ST. LOUIS (BP)–Morris H. Chapman, president and chief executive officer of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, commended Heather Mercer and Dayna Curry for their faithfulness to God during 105 days of captivity in Afghanistan.
Mercer and Curry, missionaries with the interdenominational Shelter Now ministry, spoke during the opening session of the June 11-12 SBC annual meeting in St. Louis.
“We began to realize we just got caught in the middle of some huge plan of God because he wanted to generate prayer for [Afghanistan],” Curry said. “He heard the cries of these widows and orphans so he let a few of his kids get in prison so the whole world would pray for Afghanistan like never before, so his light would come to this nation, so freedom would come and they could have hope again.”
Prayer and worship, plus God’s healing and even a time of wrestling with God led the Baylor University graduates to that realization, the duo said in separate 10-minute testimonies.
“We’re so thankful for your prayers,” Mercer said. “That’s the reason we’re here. And all of you are part of the testimony. Everybody who prayed is part of the miracle God did and the way he’s using this experience to make his name known all over the earth.”
Curry spoke of a rebellious life in high school and how she learned during her college years to love and worship God — to experience his presence and sense his nearness. Short-term mission trips stoked the fire that was growing in her heart to be one of those who would go to share Jesus with the 2.5 billion people who haven’t yet had a chance to know him and his love.
“The verse that really got me out there [was] Isaiah 6:8,” Curry said. “When he says, ‘Whom shall I send?’ I realized God was just looking for anyone willing to go. He’s looking for any heart that will say, ‘Lord here I am, I’m willing to go. Send me.’
“I realized those weren’t my tears but God’s tears because his heart breaks every day for those who have never had a chance to hear and those who are dying without his love,” Curry added. “Our pastor shared one of the main motivations for evangelism is to heal God’s broken heart. Since God had healed my broken heart, I wanted to help heal his.”
During her first 18 months in Afghanistan Curry worked with mothers and children who needed medical attention. When Mercer arrived they began to work with street children.
“Literally from the time they woke up in the morning until late into the evening they would carry these little plastic sacks and they would go from house to house, trying to collect pieces of bread to take home to their family,” Curry said. The two missionaries provided a warm lunch, job training and jobs so they wouldn’t have to beg.
“It was so easy to share about our faith,” Curry said. “It was so natural. Almost every day someone would ask us, ‘Why would you come here?’ It was awesome to say, ‘Because God loves you. He told us to come because he loves the Afghan people.’ Muslims don’t know that God loves them.”
It was the showing of the “Jesus” film that brought about their arrest last August.
“I was really shocked and afraid,” Curry said. “That first evening we held hands as tight as we could and we sang worship songs and we tried to quote every Scripture we could remember. His presence came and it washed over us. Peace like a river just came and flooded our souls.”
Ten days after they first were imprisoned, the Taliban let Curry and Mercer go to their home and get a few things, including their Bibles.
Curry recited some of the Scriptures that encouraged her. Psalm 27: “I will see his goodness in the land of the living”; Psalm 91: “No evil will befall you”; Psalm 118: “I will not die, but live and proclaim the works of the Lord.”
Learning of prayers not only for them but for Afghanistan showed them their imprisonment was part of God’s plan to bring the whole world to him, Curry said, her voice shaking in earnestness.
“Guys, Jesus wants to come back but he’s still waiting for these last remaining nations and people groups who have never heard,” Curry said. “And this generation can see it happen. We’ve got airplanes. It’s easy to get to everybody. It can happen if we respond and go because, really, the harvest is great but the laborers are few.
“I really believe God has blessed Southern Baptists, given you resources so you can touch the ends of the earth,” Curry said. “My prayer is that thousands upon thousands will be sent from among you so you can be a part and see this world changed for the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Mercer said people tried to dissuade her from going to Afghanistan by asking her why she would want to go someplace where they don’t really want to hear what she had to say.
“That’s a big fat lie. That’s not true,” Mercer said. “All over the world there are 2.5 billion people who are waiting to hear about the love of Jesus.”
She spoke of a man named Gideon they hired as watchman. After hearing the gospel on a shortwave radio they gave him, seeing the Jesus video and being witnessed to by a male Christian coworker, he became a Christian.
“He said, ‘If you knew this, how come you didn’t tell me sooner?'” Mercer recounted. “There are thousands of Gideons all over the nations of the earth who have never heard about Jesus. They’re hungry and desperate to hear the love of God and his healing power.”
Mercer read from a book written by missiologist John Piper. “‘Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church,'” she read. “‘Worship is. Missions … is a temporary necessity but worship abides forever.’ I realized what God was after in Afghanistan and all over the earth were pockets of believers — worshipers who would lift up the name of Jesus in spirit and truth and give themselves to him in a love relationship. We wanted to see the glory of God filling that nation through the establishment of a New Testament church in that country.
“The goal, the glory of God filling the earth and the establishment of his church — that’s what we wanted to see in Afghanistan,” Mercer said, then recounting told more of their watchman’s story.
“Gideon was arrested with us,” Mercer said. “He was beaten night and day from head to toe with a steel cable that was electrically powered. Every day the Taliban would come in and they would take him out and beat him and throw him back in his cell and at night they would take him out again and beat him and throw him back in his cell.
“This one night after he’d been beaten severely he was thrown into his room and he had a dream. God met with him in a dream. In the dream this man walked into his cell, and his hair was long and he was glowing. … He was so beautiful and his face was so kind. He said, ‘Gideon get up and follow me.’ So in his dream Gideon got up and followed the man through the door of his prison into the courtyard. And the man said again, ‘Gideon follow me.’ And Gideon followed him again through the courtyard of the prison out into the open street.”
Gideon woke up and found in an exact replay of his dream that the prison interior and exterior doors were open, and there were no guards.
“He walked all the way home to freedom,” Mercer said. “God is still in the business of doing miracles.”
Mercer acknowledged she had a hard time in prison.
“I did not do prison the way I hoped I would do it,” she said. “For the better half of the 105 days we spent in prison, I found myself wrestling with God. I wrestled with him hard. I asked all the hard questions. I asked him, ‘Why, why do we have to be in prison, why do we have to go through this?’ He tenderly encouraged me. He said, ‘Well, Heather, what did you pray before you came here? You want to see my glory fill this nation. It might cost you everything. Heather, are you willing to lose your life so you might find it here?’
“I’m so glad I had to wrestle with God on those issues and I’m so glad I lost that fight,” Mercer said. “It was the mercy of God to let me lose it and to say, ‘Yes, God, I do want to see your kingdom come in Afghanistan. You are my boss. You are my leader and I choose to follow you no matter what.’
“It might cost everything to see Afghanistan come to know Jesus, to see the people of Afghanistan come to know him. And you know what? It might cost the church of Jesus Christ everything to see his church established around the earth and to see his glory fill the earth.
“This is really what I believe with all my heart,” Mercer said. “Once we’ve decided to pay the price and to say, ‘Yes, Jesus, whatever it costs, I choose to obey,’ we’ll find out in the end it really cost us nothing because all we wanted was Jesus anyway. So that’s my encouragement, that Jesus is worthy, that he will fill the earth with his glory; he will establish his church.”
Mercer reminded her listeners of the thousands of unreached people groups all over the world.
“In this room alone there are thousands of people and you represent thousands more in your local churches,” she said. “So what if all of us said, ‘Yes, God, we want to see your glory fill the earth, whatever it costs.’
“His kingdom would come! It would,” Mercer said. “He’s committed to it. And how awesome [that] he’s called us and allowed us to partner with him in that mission. So my prayer is for all of us, that we would be a people of faith who take God at his word and go forth with all our hearts, with no thoughts of personal sacrifice we would have to pay.”