GARLAND, Texas (BP)–Shortly after intruders nabbed Gene and Jean Phillips at their missionary residence in Africa, Christians around the world began praying for the veteran Southern Baptist missionary couple, then living in the small country of Lesotho.
It was the beginning of the Internet era, which helped news about their kidnapping to quickly spread throughout the world.
The immediate, worldwide prayer effort culminated in their captors’ sudden and dramatic decision to not kill the Phillipses but instead to release them unharmed in a remote, rural area of Africa.
Hours after they learned of the worldwide prayer chain on their behalf, the Phillipses were interviewed by a local law enforcement officer, who wrote in his police report: “They were not killed because of prayer.”
For Gene and Jean Phillips, the abduction was another entry into their diary of times when God literally plucked them from the jaws of devastation and refined them through the African fires blazing around them.
“Someone asked us, ‘Knowing all you know now after all that’s happened, would you still have gone to Lesotho? And would you still have stayed there after your abduction?'” Jean Phillips says. “After thinking for a moment, I answered, ‘Yes,’ to both questions. You see, souls were saved and seeds planted through our ordeals. We trust God to continue to reap a harvest in Lesotho.”
The Phillipses lived through some of the most harrowing moments in African history of the last century — through unthinkable hardships that would have caused most people to abandon their cause. From the Rhodesian civil war to bush-country living, to the abduction in Lesotho that almost took their lives, they learned the dependability of God’s rescue again and again.
When all else seemed to fail them, God came through — sparing their lives, answering their prayers, making a way through the darkest nights, meeting their special family needs, and helping them sing praises despite one frightening, traumatic episode after another.
The story of the Phillipses’ dramatic abduction and nearly 50 years in Africa is told in a new, page-turning paperback book entitled Rescue, released in March by Hannibal Books, an evangelical Christian book-publishing company based in Garland, Texas.
“God continues to use our experiences for His glory,” Jean Phillips writes in Rescue. “Though we wouldn’t have chosen this way for Him to be glorified, that’s what we want — His glory.”
She adds, “We continue our journey, knowing that God is still teaching us — and still rescuing us. And we’re still ready to go wherever He leads.”
Jean Phillips was appointed a Southern Baptist career missionary in 1956 and served in Rhodesia (later renamed Zimbabwe) for 40 years. After retirement, she and husband Gene returned to Lesotho and later to Botswana as mission volunteers. In early 2002 they came back to the United States and now make their home in Camden, S.C.
Unlike many promotional stories of missionaries, Rescue is a transparent look deep into the Phillipses’ lives including days of doubt and personal torment. Jean Phillips candidly and openly shares about struggles family members had in living on two very different continents, facing daily hardships unimaginable to most Americans, and encountering family and interpersonal complications even the most gifted fiction writer would find difficult to create.
Among Jean Phillips’ many compelling stories is that of the heart-wrenching mental breakdown of son John, who as a teen-ager had to flee Rhodesia to escape being drafted into the Rhodesian army by the all-white government. Later, after college, he suffered a severe mental collapse with long-term implications. Today, John Phillips is an artist whose drawings of African animals highlight the beginning of each chapter of his mother’s book.
“Though we prayed, cried, begged and claimed God’s healing and deliverance, it seemed that God did not choose to bring about a quick ‘fix’ for John,” Jean writes in her book. Nevertheless, she says that in the midst of the family trauma she and husband Gene again sensed God’s unwaivering call for them to remain as missionaries in Africa.
“Through tears, laugher, joy and thanksgiving, Jean Philips shares a journey of an astounding faith,” writes Evelyn Blount, head of South Carolina’s Woman’s Missionary Union, on the cover of Rescue.
In his foreword to the book, Southern Baptist International Mission Board President Jerry Rankin says, “Many readers will think, in reading Rescue, that the author has put together a composite of experiences from a multitude of missionaries. However, the flow of narratives in this book reflects the pilgrimage of Gene and Jean Phillips through a lifetime of missionary service in Africa.”
Rescue is available at www.hannibalbooks.com and toll-free number, 1-800-747-0738, through amazon.com, and will soon be available in Christian and secular bookstores across the country. The book sells for $12.95. (BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: JEAN PHILLIPS and RESCUE.