By Robin Stanley
“Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people” (Acts 6:8). And opposition arose. Of course it did. Stephen was engaged in a dangerous battle. He’s not alone.
Mark and Tania Rich had no idea they were living in such danger. The couple moved their young family to the jungle of Pucuro, Panama, in the early ’90s where they planted churches among the Kuna indigenous people. God was moving; the people were responding. Late one night their progress came to an abrupt halt. According to Deann Alford: “Armed Marxist guerrillas charged into the room where Tania huddled with her daughters and shouted orders for her to pack her husband’s belongings. They also raided the nearby cabins of two other missionary families before leading Mark Rich, Dave Mankins and Rick Tenenoff into the dark forest, blindfolded and arms bound behind them” (The Orlando Sentinel). That was January 31, 1993—the last time Tania saw her husband alive.
I first heard of this brave family from my dear friend Dan. Mark and Dan had been childhood friends. Choking back tears, looking for words, Dan spoke of Mark’s faithfulness. “He loved Jesus. So. Much.”
Pray, Love, Support, Engage
Dan went on to tell of Tania’s eight-year pursuit to find Mark. He also described their deliberate community—diligent to pray, love, support, and engage together in battle. In 2001, the missionaries were confirmed dead—they were shot in 1996, but not before leaving the indelible mark of Christ’s love on their captors. “They led several guards into salvation,” Dan said. “Even the man ordered to execute them later surrendered his life, eventually asking the family for forgiveness. He told Tania the last thing Mark said to him before he died was, ‘I’ll see you in Heaven.’”
Not many of us will suffer like Mark did or have the opportunity to speak such life with our last breath. But we do have opportunities every day to engage in the battle with someone who needs prayer, support, and love.
Robin Stanley is a voice for the exploited and a life coach who invites people into the presence of God. She is also a writer, speaker, publishing consultant, and aunt based in Lexington, South Carolina.