RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–After committing his life to missions in Mozambique, Brian Harrell learned that his grandparents also had a heart for the African country.
In 1941, however, a German warship sank his grandparents’ plans to serve there as missionaries.
Harrell, a third-generation missionary, was appointed with his wife Becky through the International Mission Board to Mozambique in 2004. Before leaving for the field, he discovered that his grandparents, Irl and Florence “Flo” McAllister, had planned to serve there with The Evangelical Alliance Mission (TEAM). German forces and bad timing, though, kept that from happening.
His grandmother told him, “You will go for us,” Harrell remembers.
“It was just a confirmation for us that our grandparents had tried to get in, [and] two generations later God is sending her grandson.”
It was just before the United States entered World War II, and the McAllisters were aboard a ship with more than 200 passengers –- many of whom, like them, were missionaries -– headed for Africa. However, a German raider (auxiliary cruiser warship) attacked their ship, firing 55 shells from more than three miles away.
Nine shells hit the vessel –- more than enough to send it to the bottom of the South Atlantic.
Everyone aboard survived the attack but was taken captive by German forces. The McAllisters and the other Americans spent a month on a German supply ship before being released in France. For various reasons, some passengers were sent to internment camps where many stayed for the duration of the war.
After returning to the United States, the McAllisters still planned to go to Mozambique, but the country soon closed its borders. Instead, the couple ended up serving for years in South Africa. Harrell’s parents, Al and Kathy, also served as missionaries for the same organization in Cape Town, South Africa.
Brian admits that after living in Africa with his parents most of his life, he had no desire to be a missionary when he returned to the U.S. That changed, though, during his college years when he gave up his own “selfish ambitions” and accepted God’s calling.
When he and Becky married, they began looking for a place “on the edge” where there was no missionary presence.
Shortly after announcing they were going to Mozambique, Harrell’s 90-something-year-old grandmother shared with him the full story of how she and his grandfather, who had passed away years before, attempted to make the journey. Although Brian had heard the story of “the sinking” before, he didn’t know exactly where his grandparents had been headed.
Three weeks later, Harrell’s grandmother passed away.
“I thought it was neat that she got to see the end of that story,” he said. “I think for me it was just the realization of the legacy that we were a part of and the grand plan that God had for us that we hadn’t seen.”
The Harrells and their three children have spent nearly three years on the mission field. They continue their work among a Muslim people group with a population of 500,000 that has little to no evangelical presence.
For more information about overseas missions service, call 1-800-999-3113 or go to imb.org or going.imb.org.