RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–Hope in the face of evil bewilders those who live without hope.
In the world’s eyes it seems strange, even irrational, to respond to violence with love. To Lyn Hyde, it’s the only response that makes sense.
A Southern Baptist missionary, Hyde lost her husband, Bill, on March 4. He was among 44 people killed by the terrorist bombing of an airport in the Philippines. They had been married for 37 years and had served as missionaries together for 25 years.
She still grieves, but in October she will return to visit the Philippines — via the airport where her husband died — to seek the Lord’s will for her future.
“The bomb that killed Bill did not kill the call to missions on my life,” she told International Mission Board trustees. “I know God still has a purpose for me.”
Gladys Staines would understand.
It’s been nearly five years since Staines’ husband, Australian missionary Graham Staines, and her two sons, Philip, 10, and Timothy, 8, were burned alive in their vehicle by Hindu extremists in India.
It is a “wound that will never heal,” she admits. Yet the 52-year-old missionary remains in India, directing the home for lepers her husband served for many years. Why?
“When Christians show that they are determined to continue in their faith, when people see that believers have a peace that others don’t have, and when people see a complete lifestyle change on the part of believers, they start asking, ‘What is this all about?'” she explained in a recent article in Decision magazine.
Such determination is becoming a requirement for continued engagement in many places. The world that was supposed to fall into neat, tidy and quiet order after the end of the Cold War instead has become more violent and chaotic.
“Welcome to the new international disorder,” writes Fareed Zakaria in Newsweek. “When historians look back, they will point to certain dominant realities — most obviously terrorism and radical Islam — that have created this post-9/11 world…. Of course, terrorism has existed forever, but 9/11 symbolized a new reality: the democratization of violence on a large scale…. [V]iolence is much more likely than it was during the Cold War, when deterrence ensured that adversaries could refuse to surrender and yet stay at peace. How do you deter someone whose address you do not know?”
On a macro scale, that means the United States and other global powers will continue to face guerrilla assaults by a variety of enemies — from fanatical believers to anarchists and nihilists who believe in nothing at all. The more sophisticated opponents, like Osama bin Laden, will use the tools and technologies of globalization in their attempts to destroy it.
On a micro scale, it means that individuals who venture into the world to serve others will encounter more complex crises — and fewer open arms.
“Increasingly, aid workers are being threatened with attack,” according to a New York Times report by Michelle Cullen. “Between 1985 and 1998, 382 aid workers died — two-thirds from intentional violence. Often the attacks are committed by the very people the workers are trying to help.”
However, there’s a fundamental difference between secular humanitarian workers and Christian missionaries. Humanitarian workers focus on nation-building and the relief of suffering. Missionaries, even those directly involved in relief work, focus on building God’s Kingdom — and sharing hope. Nation-building often fails. God’s love does not fail; His hope does not disappoint.
“After Graham’s death, everyone expected me to go back to Australia,” Gladys Staines reflects. “They also expected me to take the bodies back and bury them in Australia. It never occurred to me to do such a thing. Graham and I would rather be buried in the country where we are serving. So we buried them in the cemetery at the leprosy home. It is a tremendous witness now as people come to the cemetery. We’ve got a gravestone inscribed with: ‘Where, O grave, is thy victory? Where, O death, is thy sting?’ [1 Corinthians 15:55].
“When I was explaining to my daughter that Graham and the boys had been killed, we agreed that we would forgive those who did it. And I can say from my own experience that forgiveness brings healing.”
Bridges is a senior writer with the Southern Baptist International Mission Board whose column appears twice each month in Baptist Press.