This weekend I picked up a book called “Dying Out Loud: No Guilt in Life, No Fear in Death” about the death of missionary Stan Steward in the Muslim country of Turkey. Normally I would have flown through an easy read like this, but I ran out of kleenexes and had to slow down. This book is tearing my heart out!
I’ve written about this family before, and though they insist there is nothing remarkable about them- I am in awe of their strength of commitment to sharing the gospel with the lost. They determined to live among the remote villages along the ancient Silk Road in the area between the border of Turkey and Iran. They integrated their lives as completely as possible with the people and they were accepted as one of them.
This alone is admirable. As a missionary I know what that kind of a decision costs. I make those small decisions a million times a day- will I chose my own personal comfort or will I empty myself for others? I’m ashamed to say that too many times I chose my own preferences because I am still working in my own strength and not God’s. I say, I’m tired. I don’t want to speak Spanish anymore today. I just need to get into my house where things are familiar and comfortable and within my control so I can decompress with my family tonight. I make those choices for myself all the time. I am convicted.
Not only did they integrate into the culture, but prayed a risky prayer. They asked God to use them to reach the Turkish people… whatever the cost. Always a risky prayer. We talk a lot in our denomination about why the Muslims haven’t responded to the gospel like other groups have. Many believe that because we revolt from the idea of watering the hard soil with our martyr’s blood, the Muslims have not been won. We have not counted the cost. We have not cried for their souls because our fears and hatred mingle too freely with our determination and passion to make any kind of a combustable concoction. We have watered down the message of the cross to make it more acceptable to the world and this weak message is powerless to save now. I am challenged.
So their risky prayer lead them to heart break. Stan was diagnosed with colon cancer that filled his body in a short amount of time. Stan and his wife Ann felt the Lord asking them to “Live this dying out loud” in order to show their Muslim brothers and sisters how Christians die with peace and assurance of their salvation. A Muslim has no such assurance in death. He can only hope that he’s done enough good to counterbalance the bad in his life. He only has a sad, dark form of hope to cling to. God was asking Stan to show them how to live and die in the vibrant, confident hope in Jesus Christ. It was an intensely difficult price to pay. I am humbled by their Yes when so often I’ve said No.
It is this story of commitment and sacrifice that is tearing me apart. I am being challenged and called all over again. If I had other lives to live and give I would go and replace Stan in Turkey. I am challenged to pray more. I see how pathetic my own strength is in comparison with all that God can do when I am completely at his disposal. I am hungry for that kind of love for the lost that says “At Any Cost”. Have I ever loved like that? This book is challenging me to the roots of my commitment. And I am Called all over again.