“When we heard this, we and the people there urged him not to go to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, ‘What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.'” Acts 21:12-13
As Scott Pelley said last night on the CBS Evening News: When writing home from a terrorist’s cell, where do you start? Kayla Mueller started tight in the corner of her single, precious page. Her first stroke predicted there would never be enough room to hold her thoughts. Two rows on each line, margin to margin which would have been “well thought out,” she writes but, “I could only but write the letter a paragraph at a time, just the thought of you all sends me into a fit of tears.”
They had all said goodbye when she left college in 2011 to work with the suffering in India. Why the hurry? Another young woman writing in captivity, Anne Frank, answered in her diary: “Nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
From India, Mueller worked with refugees in Israel and Palestine. Back in Arizona she cared for AIDS patients and volunteered, at night, at a women’s shelter. In 2013 she arrived at the Syrian border, the world’s most dangerous place. Why take the risk? Another prisoner, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., writing from a cell in 1963 answered: “I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. I’m compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home.”
Like Dr. King, Kayla Mueller had the vision to see freedom from a cell. See her letter.
“Even in prison I can be free,” wrote Mueller. “I am grateful. I have come to see there is good in every situation.”
She is the fourth American hostage to die. In journalists, ISIS tried to extinguish truth. With humanitarians, they tried to kill compassion. But light defines the darkness. In these deaths ISIS is revealed and in her words Kayla Mueller captured the long struggle for a better world, “please be patient, give your pain to God.”
Anne Frank’s writings became, “Diary of a Young Girl.” Dr. King called his letter from a Birmingham jail the longest he ever wrote. What would Kayla Mueller have done with more than one page?
As his life and ministry drew to conclusion Paul was determined (like Jesus before him) to go to Jerusalem—even though doing so meant danger and possible death.
Every now and then I meet someone who is intent on going where they feel they must, despite the risks involved. A doctor who goes to the Sudan regularly to perform surgery. A young woman who takes meals to shut-ins in a dangerous part of town. A chaplain who goes week by week into a high-security prison where no one feels safe. A pastor who walks into an angry crowd to listen and to speak. A young bartender from NC State goes to Dufar and risks his life to dig wells for those who have no clean water.
They go, despite warnings, despite danger. They go not just because they want to, but because somehow they must. God is in their journey.
Sometimes we imagine that God’s chief duty and central concern is our comfort and safety. We think that what God cares most about is our happiness and health. Maybe that is true, but then again, maybe not. Maybe what God cares most about isn’t our comfort and safety but about the height and the depth, the range and the reach of our lives.
It occurs to me that the heavenly host (we hear about in creation) may well have counseled God “don’t go there.” “Don’t go to the earth; or if you do go, don’t — for sure — go as one of them, vulnerable to suffering, exposed to evil.” But that is what God did in Jesus. He went there, he came here. And because he did, we can — you can — too.
You can go where it’s hard to go, even where there is some danger. Go and God shall be with you.
Eternal God, you call us to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with courage, not knowing where we go but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (A prayer of Martin Luther.)
I want to thank all who continue to read the sample chapters of my books and purchase them, and leave a good review on Amazon. If you haven’t done so already just click on any of the book titles in the bottom of the above header and it will take you to the Amazon site where you can read more about the books. Thank you for sharing in this ministry. I hope and pray that these books will help you in some small measure to help those in your care.