This October, Paula and I traveled to Cape Town, South Africa, to participate in the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization, and from there went on to Kenya to meet with leaders in government and education as well as Biola alumni. I want to tell you about four extraordinary people that I met while in Africa — men and women whose gifts and circumstances God has used in unique ways to make an impact for his kingdom.
The first is a high school-aged North Korean girl who, on stage before thousands at the Lausanne Congress, told her story of growing up in North Korea. She and her father and pregnant mother escaped to China when she was nearly 10. In China, her mother contracted leukemia and died. She and her father went back to North Korea, where her father began to tell the story of Jesus to anyone who would listen, despite his involvement in government work. Tensions arose and they left for China once more, but her father couldn’t hold back his love for Christ. He left his daughter in China, returned once more to North Korea and was arrested.
His arrest was a number of years ago, and this young Korean girl said she could only assume that he had been executed. She remained stoic as she told these stories of family loss, but couldn’t contain herself as she shared about the darkness that the people in North Korea are living in and about her love for those who killed her father. To me, this young girl, whose pastor is a Talbot School of Theology graduate, provided the most profound moment of the days that we were there in Cape Town.
The second person is a woman named Libby Little. She was a speaker at Biola’s Missions Conference in 2009 and, in Cape Town, told her remarkable story about how she and her family had been living out Christ’s love for many years in Afghanistan. This past August, Libby’s husband and nine others traveled to a remote clinic to take care of the physical and spiritual needs of a small community that had pleaded for them to come. On the way back, her husband and the nine who were with him were pulled out of their cars and murdered.
As she spoke, Libby pulled out a piece of blood-stained, sand-smudged paper that the FBI had given her. On it were the notes her husband had written to minister to that community. In the margins he had written, “Tell the goat cheese story.” In Afghanistan there is a very popular repugnant goat’s cheese. At first, people are repulsed by the smell, but when they break off a piece and eat it with fresh bread and a piece of lamb it has an incredible, savory, salty taste to it. Libby compared this to 2 Corinthians 2:15–16 where Paul writes, “For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life.”
Bedan Mbugua graduated from Biola in 1980. When he was a student, he was the editor-in-chief of The Chimes and wrote several articles that made an impact on the campus. Upon graduation, Bedan went on to practice journalism in Kenya. He became the editor of two national publications and began to write about the convictions and God-centered values that were instilled in him during his time at Biola. He wrote about justice, integrity, honesty and truth in a country that was ruled by corruption, cheating, dishonesty and abuse of power. Bedan was sent to prison twice because he spoke up for the truth. He stands as an example that we are supposed to be voices of redemption to the broken parts of this world.
The fourth person I want to tell you about is Peter — a young boy orphaned by AIDS, abandoned by his extended family, and brought into the wonderful, loving environment of By Grace Home right outside of Nairobi, Kenya. By Grace was started by Stephen Mbogo, one of our Ph.D students, and his family. It’s a place that Biola has invested in, sending teams to work with the children and to help build a school for them. Peter has every reason to be bitter, but instead he demonstrates the love of Christ daily and spoke encouragement into my life during my visit to Kenya. He stood before his friends in the orphanage yard and declared his love for Biola, thanking this community for its contribution in building him a place to grow up where he is loved.
These four stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary work are examples of the voices of redemption that our world needs. At Biola, our simple calling is to educate this generation to be a bunch of well-prepared, well-rounded risk takers for the future, ready to grasp and be grasped by the world’s challenges and sufferings.
What is your role in bringing the sweet aroma of Christ to the suffering of this world? There’s room for everyone in this great global mission of God. I want to challenge you to find how your work and your world are going to be used in a way that’s going to make a difference for the kingdom of God, and follow that calling no matter how atypical or untraditional that journey may be.