In the grainy, black and white video clip, a UFM missionary nurse speaks to ITN about her release from captivity by Simba rebels in Congo.1 The year is 1965. For seven months she had been missing, believed killed, along with 19 others.
Margaret Hayes’ death certificate had been issued in the UK, a thanksgiving service held and yet here she was. This middle aged lady with a speech impediment, recalled: “I was in hiding in the forest for one month. But then the rebels heard where I was and said ‘If you don’t come out, we’ll kill the whole tribe.’ When I heard this I decided it would be better for me to die than my friends.” She gave herself up, saying, “If you want to kill me, kill me.”
Friends, here was a lady who was ready to die. Remarkably her life was spared – and you can read her story in the book: Missing, Believed Killed – but the rest of her UFM colleagues, 19 mission workers and their children, were killed. A plaque at the UFM office in Swindon names each one. Below is the text: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants.” (Psalm 116:15)
It is moving to hear such stories of sacrifice, yet who in the UK today is telling us to live our lives with such abandon? Who in the church is urging us to give our lives like this?
Too often, we are inspired by these stories for a time, but then we put them, together with the way of life they represent, back into the archive box. We go on our way, influenced by the culture of the day – a culture that is telling us at every point to avoid discomfort. Every danger is to be dealt with, every risk assessed and ultimately avoided.
“I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” Paul
The apostle Paul faced a similar critique. Having decided in the Spirit to go to Jerusalem, knowing that hardships were facing him, he was ‘urged’ not to go by the believers in Tyre (Acts 21:4). Yet Paul responded, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 21:13)
Here is the reason that Paul could face such sacrifice with resolve; his life had been given over to someone else, he was committed to Jesus Christ and the cause of the gospel among the nations.
When James Calvert went to reach a cannibalistic tribe in the South Pacific, the ship’s captain urged him to turn back, “You will lose your life and the lives of those with you if you go among such people.” Calvert replied, “We died before we came here.”
This again is Paul’s example, “I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” (Acts 20:24)
What a joy it is to see God continuing to raise up workers ready to relinquish their rights, lay down their lives and, in faith, follow him to the ends of the earth. Over recent months we have had applications for long term mission work in South Asia, Eurasia, Madagascar, Hungary, France, and Kenya.
“We died before we came here.” Calvert
A modern mission biography takes Calvert’s words as its title. Stephen Foreman was shot in the street by militants in North Africa. His wife, grappling with questions about this cost and sacrifice, writes,
“Stephen had handed over his life a long time ago. No bullet could have taken it from him. He had willingly given it so that more of his brothers and sisters could join him in worship on the other side of eternity, where the Father’s comforting hand and proud smile would wipe away every trace of pain and sorrow … Stephen didn’t lose his life. He found it.” 2
Friends, let’s pray on that God would continue to raise up workers where the gospel is yet to go.
Michael Prest, Director, UFM Worldwide
2. Emily Foreman, We Died Before We Came Here, 171-172.