When American missionaries leave for foreign countries to share the Gospel of Christ with the lost, we readily accept the possibility that they might not return alive.
We grieved when Martin Burnham was killed last June in the crossfire between Filipino troops that sought to rescue him and his wife, Gracia from militant Muslim rebels.
We lamented the horrible death of Bonnie Weatherall, an American missionary in Lebanon shot in the head three times last November while she served as a volunteer nurse.
And when Dayna Curry and Heather Mercer were released, after having been held hostage by the Taliban in Afghanistan, we breathed a collective sigh of relief. We rejoiced that the lives of these two missionaries had been spared. But when Dayna prayed, “Lord, if it’s the best for me to die and be a martyr so that there will be a breakthrough in Afghanistan, then that’s o.k.” as reported in Christianity Today, we understood. Being willing to die is part of every missionary’s call.
But what about other brave Christian souls that have passed away in public, but secular tragedies? Have we stopped to ponder the lessons taught us by Todd Beamer and Rick Husband?
America mourned when United Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania and we quickly called Todd a hero for placing himself in harm’s way and thwarting the terrorists’ attempt to inflict greater damage on America. But have we stopped to think of the impact his widow’s book “Let’s Roll” has had on those who don’t know Jesus?
In the final moments of Columbia’s descent, when the shuttle burst into flames and America knew the crew was lost forever, we mourned the passing of Commander Rick Husband. We would soon learn how devoted this man was to his family and to his God as his powerful testimony reverberated around the country in a televised memorial service from his home church in Texas.
But to mourn the loss of these godly men and women is simply not enough. We must also understand that when a believer dies, the testimony of that life is just as powerful in America as it is in the Philippines, Lebanon or Afghanistan.
We do not belittle the call placed on missionaries who give their lives and careers to bring hope to a hurting world. But we are all called, not only to live for Christ, but to be willing to die for Him. Did Todd Beamer and Rick Husband know their respective flights were going to end in death? Probably not. But as their widows and children mourn their great loss and soldier on without them, their testimonies will continue to speak volumes.
We are living in treacherous times. With the constant threat of terror and war looming on the horizon, the federal government is blanketing the country with copies of “Are You Ready? A Guide to Citizen Preparedness,” and advising Americans to prepare for an emergency. So too are Christians being asked to be ready and give a reason for the hope to which they profess.
Evelyn Husband was ready.
Just two days after her husband perished in the Columbia tragedy, Evelyn sat across from Katie Couric on the Today Show to read a statement from the families of the astronauts and to answer questions.
“Rick and I have a very deep Christian faith,” she told the Today host. “And there were lots and lots of people praying for us. And when Rick launched the first time, back in 1999, I felt the same strength. And it’s interesting how God provides the strength when you need it. And He did.”
When Katie asked how Rick would want to be remembered, Evelyn responded poignantly.
“When Rick autographed pictures for people, he always put a Bible verse on it that was Proverbs 3:5 and 6 which says, ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and He will make your paths straight.’ And that verse has been a blessing to me and Rick. And now it’s a tremendous blessing to me, because I don’t understand any of this, but I do trust the Lord. And so that’s been a tremendous comfort.”
Having lost her own husband, Jay Monahan, to colon cancer in 1998, Katie could empathize with Evelyn, but only to a degree. When Evelyn spoke of tremendous blessing and comfort, those words seemed foreign to Katie. Without a personal relationship with Christ, there is no lasting peace because temporal words hold no comfort for the grieving soul – only words that are eternal.
There is no way to gauge how many lives were touched as a result of Evelyn’s testimony or the indelible impression her words left on Katie that day. Did her profound faith in God move the Today Show host to ponder the claims of Christ? Perhaps. And if they did, if they even resulted in one person becoming a Christian, wouldn’t Rick Husband’s death have been worth it?
He unarguably would have thought so.