Two Men Live, Five Men Die

March 1, 2006

After I preached this morning, Marlene and I were driving to lunch when my cell phone rang. It was Harry Bollback calling to see if he and Millie could have lunch with us. We decided to meet at Perkins Restaurant in Hudson at noon. It’s always wonderful to see Harry and Millie because they represent the heart and soul of Word of Life. Harry and Jack Wyrtzen served together for more than fifty years until Jack went home to glory. Harry wanted to know what life was like in the cabin in Mississippi and he and Millie both wanted to know how Marlene was doing and they wanted to hear about our trip to China.
Millie mentioned that she had been reading End of the Spear by Steve Saint, the book that accompanies the movie by the same title. Harry said that he and Millie had visited Marge Saint in September 1956, just eight months after the five missionaries were killed by the Waodani Indians. Several years earlier, he and Harold Reimer had traveled deep into the jungle of Brazil to reach the Xavante Indians with the gospel. When they finally made contact, the Indians tried to kill them. Eventually they succeeded in presenting the gospel to them. Today there is a flourishing church among the Xavantes, and just a few months ago they received the Bible in their own language. Harry said that Harold Reimer, during his student years at Wheaton College in the 1940s, had known several of the five missionaries who died. Harry and Millie eventually became good friends with Marge Saint and Elisabeth Elliot.
Harry talked about what it all meant from the standpoint of a half-century later. “Five missionaries were killed in Ecuador. And the tribe they were trying to reach ended up receiving the gospel and a church was established. A thousand miles away we traveled into the jungle and lived. And that tribe received the gospel and a church was established. Two men live, five men die, and the church is established in both places. There is no way to explain it but the sovereignty of God.”
There are mysteries here that will not be understood this side of heaven. Some live, others die, but the thing that matters is that the gospel goes forth. When you sign up to be a Christian, you give what you cannot keep to gain what you cannot lose. No one gets a guarantee of a long life. Some die young serving the Lord. Others live many years. Harry is right. There is no way to explain it but the sovereignty of God.

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