By Dennis Messimer
When Nehemiah went to Jerusalem, he prayed and fasted (Nehemiah 1:4) and then accepted a military escort (2:9). When Ezra went to Jerusalem, he prayed and fasted but did not ask for an escort (Ezra 8:22, 23).
During our 21-year ministry in South Africa, there were many times that we were in danger. We relied on fasting and prayer for protection. We also relied on the advice of our African coworkers. More than once when we were ministering in tribal areas, I would be involved talking to various local people but suddenly notice that Christian men had surrounded me and were escorting me away from what they believed could turn into a violent situation.
My Armed Escort
On one occasion I saw on television that there were disturbances in Soweto close to where I was to teach the next day. I phoned Brother Ndamase, the minister, and he said that he thought it would be safe for me to go. When I was close to the church building, I suddenly found myself having to weave around burned-out vehicles. I made it safely and taught my lesson. Soon afterward, a police vehicle pulled up and about six policemen ran toward me. The minister indicated the policemen and said to me, “I want you to meet some of our church members.” After several African-style handshakes, the minister said, “They are here to get you out safely. Follow them.” I thanked God for the police escort.
Living by Faith, Not Formula
The Bible does not give us a formula for survival on earth. We have grieved with families who, for reasons we will never fully understand, have seen their loved ones murdered.
Through the years, dear Christian friends and coworkers in other parts of Africa have been killed by thieves. When my wife, Linda, and I were attacked by thieves in Johannesburg, we were allowed to survive. Only God knows the reasons. We simply need to have the attitude Paul showed in Philippians 1:21-30. Whether we live or die, we must conduct ourselves worthy of the gospel of Christ.
Dennis Messimer is minister to international students with the Christian Campus House in Columbia, Missouri. He and his wife, Linda, served as missionaries for 39 years in Belgium, South Africa, and Mozambique. They have four children and will soon welcome their eighth grandchild into their family. (Dennis was also editor Shawn McMullen’s fifth-grade Sunday school teacher.)