Faithful unto Death
Markus Giwa is a missionary in South Sudan.
He and his family live in difficult conditions in the capital of Juba.
Markus was sent by the Nigerian Baptist Convention.
Much of the most effective mission work in Africa is being done cross-culturally by Africans!
That excites me.
He shared a moving story,
“On our orientation day at the Baptist Seminary in Nigeria, our teacher, Dr. Burney, took us to the graves of the pioneer missionaries from Southern Baptists. Many of these first missionaries died of disease such as malaria and typhoid fever. Dr. Burney pointed to each grave with its name and death dates, ‘These missionaries kept the faith until death. They are dead but the ministry is not.’ ”
Markus said most of the students wept. “Dr. Burney encouraged and prayed with us to keep strong and faithful even to death the ministry of Christ we were going into. We may die as the pioneer missionaries did but the ministry lives on.”
I was deeply touched by this story and that fact that Markus Giwa, a spiritual descendant of the work of the pioneers, was telling it in the middle of a war zone called South Sudan.
My mind flashed back to Richmond, Virginia.
At the training facility for IMB International Mission Board personnel, there is a large wall covered with nameplates of every Southern Baptist Missionary who died on the field.
I’d taken photos of many names on this wall. The early years (1846 onward) list names, young ages, and countries such as China, Liberia, and Nigeria. Many of these heroes died soon after arriving on the continent. Some might view them as failures or hopeless idealists.
For some reason, I chose to focus on two names on the wall.
A couple who served in Nigeria.
J.S. and Fannie Dennard.
In their thirties.
Going to Nigeria in their prime of their lives.
How long were they there before they died? Who died first?
How much time between their deaths? How did the surviving spouse view their call as he/she buried a spouse?
How did the families of the Dennards view their sacrifice?
All questions we’ll never know on this side of the curtain.
All I know is that the Dennards, and hundreds, even thousands more like them, are heroes.
They were faithful and they were successful. They are part of that great “cloud of witnesses” Hebrews 11 speaks of.
They were successful because they were faithful.
And God always rewards faithfulness.
How do I know? All I had to do was look at their prodigy.
An eighth or ninth generation spiritual grandson/descendant serving in South Sudan.
A faithful-unto-death African named Markus.
We are all called to this same kind of faithfulness.
It doesn’t mean we’ll be called to go to a pioneer area.
But it will involve a surrendered spirit that is willing.
A spirit that is committed to living the called life right where we are.
It’s all about following Him.
Everything else is just geography
-Young pioneer missionary at Richmond.