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This is a pretty incredible e-mail from an individual who heard Heather Mercer and Dana Curry, the 2 Baylor students who were held captive in Afghanistan. God is at work everywhere!
Last night, Heather Mercer and Dana Curry spoke at my church. It was the first stop on their speaking tour, and it was fabulous. About fifteen minutes in, I started taking notes because I realized that there were too many wonderful nuggets here to miss. And since I wrote down so much of what they said, I thought I'd pass it along to you.
The girls looked so young, and so ordinary. And it was refreshing to see how humble and unpolished they are. They looked nervous, and when they stepped onto the stage, we gave them a standing ovation. They looked shocked and embarrassed. We had over 2500 people there, so it must have looked like an intimidating crowd.
Dana spoke first, and told of her late teen years, when she drank and smoked and partied. She told how she got pregnant and had an abortion. Then she went to Baylor and the Lord got her attention. She gave her life to him, then started going on mission trips. She started really being concerned about the many people groups around the world who had never heard about Jesus. One night, she was in a church service where they showed the faces of people around the world who didn't know Jesus, and the worship leader that night said that God's heart broke over every one of those faces. And then he asked, "Do you want to help heal God's broken heart?" He quoted Isaiah 6:8. "Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?' And I said, 'Here am I. Send me!'" So she answered that call. She said that it wasn't some big dramatic Calling that people expect. It was a still, small voice just stirring her heart and making her love those people.
She had friends serving in Afghanistan, and they desperately needed helpers. So she decided to go over there and help them. She said that she's a real wimp when it comes to evangelism. She wasn't the knock-on-doors type. But it was so easy in Afghanistan, because people were so curious about her and the other foreigners who were there. She said that the children flocked to her every time she walked outside. People gravitated to them for food and work, etc. She said, "If you've ever wanted to be popular, go to Afghanistan. It's instant popularity!"
She told of a woman whose husband was either dead or in prison, and she called her Sarah (not her real name). She said that Sarah had six children, and would come to their house begging for clothes that needed sewing, etc., so she could earn money to put food on her table. Because of the relationship they built with her, she began asking questions about Jesus. So they showed her the JESUS Film. Then one night, Sarah had a dream in which Jesus came to her, and put his hand on each of her children's heads, and said that he would be a husband to her and take care of her. She ran to them the next day and said that she wanted to know Jesus. She accepted him, but soon after was beaten, along with her children, when the Taliban found out. One of the older children later told her that it was all right, because Jesus had been beaten, too, and crucifixion was much worse than what they'd been through.
As Dana told this, Heather sat behind her, crying and wiping her eyes. You could see that this had a big impact on them. The eight missionaries there were arrested soon after that. Dana said that the first night in prison they were frightened, but they prayed and began to sing, and Christ's presence just filled the room. They knew they were not alone. Miraculously, the Taliban allowed them to return home to get their bibles, and they were able to keep those with them. (This is fascinating in a country where they punished people for HAVING Bibles.)
Dana said that they had had trouble getting the opportunity to build relationships with too many of the Afghan women while they were free, but now that they were in jail, they were with 30 Afghan women. They were able to share with all of them. And they were very excited when they realized that, in order to find the evidence to convict them, the Taliban had to view the JESUS Film, which was one of their key bits of evidence. When she was interrogated, Dana said that one of the Taliban tried to make her become Muslim. She said she couldn't, that she loved Jesus and that he had changed her life. The Taliban soldier asked her how in the world Jesus could have changed her life. So she was able to give her testimony! To a Muslim, the concept of God changing your life, loving you, and having a relationship with you is foreign. Through it all, she saw the opportunities in her being in prison, and they were far greater than they had been when they were free. She said they sang all the time. She said that Psalm 91:14-16 helped her get through the bad days. "Because he loves me," says the Lord, "I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation."
Another scripture she hung on to was Psalm 118:17: "I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done." Because of that verse, she felt that the Lord was going to deliver them. She said that she had had trouble with her personal intimacy with Jesus before, but while she was in prison, she was able to achieve that because she had so much time to spend with God.
Dana said that when the bombing started, she had to choose to believe on a different level. She said, "Bombing is really loud!" It was very scary for them. But she said that one of the German missionaries with them said that she had a dream in which angels stood around their prison with their arms locked. That gave them all peace that God would protect them through the bombing.
Dana said that, in hindsight, she understands that they were in prison during the bombing to pray for the city. They asked God to let the Taliban flee when the Northern Alliance came in. She said they remembered Sodom and Gomorrah, where God said he would spare the city if there were ten righteous. She said, "There were eight of us right there in prison, and we knew there must be two others in the city." When the Northern Alliance came in, their prayer was answered. The Taliban literally did just flee. She said that one of the Northern Alliance soldiers was a midget. God used the weak to shame the strong. When they were freed, they were told the military was coming for them, but it was night and they had no way of signaling them. They dug through all their purses for matches, but none of them had any.
Finally, they heard the helicopters, and feared their chance had been missed. Heather grabbed her purse again and said, "There HAS to be a match in that purse." And this time she found one. So they set fire to their head scarves, and signaled the helicopters. She said the military told them that they had a check list to follow, and according to their check list, they were supposed to abort the mission because it was too dangerous to come in and get them. But they came anyway.
She said that the night of their release, the world media were in Crawford, Texas, because Bush was meeting with Puten. Nothing was happening, so the media all went to Waco to Heather and Dana's church (near Baylor). The church was having a celebration, and the song leader made up a song for their praise and worship: "Jesus loves Afghanistan..." The next morning, the BBC opened with the headline, "Jesus Loves Afghanistan!" So Jesus' name was glorified all over the world through their imprisonment and release. She said that what the devil meant for evil, God meant for good. She said that when George W. Bush called them the night of their release, the first thing he said was, "Isn't God gracious?" He knew where the victory had come from.
Then Heather got up and thanked us all for praying for them. She said that their lawyer in Afghanistan was able to bring them letters that people had sent them from all over the world. She said that we will never know how much those prayers helped them. Then she told us about the Burnhams in the Philippines, who have been in captivity for months and are literally starving to death. She asked us to pray for them as we prayed for her and Dana. Right that moment, she led us in prayer for them.
She declared that she and Dana were normal, average people changed by an extraordinary God. She believes that the Afghans are worth living and dying for. Heather began to tell us about how she came to Christ. She said that she was from Northern Virginia, from a dysfunctional home, and she said that people taught her that a nice car, a nice home, and possessions were worth living and dying for. But those things didn't satisfy her. When she came to Christ, she realized that Jesus is the only thing worth living and dying for.
She said that when she was a young Christian, Jeremiah 29:11 really impacted her: "'For I know the plans I have for you,'" declares the Lord. "Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" And she began to wish that everyone knew that. She felt the call to the mission field, but she asked God what she had that He could use. And he said, "Heather, can you love your neighbor? Heather, can you love the poor? Heather, can you weep with me? I want someone who can weep with me over a nation I weep for every day." So she gave her life to missions, and asked God to give her the people groups that no one else wanted. And he sent her to Afghanistan.
One of the things they did there was to visit the people in the hospitals, and they would lay hands on them and pray for them. She said the Afghan people loved to have someone pray for them. She was called to the bed of young girl who had set herself on fire in a suicide attempt, because she was so hopeless. She prayed for the girl and told her about Jesus loving her, and a few days later she died. But because she had ministered to her, the family called her to their home, to talk to their other daughter who was also suicidal. They were able to share Christ with her and the family.
She told of a man named Simon (names changed to protect them). He had begun to ask questions about their faith, so they gave him a book of Psalms in his language. He read it, and related to those written by David, a shepherd who lived very much like him. He said that he felt that someone was in the room with him as he read it. He knew it was God's presence. He wanted to know more, but since they didn't have the Bible in his language, they gave him the JESUS Film. He gave his life to Christ after watching it. But they knew that it could cost him his life. He said that was okay, that he had nothing else to live for, that Jesus is the only one who satisfies. She said that man was later arrested, but they began trying to minister to his family. One day they were visiting them when his little daughter came out and had a serious infection on her face. They laid hands on her and prayed for her. The next day, her sore had healed! The family then knew that Jesus was real. She said that the people there were able to pick up a Christian radio station that broadcast into Kabul, and a man they knew began to listen to it. She said he would listen to it in secret every night, and he would tell them how beautiful the things he heard about Jesus were. So they gave him the JESUS Film. It moved him greatly. After he had seen it, he asked them, "Why didn't you tell me these things sooner?" Because of these converts, the group of missionaries was arrested. Heather said that the first week in prison, she felt as though she was having a mental breakdown. She was not tough and peaceful at all. She said that she was completely gripped in fear. She lost control, couldn't think, and cried all the time. In her words, she was freaked out. She said she kept telling God, "I don't feel you. I'm mad at you. Where are you? Do you really love us?" She told God that dying there was not an option. Then about a week into the ordeal, the Lord led her to Matthew 16:25: "For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it."
"I thought I was in control," she said. But that verse made her realize that she had to give up her life to find it. And that if they did die there, God was still good. His goodness was not contingent on whether they lived or died."
From that point on, she had a different perspective. She said that most of us probably would never be imprisoned for Christ. But then she said, "Can I tell you, I hope you WILL be in prison someday, because you'll be so blessed!" She said that these were the things worth living and dying for. She asked, "If you don't fulfill your destiny, who will?" Then she challenged us. "What if everyone in this room obeyed their destiny? Maybe Jesus could come back." She pointed out that Jesus said He would come back when everyone had heard. We could have a part in making that happen.
It was a wonderful night, and I came away thinking how powerful and mighty the Lord is. These girls had a small impact in Afghanistan before their capture. Since their imprisonment, they've reached millions around the world, and will continue to as their speaking tour continues. They also have a book coming out soon. Who would have imagined it when they were at Baylor University, just a couple of college girls with big dreams?
God is, indeed, gracious.
Earnestly contending for the Faith which was once delivered unto the saints.
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