling Bru people by name, in their own language. He is no longer a foreign God. He speaks their language; he knows their culture. He is safe to trust.

Friday, June 12, 2015


Then followed that beautiful season... Summer....
Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light; and the landscape
Lay as if new created in all the freshness of childhood.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Point Pleasant campers, 2005

We're treasuring being together again as Elise and Amy wrapped up their freshman year of college in May, and came home for the summer. 

They both are working at the same day camp that they enjoyed as children (photos left and below) where they lead groups of girls, and direct the crafts or Bible lessons.  There's something very special about being back at Point Pleasant again!

Point Pleasant campers, 2006

They are both licensed drivers now (finally!  having lived overseas for their high school years, that process took a little longer it would have otherwise) and they've co-bought a Ford Taurus (thanks to some help from their dad) which will be necessary next year at college.

As a high school student, Michael can work just a couple of weeks at Point Pleasant.  But he's filling his extra time with odd jobs in the neighborhood.  And his earnings have funded some new remote control scratch build projects. Photos of those next time!  He's got his driver's permit, so he's on the road to having a license a little earlier than his sisters did.

early yard-work training, 2002