This past week at the church which we are attending, we had the privilege to listen to Dr. Nik Ripkin discuss his work pertaining to relief in Somalia. He described the struggle and the work they did there for the relief of Christians and the general public. Death was the subject of his discussion. On average when they arrived the main task was to bury around 20 children every day, the remaining time was spent trying to give out the relief packages from the UN. The tone of the matter was death. Lose, starvation, wickedness, darkness, monstrosities to family and believers in the Lord Jesus Christ made up the body of his 50 min speech. He stood and told the stories of his friends, that had survived, and friends that had been martyred, and how the resurrected Christ was taking care of his bride in Somalia.
He described an instance where four believers had heard that some clergy were coming from Europe to administer the Lords Supper. They could not contain their excitement, it had been 10 years. Now, this seemed to be after 1992 by the way he was telling it. So according to some statistics by now the known population of Christians is in the single digits. It was in the triple digits 13 months prior.
They gathered in a secret place broke bread, drank wine and supped at the Lords Table. The following week the Somali men that had partaken where all murdered. It was their last supper. I thought, “What if this was my last supper? What if this was our huge secret that would kill every one in this room, but we would continue to preach to people about it all the time. The Gospel would be so heavy to handle. “This gospel is going to get us all killed” I think. But we still sing. Louder than the angles, I hear men yelling outside- I know they can hear us, but we erupt in music so loud, its terrifying” Then I notice my one year old has spit her bingky across the floor, to which I retrieve- and come back from my day dream. Looking around at us from a third eye, we all were like my one year old- chuby and fat, healthy and sitting on a knee tender and safe. Sitting on the pew/lockingchair bench- built for optimal church goer comfort. No one is trying to kill me? No one is breaking me? No one has my name on a list and is planning with other men, spending all day figuring out how to murder and defile my family? Trying to bring me to the very pit, and then take my life as if they owned it? My daughter’s chubby hand hit my face and started playing with my lip and asked for a snack.
In conjunction to this I wanted to bring up another man. Now, I know little about this man. His name is Joshua Milton Blahlyi, and to be honest I would suggest few do- even though I think in 2011 there was a film made about him. But, my first introduction was in a travel series on Netflix in 2010, by VICE magazine. The show VICE’s Travel Guide to the World, heads to places like North Korea, Chernobyl and others places people leave, or are killed. In one episode they land in Monrovia, Liberia. In particular they want to explore a peninsula called “West Point”. This is one of the worst places on the planet earth, one of the darkest places in Christ Kingdom.
The reporter, (Shane Smith) finds out about a warlord from the early 90’ that is willing to meet with them. There are no more warlords in power, the UN has been there but keeping a distance- some would say, trying to keep the peace. These warlords have disbanded or are warring in more of gang type war fare. However, they still are a huge force. Thus, Shane meets GENERAL BUTTNAKED, – warning : very graphic-http://www.vice.com/the-vice-guide-to-travel/the-vice-guide-to-liberia-6, watch – threw to part 8. But warning to the viewer, it is not for the faint of heart. I show it here, because I can’t describe it, someday I will. But here it is in short form. He is a warlord of Satan. He is converted by a vision of a Male figure so bright like the sun with a woman standing behind the bright male, this all happens while a battle is beginning to take place and bullets start to be fired. As he hears the man in the vision say – “Stop killing and slaving” he is filled with fear, fear he had never felt. Through this conversion he then heads to Ghana where he is baptized. He is now a preacher and to this day preaches and runs a mission in the darkest place on earth, Monrovia.
He changed his name, and says one of the main reasons “is that his kids can know him as the man of God” Joshua Milton Blahyi, not by his warlord name. He who was one of the most wicked men alive on our earth now helps the people and families that he personally destroyed. He was tried for war crimes being found guilty but released do his active work as a pastor and aid to the Somalian people. I have a limited understanding, but this commentary has stuck with me. My favorite line is near the end, part 8, of Shane Smith’s response to watching Mr. Blahyi preach. It’s a wild service one that would gather much judgment in the suburbs. But Shane thinks to himself- this man is a killer and now stands here trying to help and server the people that he once killed, and that he preaches there is hope and good to be found in Christ here in Monrovia; in this place that 70% of woman are raped, 1 million people die alone from Malaria a year, drugs, sex slaving, cannibalism, and then they have civil war- constantly. To which he says – “I felt like I was on Acid.”
The first time I heard Mr. Blahyi quote Romans 8:28- I thought that someone very much like Blahyi, a persecutor himself, had written that through the Spirit. Not to get crazy but I think that is pretty mind blowing. That the Holy Spirit would have a man who thought he was a conquer, who thought he was doing good- now having his eyes opened to all the pain and suffering he caused, and making him write a letter to the Romans and around word 2,000 or so he is compelled to write “that all things work together for good” all the pain, and then 2,000 years later a sinful man with blood on his hands would read it and weep, and cry out in the hope of Christ. Mr. Blahyi knows his actions have destroyed, and there has to be a price for his wickedness, and what is this faith that says its “good” for him to even be alive, let along be called a child of God. Drop Acid Shane, it does not even come close to the incredible reality that the gift of faith declares in a child of God.
This man I hesitated to bring up, because I have heard some concerns about his authenticity- I mean who would trust him. I see his fame growing, and who knows maybe Christ was his get out of jail free card. However, I am not going to not tell a story that might be “too good to be true.” Let God be true and every man a liar and keep this man in your prayers.
I have one last story, I am sorry this is long but I must put this down, to help tie up my conclusion. Under Empire Septimius Severinus(202 AD), there was an edict requiring all to worship the Empire, lighting a stick of incense, worshiping his name, this would suffice and let you live. Perpetua a young mother near Carthage when asked to recant said “I have but one name and that is Chirstian, and I can not change my name.”
In these three accounts we see a Table, A King, and a Name. Those of us who do not face the hardships of persecution, still face hardships. Pain still bites. Like a snake in a bundle of sticks, hidden and unseen it bites us. The reminder we can not control everything, we cannot see everything – we cannot stop it. We tried and failed, not once- twice, three times. But these bites remind us that they have no sting. The venom does not affect us. No staying power, like the weakness of a grip over time, so the hand of death slips.Death is like fire, we keep nothing, being handed clean new hands to put on, and clean feet that do not run to evil, they have not ran in the path of wickedness, tongues that have not lied. Eyes that have not coveted, but all members are ready to create and live like you have never even imagined.
We sit at a table every week breaking bread, picturing and proclaim how Christ had to be broken so we could be put together, how Christ had to be poured out so the blood could flood the wickedness of our heart and of this world and drown Satan and all his chariots. We also sit as Kings, sons of God, conquers not of swords and guns but of faith and generational obedience, and sacrifice. We sit under a Name, we are brought into this Name. This Name according to Christs Kingship, gives the power and authority that is true and right to this kingdom on earth. We are in this Name, anointed in this Name.
At the table we meet with all the saints around world, and our remembrance is of Christ and His body broken for us. This is where we are a part of the persecuted Church, the oppressed, the raped, the orphan, the widow, the broken. When we sit at the table we dine with the martyrs of all time – under one Name, the Name above Heaven, Earth and even under the earth. We see the bread broken, we can see the wine, as we eat, as we chew, as we swallow, the Holy Spirit through Paul says we are one body proclaiming the Lords Death till he comes. The table is where we declare battle as before the cross, but then we declare the victory in the resurrection. He prepares a table in the presence of our enemies, and this cup over follows- to all four corners of the earth.
““Come, let us return to the Lord.
He has torn us to pieces
but he will heal us;
he has injured us
but he will bind up our wounds.
After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will restore us,
that we may live in his presence.
Let us acknowledge the Lord;
let us press on to acknowledge him.
As surely as the sun rises,
he will appear;
he will come to us like the winter rains,
like the spring rains that water the earth.”Hosea 6:1-3
This is my toast to the martyr- “That this side of heaven- May we all live in our spaces and times as you have lived in your last.” In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.