The scene was harrowing! There, on the edge of the landing strip—an open field—stood nineteen missionaries waiting for the plane that would rescue them. They had been told to evacuate as war raged in the Congo. They held up a white sheet, which served as a sign to the pilots that it was safe to land.
But was is truly safe? There were hordes of angry people screaming and yelling at the missionaries for leaving. Things could turn violent at any minute. Suddenly, the sheet was dragged away, and the planes started to turn back. The missionaries, grabbing the only thing they had that was white, threw it onto the runway. The planes changed course again, swooped in, and saved the nineteen missionaries with the aid of a white jacket.
‘An Open Door’
As the outbreak of COVID-19 began, one of the ladies in my small group started reading to us the book An Open Door (by Maud Kells with Jean Gibson). As we read this story together, I was moved to tears. It’s captivating. I was struck anew at just how amazing our heavenly Father truly is.
I was also hooked! What unravelled in this book was an extraordinary story of courage, faith, and ingenuity. Maud tells terrifying tales (all true) of armed soldiers, invaders in her home, no running water or electricity, rats gnawing at human flesh, and life and death medical issues. What’s most amazing about it all though is that she doesn’t give in to fear.
Here’s one of the things I learned from this book: being courageous isn’t the absence of fear; it’s acting even though you are afraid. So, encouraged by Maud’s story, I decided it was time to revisit some missionaries of old. Next I read one of my favourites: The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. I decided to listen to the audiobook.
Four Courageous Women
So, each morning last week, I could be found walking through the field with my dog, on my allocated once a day exercise, listening to Corrie Ten Boon. Every chapter brings new danger for Corrie and Betsie as they help hundreds of Dutch Jews evade capture by the Nazis.
Every time I read this story, I am humbled by the faith and bravery of Betsie and Corrie. No matter how many times I read or listen to The Hiding Place, I am always struck by two things—how old Corrie and Betsie were when they showed this incredible bravery, and their stunning ability to forgive (especially the most vile acts).
Corrie was no spring chicken, but there she was setting up an underground resistance ring, tearing around Holland on her bicycle (in the middle of a war), evading the Gestapo, eventually facing the ultimate loss of her beloved Betsie in the concentration camp (spoiler alert). Yet, she doesn’t give in to fear. Now, many times in the book she does share her struggle with fear, but she explains how the Lord used those moments to help her trust Him. She was courageous.
Having finished The Hiding Place in a week (hey, lots of time, right?), this week I decided to read the true story of Darlene Deibler Rose, in her book Evidence Not Seen. Darlene and her husband were missionaries in the jungle of New Guinea when World War II broke out. Being recalled, she and her husband eventually ended up captured by the Japanese and held as prisoners of war. What follows is her story of spending four years in the women’s camp.
Darlene recounts the horrendous atrocities she and the other women faced—beating, torture, and in some cases, death at the hands of Japanese soldiers who seriously needed Jesus. The women of this camp suffered tremendously, yet we read about their faith that grew stronger and flourished in the midst of the horrendous ordeal and unexplainable loss. No matter her fear, Darlene relied on the One who saved her.
Our Only Safety
So here we have four women (including Betsie Ten Boom) who experienced extraordinary, horrendous, and brutal things in their lives. These were women who didn’t know if they would survive their experiences (sadly, we know Betsie didn’t). But they never lost their faith. They were courageous and faithful to the Lord who loved them.
To Corrie, who was afraid, Bestie Ten Boom once said, “There are no ‘ifs’ in Gods world and no places that are safer than other places—the centre of His will is our only safety.”
The same is true for us. We may be in unprecedented times. But the Lord of Maud, Corrie, Betsie, and Darlene is the same Lord for us today. The world has changed since those women wrote their stories, but God hasn’t. Yes, the world is a scary place. We may be afraid. But we can be courageous because we know the safest place to be is in the will of our heavenly Father.
As we approach Easter, rejoicing in the Saviour who died and rose again, I’m reminded of the moment He prayed in the Garden:
He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”(Matt. 26: 36–42)
Jesus understands struggle and sorrow. The trial He was about to face was unimaginable, so much so that He cried out to His Father in agony!
Jonathan Edwards puts it like this: “This [the cross] was the greatest act of obedience that Christ was to perform. He prays for strength and help, that his poor, feeble human nature might be supported, that he might not fail in this great trial, that he might not sink and be swallowed up, and his strength so overcome that he should not hold out, and finish the appointed obedience.”
We know these truths. The words are familiar to us. Many of us will have read them hundreds of times. We’ll probably read Scriptures like Matthew 26 again on this Maundy Thursday. But, truthfully, we can’t even imagine the horror Jesus went through for us as He paid the ultimate price for sin. He submitted to His Father’s will, and He did so at an incalculable cost.
Maud, Corrie, Betsie, and Darlene could be courageous in the face of horrendous atrocities because of the price Jesus paid for them. As Jon Bloom says: “Courage is not an autonomous, self-generated virtue. Courage is always produced by faith.”
COVID-19 is brutal. People are seriously ill, and sadly many are dying. We may be afraid, but we can take courage. “Be strong and courageous; don’t be terrified or afraid . . . for the Lord your God is the one who will go with you; he will not leave you or abandon you.” (Deut. 31:6 CSB). The Lord will never leave nor forsake us. He is faithful. He will enable us to endure whatever He wills. Remembering eternity, we can look to Him for the strength and courage we need.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you . . .”(1 Pet. 1:3–4)
Let us not be slow in sharing the source of our courage with those without any hope, remembering Betsie’s words “the centre of His will is our only safety.”