God’s Great Story

In January I was pleased to speak at my home church, Wallace Memorial Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee, as they celebrated the life and ministry of Dr. Bill Wallace, a medical missionary to China for whom the church is named. 

Revelation 7:9-11 (HCSB): After this I looked, and there was a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were robed in white with palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:

Salvation belongs to our God,
who is seated on the throne,
and to the Lamb!

All the angels stood around the throne, the elders, and the four living creatures, and they fell facedown before the throne and worshiped God,

Revelation 21:1-4 (HCSB): Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea no longer existed. I also saw the Holy City, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband.

Then I heard a loud voice from the throne:

Look! God’s dwelling is with humanity,
and He will live with them.
They will be His people,
and God Himself will be with them
and be their God.
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
Death will no longer exist;
grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer,
because the previous things have passed away.

Revelation 22:1-5 (HCSB):Then he showed me the river of living water, sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the broad street of the city. The tree of life was on both sides of the river, bearing 12 kinds of fruit, producing its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree are for healing the nations, and there will no longer be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and His slaves will serve Him.  They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads.  Night will no longer exist, and people will not need lamplight or sunlight, because the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign forever and ever.

My Dad likes to start a book about three-fourths of the way in, read a few pages, and then if he likes how it’s turning out, he will read the entire book. Like my dad, I also love to read. As far back as I can remember, I have loved stories, and as a young girl growing up in a Baptist church and being a member of Girls in Action, some of my favorite stories have been the stories of missionaries: Lottie Moon and Bill Wallace are the two I remember most.

Who was Lottie Moon?
lottie-moon 01Lottie Moon was a missionary to China. She was appointed to Tengchow, China, by the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board in 1873. Lottie served 39 years in China, mostly in Shandong province on the east coast. At that time, China was mostly farmland, and history tells us that although the Chinese people feared and rejected her, she refused to leave. Instead she baked cookies, adopted traditional Chinese dress, and learned the language and customs. She didn’t just serve the people of China. She identified with them. And some eventually accepted her, and the Savior she represented. Lottie died on Christmas Eve, 1912 at age 72 on a ship bound for the U.S. in Kobe Harbor, Japan.

Who was Bill Wallace?
Bill Wallace
Now, fast forward to 1935, when a young surgeon from right here in Knoxville, set sail for Wuchow, China. Bill Wallace was appointed by the Foreign Mission Board to Stout Memorial Hospital in Wuchow, in Southern China, 23 years after Lottie Moon’s death. The China Bill Wallace encountered was very different from the one Lottie Moon served. By the time Bill Wallace arrived in China, Southern Baptist missionaries had been in China for nearly 90 years — China was the FMB’s first foreign mission field — and political conflict was beginning to brew. Little did Bill Wallace (or anyone) know at the time that the Japanese would launch a full-scale invasion of China two years later in 1937.

Bill Wallace and his colleagues continued to serve faithfully through the Japanese occupation, World War II and eventually the communist takeover of China in 1949. The stories of his heroism during those years are astounding – including evacuating the entire hospital in 1944, only a few days ahead of Japanese forces, transporting patients, staff and equipment by boat hundreds of miles upriver. After the war, Wallace returned to Stout Memorial hospital, rebuilt it, and kept treating patients even after the Communist party gained control of China in 1949.

Erich Bridges, a long-time IMB missionary writer, explains that after the communist takeover missionaries were no longer welcome in China and the start of the Korean War in 1950 sparked an intense Anti-American campaign. Bill Wallace was arrested in December 1950 and died in a communist jail cell less than two months later.

After Wallace’s arrest, Erich records, authorities summoned many Wuchow citizens to a public meeting and demanded that they step forward to denounce the missionary. Not a single person did. The only charge they could make stick was that “he went about doing good.”

The Larger Story
These are the stories that captured my heart and my imagination as a little girl. I loved reading Lottie Moon’s biography and Jesse Fletcher’s Bill Wallace of China. And because of those stories, it wasn’t hard for me to picture myself doing missionary work someday. Then, when I did sense God’s call first as a teenager and then again in my early 30s, it wasn’t too big a step to say “Yes” to that call. I was privileged to serve with the IMB – doing a job I loved with people I loved for a cause I loved – for 17 years.

During those 17 years with the IMB – 13 of them in Asia — Bill Wallace’s legacy continued to inspire me. I had the privilege of not only visiting the Wallace Memorial Baptist Hospital in Pusan, South Korea, a number of times but also hearing the stories of doctors and nurses from that hospital who were traveling into difficult places in South Asia to hold medical clinics and share the gospel. Bill Wallace’s legacy continued to inspire them. They inspired me.

But most importantly, Bill Wallace’s story, and Lottie Moon’s story, and my story and the stories of countless others over the years who have served God here in the U.S. and around the world are all just smaller parts of a much larger story – a story of God’s love and redemption and restoration of a world broken by sin. That story goes something like this:

In the beginning, God …

  • In the beginning, God created all nations from one man for His glory.
  • We all sinned and fell short of His glory.
  • God made a covenant with Abraham to bless all nations.
  • God led Joseph captive into Egypt for His glory.
  • Then He called out Moses to rescue the Israelites from Pharaoh to make His name known among all nations.
  • He gave the young nation of Israel commandments to live differently than the nations around them.
  • God sent prophets so the nations would know there is no other God.
  • God so loved the world that He sent Jesus, His Son, to offer forgiveness of sins to all the nations!
  • Jesus sent His Church to all nations to tell His story!
  • Jesus will come again, and the nations will gather to worship and give God glory!

The End.

Ripples of Hope
Lottie Moon, Bill Wallace, and missionaries who have served in hard places and global cities around the world are ripples of hope in a dark, dying world, even when all hope seems lost. 2 Peter 3:9 tells us that “God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” The communist takeover of China in 1949 closed the country to missions work, and the China that ended Bill Wallace’s life in 1951 was a dark place. But had God abandoned the Chinese people?

Absolutely not.

Many of you may have read the book or seen the film by Nik Ripken, called “Insanity of God.” Ripken is an IMB missionary who has interviewed hundreds of believers living in persecution all over the world. After his interviews with Chinese believers who have grown up in an atmosphere of oppression, he realized that in the last 65 years, these believers in China have been part of the greatest spiritual awakening the world has ever known.

The number of believers in China in the days of Bill Wallace was in the hundreds. Today, that number reaches into the millions. The growth of the church during fifty years of communist rule in China was even greater than the growth experienced in the church over the first few centuries after Christ.

God did not abandon China after the death of Bill Wallace and the expulsion of Christian missionaries. Instead, he took the seeds that had been planted and He multiplied them in a way that few of us can even begin to comprehend.

What about you?
Slide16
Where do you fit in this story? In this larger story, we are in the last few chapters. We, the church, have been tasked by God with taking His story to the nations … just as He tasked the early believers in the first century and just as He called Lottie Moon, Bill Wallace and other followers of Jesus through the ages.

God didn’t issue the Great Commission to a select few. He has called all of us to take the Gospel to the nations. Now, those nations may be on the other side of the world, and I know that God is still calling some of you to “Go” to the nations.

But, increasingly, God is also bringing the nations to us. In the United States today, there are 42 million foreign-born refugees, immigrants and international students. More than 300,000 Tennesseans — 4.7 percent of the population — are foreign-born. This is an increase from 1.2 percent in 1990 and 2.8 percent in 2000. Of UT Knoxville’s 28,000 graduate and undergraduate students enrolled this year, 1,268 are international students. The largest number – 520 – are from China. The second highest – 144 – are from India. The nations are living among us, and today we have a unique and unprecedented opportunity to share Christ right here in this city with those who may have never heard the Good News.

So, the challenge and the commission still stand. The same God who called Lottie Moon and Bill Wallace is also calling you to take the Gospel to those who have never heard, whether they are right here in Knoxville or on the other side of the world.

Will you go?

Temptation

Conference call

Sam’s team surrounded him and together lifted him onto their shoulders. The home crowd cheered wildly, and the euphoria was like nothing Sam had ever felt before. Assisted by his best friend, Barrett, he had just scored the winning basket in the final seconds of his high school’s district championship.

As the seconds rolled off the clock and with his team down by one, Barrett had passed the ball to Sam. Sam had the opening to take the three-point shot. He was as amazed as anyone when the ball swished through the net as time ran out, and his Warriors won by a score of 73-71. The Warriors were advancing to the region.

As the team slid him off their shoulders and back to the ground, Barrett grabbed him in a bear hug.

“Great shot!” Barrett shouted over the crowd.

“Great pass!” Sam shouted back.

The cheering and shouting continued as the team made their way to the locker room. After showers and a few words from their very excited coach, Ryan and Seth, two of their teammates, approached Barrett and Sam.

“Hey guys, we’re going out for pizza to celebrate. Want to come?”

Barrett and Sam exchanged a glance. They had never been out with these guys before. Ryan and Seth had a reputation on the team for not always making the best decisions.

But, why not? They had been on the court in the final seconds of the game, too. And Barrett and Sam were both starving.

“Sure,” Sam said. “Sounds great.”

“We’ll take my car,” Ryan said. “See you out back.”

The guys finished getting dressed and grabbed their gym bags. When they got to the parking lot, which was dark and empty except for Barrett’s car across the lot, Ryan and Seth were waiting. Sam noticed they were smoking. He also noticed the strong smell of marijuana.

Ryan opened the trunk as Sam and Barrett approached. “You can put your gym bags in here,” Ryan said.

As Sam swung his bag off his shoulder, he stopped short. He and Barrett exchanged another glance. In the trunk was a case of beer. A small baggie of marijuana was open beside it.

Sam looked at Ryan.

Ryan laughed. “Lighten up, pussycat. It’s a celebration! Here, enjoy.”

Ryan handed Sam the joint, but Sam waved him off.

“I’m good,” Sam said.

“Seriously,” Seth chimed in. “Take it. It’s the best way to relax after a big game.”

“No, really. I’m good,” Sam said.

Barrett stepped into the conversation. “Look, guys. I’m starving. If we are going for pizza, we need to go. Sam and I will take my car and meet you there.”

Barrett started to walk away. Sam followed. Seth and Ryan both started swearing, calling Sam and Barrett every name they could think of.

When they got to Barrett’s car, the boys threw their bags in the back seat. They could still hear Seth and Ryan harassing them from across the parking lot.

“Well, that was fun,” Sam said sarcastically as Barrett started the engine and turned on the headlights.

“Yea,” Barrett agreed. “Those guys are headed for serious trouble.”

Just then, two police cruisers, with blue lights flashing, turned into the parking lot and headed straight for Barrett and Sam.

“Whoa. What’s going on?” Sam said.

“I have no idea,” Barrett said.

The policemen jumped out of the car with guns drawn. One officer shined a bright light into the car.

“Hands on the dash!” They shouted at the boys.

Barrett and Sam quickly complied.

“Now, open the door slowly and step out!”

Both Sam and Barrett opened their doors and stepped out.

“Hands on your heads! Move to the front of the car!”

After the two boys stood side by side in front of the car, one of the officers stepped from behind the light and approached them. He shined a flashlight in their eyes.

Then, he asked, “We’ve had a report of drug activity up here tonight. Would you know anything about that?”

Sam hesitated. Barrett spoke up.

“Yes, sir. There are some guys on the other side of the parking lot …” Before he could finish, the sound of Ryan’s car engine startled the officers. As Ryan hit the gas, the car careened slightly then flew toward the exit.

“Get him! Go! Get him!” The officer questioning Barrett and Sam shouted. “I’ll call for back up. You, boys! Down on the ground. Down on the ground now! Hands on your head!”

Barrett and Sam fell to the ground.

The other officer jumped in his cruiser and hit the blue lights, speeding after Ryan’s car. The first officer called for backup on his radio.

A few minutes later he returned to the boys, who were still lying on the ground. Neither had said a word.

“OK. Stand up, but hands where I can see them,” the officer instructed.

Both boys stood.

“Now, tell me what’s going on.”

Barrett spoke up. “We just finished the district basketball game, and Ryan and Seth, our teammates, asked us to go for pizza to celebrate.”

“The guys in the other car?” The officer asked.

“Yes, sir,” Barrett said. “When we got to their car, they had beer and a little pot. They offered it to us, but we turned them down.”

“You didn’t smoke it?” The officer asked.

“No, sir,” both boys said.

“Not even one hit?”

“No, sir,” they said again.

“OK. I don’t smell it on you, and your eyes aren’t bloodshot or dilated. But tell me this, why are you guys hanging out with guys like that?”

Barrett sighed. “We’ve never been out with them before. They invited us. We’re all on the same team. We never expected this.”

Just then a call came in on the radio. Through the crackly static, Sam and Barrett heard, “We got ‘em and the drugs. We found lots worse after we searched the car. We’re loading them into the cruiser now.”

The officer clicked off and turned to the boys. “OK. I’m going to search your car. If I don’t find anything, I’ll let you go. I’m going to handcuff you both and put you in the cruiser until I finish the search.”

Both boys nodded. After the search turned up clean, the officer let them both out of the cruiser and uncuffed them.

“OK. You guys can go.”

“Yes, sir,” the boys said, rubbing their wrists.

As they got in the car, Sam said to Barrett, “Whew. Thanks for just walking away. This could have gone a lot worse.”

“Anytime,” Barrett said. “Anytime.”

THE END


This story was first published in SENA, a youth devotional magazine. 

Helping without hurting

Girl sitting in cafe, texting message and drinking coffee.

Ava stared in horror as she scrolled through the images of the devastation caused by the earthquake and tsunami on her phone. Although she lived far from the disaster zone in Southeast Asia — she had never even been out of her own city, much less overseas — the images posted on social media by her “friends” were heartbreaking. Her eyes glued to the screen, she sighed heavily.

“That was a heavy sigh,” Ava’s mom said, glancing her way from the driver’s seat. “Are you OK?”

“It’s the earthquake,” Ava said.

“I know,” Mom replied. “It’s so sad.”

“I just wish there was something I could do to help,” Ava said.

“All we can do is pray,” Mom said.

Ava rolled her eyes. “I want to do more than pray, Mom. I want to help.”

Her mom was gentle, but firm. “Ava, prayer is the most important thing you can do.”

“I know,” Ava shrugged. “I didn’t mean it that way. I just …” She paused, shaking her head.

As Mom pulled to a stop at a traffic light, Ava showed her an image on her phone. “See this? Look at this little girl.” The photo showed a young Southeast Asian girl in tattered clothes surrounded by debris.

“That’s what’s left of her home,” Ava said. “She can’t find her parents. They’re probably dead. She looks so … hopeless.”

Mom nodded empathetically, then turned her eyes back to the road as she accelerated through the green light.

“I know,” she said. “I understand the helplessness, but it isn’t hopeless.”

“But I want to go there,” Ava said. “I want to help her.”

“I understand, but that’s not really possible,” Mom said. “Not right now.”

“I read a book about a girl who did it,” Ava said. “She wasn’t much older than me. She skipped college and started a nonprofit organization taking care of orphans in a country in Africa or someplace.”

“Um, yea,” Mom said. “I know the book. I read it, too. It was very inspiring.”

“Yea, so why can’t I do that?”

Now it was Mom’s turn to sigh. “Well, it’s a little more complicated than that,” she said.

“That’s what you always say. How can this be a bad thing? Doesn’t Jesus want us to help people who are hurting? People like this little girl?” Ava waved her phone.

Mom gave Ava a look, and then looked back to the road. “Yes, He does,” she said, “but let’s think about this. Let’s say that you are able to go to this country. When would you leave? How do you get there?”

“I’d leave tomorrow. I’d fly.”

“OK. How much does it cost?”

“I don’t know. Let me check my Expedia app.” Ava began tapping her phone screen.

“You have an Expedia app?” Mom asked.

“Yea,” Ava said. “It says here a flight there costs $1500 round trip. I have $500 saved from my summer job. Can you loan me the rest?”

“Hold on,” Mom said. “What about visas?”

“Visas? I don’t have a credit card.”

“Not that kind of visa,” Mom’s face softened. “A visa to get into the country.”

“What?”

Mom pulled into the parking lot of a local coffee shop.

“Why are we stopping here?” Ava asked.

“I can tell this discussion is going to take some time,” Mom said. “And we have some time before Emma finishes ballet, so why not talk over coffee?”

After they ordered, got their drinks and seated themselves in some comfortable chairs, Mom continued.

“Most governments require a visa to enter their country. They cost money. Sometimes you can get a visa on arrival, but other times you have to apply in advance through the embassy.”

“Oh,” Ava said.

“Now, let’s say the country you’re visiting will give you a visa on arrival. Once you land, how do you get to this little girl?”

“Um, I don’t know,” Ava confessed. “Could I take a taxi?”

“Maybe,” Mom said. “But do you know where she is? What part of the country? Is there an organization that’s helping her you could link up with?”

Ava nodded. She was beginning to understand.

“And,” Mom continued, “Where would you stay? What kind of help could you provide?”

“I get it,” Ava acknowledged.

“One last thing,” Mom said. “What happens when it’s time for you to leave? Who takes care of the little girl, then?”

“Well, I was thinking I could bring her with me.”

Mom chuckled. “Yea, it’s not that simple. To keep children from exploitation, most countries have strict laws about taking children out of the country without their parents’ permission. It’s kind of a big deal.”

Ava sighed again. “Yea, I get it,” she said. “But what can I do?”

Mom smiled. “Well, going back to the beginning of this conversation, you can pray.”

“Yea,” Ava said. “But what do I pray for?”

“Well, you could pray that this little girl will be found by good people who will love her and provide for her. You could pray that God will send the right people with the right skills to repair the damage to her city.”

Ava looked thoughtful. “So, even if I can’t be there in person, God can send people to her … kind of in my place?” Ava asked.

“Kind of like that,” Mom said.

The two women were quiet for a moment, sipping their drinks

“One thing I want you to understand,” Mom said. “I really like the empathy you have for people who are hurting. God will use that.”

“Thanks,” Ava said. “I just wish He would use it now.”

“Oh, He will,” Mom said. “In fact, there are some other things you can do now to obey what you think He is calling you to do.”

Ava brightened. “Like what?”

“Well, you could help raise awareness of the tragedy among your friends. You could share the stories on social media and link to reputable organizations that are working in the area. You could help spread the word.”

“I could do that,” Ava said. “Maybe I could even organize a GoFundMe or something and donate the money to one of those organizations.”

“Maybe,” Mom said.

“Would you help me?” Ava asked.

“Absolutely,” Mom said.


By Ann Lovell

This story originally appeared in SENA, a youth devotional guide published by Duranno Press, an imprint of Duranno Ministry. For more information, visit their website or find them on Facebook