Altar Call –
A moment in the rain
forest of Ecuador
My peaceful life is often disturbed by
the news of Christians across the world being executed simply because they will
not renounce their faith in Christ. And this is not a new occurrence. During
the past century nearly one million Christians were martyred for their faith.
The Twentieth Century was unique,
however, because more Christians died for their faith during that century than
the previous 19 centuries combined. In fact, during that one-hundred-year
period more Christians died for their faith than soldiers for their countries.
Like many other Christians I have been
influenced greatly by stories of Christians who were persecuted or killed for
their faith. I was barely out of college when I read the news that five
American missionaries had been martyred by savage Indians in Ecuador. The
inspiring book, Through Gates of Splendor
by Elizabeth Elliot, had a profound impact upon my life. Her husband Jim Elliot
was one of the five missionaries.
Back then I never dreamed that one day I
would actually meet one of the men who killed those missionaries. That
privilege was given me by my friend Sandy Toomer, then a missionary pilot
serving in Shell, Ecuador with Missionary Aviation Fellowship. Sandy flew me,
my sister Margie and a good friend over the beach where Indians murdered the
We landed nearby, slipping and sliding
on a grass runway, just outside the Rain Forest. What happened then was an
incredible moment for me.
Dozens of Indians, familiar with the
small plane, rushed out to meet their friend Sandy. They loved him for he had
flown more than one of them for medical treatment of snakebite or injury. Sandy
was God’s man.
Sandy introduced me to Dewey, the
“killer” who had become a Christian and was now pastor of a village church nestled
there in the Rain Forest. The only word I spoke that Dewey understood was the
name of our Lord. When I said, “Jesus,” the old man pointed to the sky, smiled
and embraced me. It was his way of saying, “We are brothers.”
This murderer of missionaries became a
believer because the wives of the martyred missionaries refused to give up the
mission of their husbands. They relentlessly reached out to the Auca Indians,
offering them the gospel and loving them into the Kingdom. In the years that
followed some of those former savages became college graduates and embraced the
Such stories God uses mightily to
strengthen the faith of Christians. This has been happening since the first
century. John and James were both beheaded because of their faith in Christ.
The biblical stories of their martyrdom has inspired believers since the days
of Jesus. Tertullian, one of the early church fathers, once said, “The blood of
the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” The growth of the Church in Ecuador is
a testimony to the truth of Tertullian’s words.
Last Sunday I paused for a few minutes
and offered a prayer for Christians who are being persecuted around the world. Will
God help persecuted Christians because of my prayer? I
am not sure, but I know it helps me to pray for my brothers and sisters who are
suffering for their faith. I would be ashamed not to pray for them. And
whenever I do, it takes me back to that golden moment in the day when I
embraced my brother Dewey in the Rain Forest of Ecuador.
Evil is real. People suffer. Christians
are persecuted and killed for their faith. But the smiling face of Dewey
reminds me that God is able to use the suffering of his children to make the
world aware of his love for all people.
When all is said and done, when the
closing bell is rung for the last time, I believe I know the final outcome.
Hate and violence will lose. Love and perseverance will win. And God’s people
will be singing with the martyrs, “Hallelujah! The Lord God Almighty Reigns!” +