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Missionary answers ‘God-sized’ question

SAN ANTONIO (BP)–What will it take to win the world to Jesus Christ?

That’s the “God-sized” question SBC President Frank Page put to David Garrison, the International Mission Board’s regional leader for South Asia, June 12 at the 2007 Southern Baptist Convention in San Antonio.

Garrison’s answer came from the words Jesus gave to His disciples in John 4:35: “Lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.”

Before Southern Baptists can see that harvest, Garrison said they must first turn away from the ways of the world, from denominational infighting and, ultimately, from themselves. He told messengers the story of three Southern Baptist missionaries who sacrificed their lives to tell others about Jesus.

On Dec. 30, 2002, a Muslim named Abdul Kamil walked into Yemen’s Jibla Baptist Hospital and gunned down Martha Myers, Bill Koehn and Kathleen Gariety. Kamil’s wife struggled with infertility and had been a patient of Dr. Myers for nearly a year. After the murders, Kamil was arrested and interrogated by police.

“My wife told me that no one had ever treated her with such love and tenderness as Dr. Myers,” he recounted. “When I saw how this love had so touched my wife, I knew I must kill this doctor. Because a love so powerful was dangerous, it could turn all of my people away from Islam.”

“What Dr. Myers, Bill Koehn and Kathleen Gariety did with their lives would be considered foolishness when measured by the ways of this world,” Garrison said. “But friends, we can see in God’s great plan that it was the power of God unto salvation.

“Southern Baptists, do not follow the ways of this world,” Garrison exhorted. “We have a higher calling!”

Garrison said believers next must recognize the lostness that surrounds them. His region, South Asia, has the greatest concentration of lostness anywhere in the world. It includes nations like India, where there are more than 800 lost persons per square mile.

“I’m troubled, my friends, when I come back to America and I see Southern Baptists becoming more and more cocooned in the evangelical Christian world. I’m convinced more lost people are not coming to Christ because more Southern Baptists do not know lost people.

“Jesus looked around Him and saw a lost world and His heart wept for the lost…. Southern Baptists, lift up your eyes and see a lost world around you.”

Garrison recalled a news story he read in an Indian newspaper about a religious man named Halappa who had developed an “extreme devotion” to the god he worshipped. One day, Halappa’s wife found him lying in the couple’s garden. He had cut his own throat before his “god” –- a stone. Halappa died on the way to the hospital.

“This tragedy … seems bizarre to us,” Garrison said, “but it should not, because lost people are desperate for Jesus Christ whether they admit it or not.

“Imagine … if someone had been there to tell him that ‘Yes,’ God did want to have a relationship with him, and ‘Yes,’ God did provide a blood sacrifice for his salvation. But we got there too late.”

Once Southern Baptists recognize lostness, Garrison said they will see the fields that are ripe for harvest. To illustrate, he told the story of Mejanur, the first-known martyr for Jesus Christ in Bangladesh.

The 23-year-old Muslim-background believer not only had led his father and mother to faith but more than 100 other Muslims in a span of two years.

On Feb. 7, 1997, Mejanur baptized five new believers in one town. That night, a crowd of men from a nearby Islamic school took Mejanur from the home where he was staying and tortured him, demanding he renounce Jesus Christ.

When Mejanur refused, the men began to cut off his fingers, one by one. As he cried out to the Lord in agony, the men continued to mutilate his body. Once they had run out of fingers, they chopped off Mejanur’s hand at the wrist. His unconscious body was left in the courtyard. There, in the quiet of the night, he bled to death.

“But the story doesn’t end there,” Garrison told the convention audience.

IMB workers in Bangladesh reported more than 35 Muslims in that town coming to faith over the next seven months. Then, one night, an unexpected knock came at the door of Mejanur’s parents.

Two of the men who had tortured and murdered their son fell at the feet of Mejanur’s father and asked his forgiveness.

“We want to spend the rest of our lives working for you as your servants because we too have become followers of Jesus,” they told him.

Garrison concluded his SBC challenge by asking Southern Baptists to “lift up their eyes” so that they may see “the impossible made possible.”

More than 230,000 people died instantly when a tsunami swept into southern Asia in December 2004. Southern Baptists responded rapidly, sending volunteer teams and donating more than $17 million in relief to minister to the survivors. As a direct result of their compassion and sacrifice, Garrison said missionaries have seen more than 1,000 new churches planted since that time.

“Jesus Christ is changing lives in South Asia and around the world,” Garrison said, “and He’s working through us to do it whenever we turn away from ourselves, when we turn away from fighting one another, when we turn away from the ways of this world and follow His ways.

“What’s it going to take to win a lost world to Jesus Christ? Southern Baptists, my beloved Southern Baptists, lift up your eyes.”

    About the Author

  • Don Graham