Tag Archives: death of a Christian

Dying Out Loud

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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.

Photo credit: jessleecuizon / Foter / CC BY

Photo credit: jessleecuizon / Foter / CC BY

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.

Photo credit: NYCandre / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Photo credit: NYCandre / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

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.

Mission Accomplished

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The scriptures say that when David had completed all that God planned for him, he died and joined his ancestors.  Sometimes we are surprised when death comes to someone young, or someone who appears to be doing everything right.  But the Bible makes it clear that there is a time for each of us to die.  It is not a random thing, nor is it preventable.  The Bible says we die when we complete the mission that God has made us to do, whatever that may be.

This should be an amazingly liberating idea for a Christian.  You can basically do that whole Matrix thing around bullets if it’s not your time to die!  This should essentially set you free of all kinds of fears that might have held you back before.  But sometimes there is actually a purpose to the WAY and TIME that we die.

Lately, a friend of mine has been posting updates about another missionary who is dying of cancer in a “closed country”.  Stewart and Bev* have worked for 20 something years in this hard place, and not one person has been saved.  They spent years traveling into the interior of this country, ministering among the lost, yet no one has responded to the message of Salvation.  They just plodded along faithfully, loving people and hoping that the message was coming through loud and clear.  Then Stewart was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

As they prayed together, the family felt that the Lord was telling them to “live out this death in the eyes of your neighbors.”  So they began to make preparations for Stewart to die in that country.  When they heard that Stewart was dying, the people in the interior where they had ministered all those years asked the family if they would move in with the tribe and allow Stewart to be buried where they live.  The family was deeply touched by this, but it would be impossible without government permission for a foreigner to be buried in the land.

That same day, a lawyer for the tribe came to the house to consult with the husband and wife.  “Let me take care of everything.  And is there anything else you need?”  He asked.  They needed to transfer the title of their vehicle into Bev’s name so that the government would not seize their property once Stewart died.  The lawyer agreed to handle that paperwork as well.

Within a few days, the family received permission to move to the interior, buy a burial plot, and for Bev to keep the car. All their concerns had been handled with minimal stress on their part.  Now they could focus on dying well, as God had commanded them.  Even as he grew weaker and weaker, Stewart continued to receive visitors.  They would sit at his bedside, sometimes talking, sometimes crying.  They marveled at Bev’s peace and strength in the face of her husband’s failing health.  They began to ask Bev about the source of her peace.  The door creaked open.

Women who had been cautious about the foreigners brought food and sat with them in their grief.  One woman confided to Bev that her husband had passed away that year, and she was so angry and scared.  She asked Bev how she could be so calm and strong.  Bev shared her source of strength and offered peace to the woman.  The door swung wider still.

The family contacted the grown children and asked them to come home to say good-bye.  The children left college to return to the mission field.  The village people surrounded them with love, like members of their own family.  The children are comforted as well as being a comfort to others.  Stewart is living out his death in front of the community.

Precious is the death of the Saints in the eyes of the Lord.  This is a homecoming with a purpose.  No one knows the kind of impact that Stewart’s death will have in this closed, barren mission field.  But there is a purpose, and there will be a harvest of souls.  A peaceful and strong Christian is powerful in death.

*Names have been changed because the country is a Muslim country, closed to missionaries.