Precious in the sight of the LORD Is the death of His godly ones
What would you do if you were serving on a foreign field as a missionary and serious, life-threatening trouble started? Would you still be able to go one with your work, trusting the Lord to take care of you?
This is a question that all missionaries in countries with hostile governments must answer for themselves. There are still a lot of places in the world that are in darkness. The challenges are great and require great courage.
Congo declared its independence from Belgium on June 30, 1960. People living there at the time were hopeful for a new and better country. They were fooled as we all now know by promises that never materialized. Instead of prosperity and peace they got poverty and civil war. Communist backed leaders worked to gain control when the people began to revolt.
One of the methods used by Peking-backed Mulele Pierre was to train disillusioned youth, the Jeunesse, in guerrilla warfare to terrorize the villagers into submitting to his authority. The Jeunesse were trained to believe that they were righteous and invincible.
It was one of these insurgent youth groups that attacked the Baptist Mid-Mission School in Mangungu on January 25, 1964.
The day before this, the two women missionaries, Ruth and Irene had been warned that other missions had been attacked and some missionaries were harmed. A Mission Aviation Fellowship airplane had flown over dropping them a note and asking them to signal if they wanted to be evacuated. They prayed about their situation and signaled that they wanted to be airlifted by helicopter later. They expected the helicopter within hours. It didn’t show up.
In the night, the Jeunesse broke into their house, stealing whatever they could and threatening the women. The drug-crazed, half-naked, angry youths dragged the women outside roughly and threw them on the ground. Ruth and Irene had no idea what would happen next. Suddenly, one of the terrorists aimed his bow and arrow at them. To Ruth’s horror, the arrow went straight into the left side of Irene’s throat. Irene reached up and pulled the arrow out, causing blood to gush everywhere. “I am finished,” she gasped. She took a small step and collapsed. Ruth fell to the ground next to Irene. At some point she lost consciousness. She woke later to find that they had been dragged under a large shade tree near their house.
Ruth could hear the sound of the frenzied, drug-crazed youth smashing and destroying everything in sight. She began to tremble uncontrollably. Several times men approached her and probably would have killed her if they’d known she was alive. But the miracles that God would work to help Ruth over the next four days began right then. Ruth was able to be perfectly still when four different times bandits came near her. She did not even wince when one yanked a lock of her hair out to wear as a fetish.
The mob then lit most of the compound on fire and eventually left. Ruth dragged herself to the garage and hid. She longed to talk to her faithful friend, Irene, but she knew that Irene was safely in the arms of the Lord, away from this terror and torture.
After a long, lonely night, Ruth crept out of the garage. She found a wound in her arm, but thank the Lord, it was clean. She began to wonder, “Why had the promised helicopter delayed so long in coming? Why had we not been taken to safety before this heinous and unnecessary cruelty? … Why was I left?”
Anyone in this situation would feel the same way. Ruth was able to find peace in the fact that God knows best. The Father would never do anything that is not perfectly loving and wise and good. She would wait to see what God’s purpose was in allowing all that had happened.
Ruth and some Congolese friends buried Irene. A nurse dressed her wound, taping it due to lack of better supplies. Here again, the Lord had blessed her by keeping away infection.
Several times in the next day, the Jeunesse tried to plunder whatever was left in the compound. Ruth was miraculously spared each time. Her friends hid her in a hospital hut and she spent another night of terror wondering if the looters would return and perhaps try to burn down the building she was hiding in with her in it. God sent a loud thunder storm in the night. This was His answer to Ruth’s prayers; the Jeunesse would not skulk about during a storm.
Over the next several days Ruth received help from the Congolese Christians in the area. They tried to help her get to another town where she could get a plane. They traveled there, but along the way she was captured again and taken to a leader’s house. There she was questioned and threatened with death. Miraculously, she was spared again. The Jeunesse had captured the town she was traveling to and she would not get a plane there. Surprisingly, the leader decided to escort Ruth back to Mangungu.
In the meantime, Mission Aviation Fellowship planes had been searching for Ruth. She tried to wave at one, but they didn’t see her. She began to despair of being rescued. Then one morning she heard a droning sound in the distance. She tried to run into an opening to signal it, but was too weak from hunger and lack of care to run very fast. A kind villager came to her with a bicycle and pushed her to the clearing. When she arrived she noticed a helicopter had come. Finally, after four days of terror, Ruth was rescued.
Since that time many have questioned the wisdom of sending lone missionaries into dangerous places. Some have thought that it is a huge waste of life sending people into those lands. Their thinking goes like this, “What a waste that a consecrated young woman should thus throw her life away. Irene Ferrel was completely wrong in her thinking. The Africans did not ask her to come to them nor did they need her. They are happy in their own pagan beliefs and superstitions. Why thrust Christianity, a western religion, upon them?”
Jesus gives us the answer, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:45,46). Irene Ferrel gave her all to take the message of the Gospel to those who are lost in darkness. If her life was wasted, then so were the lives of all of the martyrs since the first century.
Ruth was spared, but she soon realized that God had a new task for her. Back home, after recovering her health, she told her story to others. A book was published, We Two Alone. When asked why Irene was killed, she responded, “Only eternity will reveal the harvest that was reaped from the grain of wheat which fell into the ground in Congo” (John 12:24). Many young people were dedicated to following Christ no matter the cost; others renewed their cold hearts with a new love for God and for missions.
We are pretty comfortable here in the United States in the twenty-first century. What have you done for others lately? We are not all asked to sacrifice our lives, but how about sacrificing some luxuries and sending the money to missions instead? Just how much are you willing to give up in order for others to know the joy of salvation?