Suffering By Design
By Carol Lee
I really wanted to entitle this post, “Suffering By Design: Taking Risks That Are Foolish or Appear Foolish Unless There Is A Resurrection From the Dead“. However, Jacob said I was born in the wrong century (it should have been the 17th!) for such a long title. So, let it stand as “Suffering By Design“!
The inspiration for this title came from a message to which I had listened many years ago by John Piper called, “Live to Die.” This sermon would easily qualify as pivotal in my being willing to join Jacob in Uganda on a more permanent basis when he had been simply going back and forth on short-term ministry trips. This is an excerpt of John Piper’s powerful, prophetic words:
““Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of his body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.” [Colossians 1:24] Paul labels his suffering as “the filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.” Suffering is designed to accomplish something called, “filling up” what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions….What is lacking in the afflictions of Christ is not the perfection of the value of its atoning worth, but the personal presentation to those for whom he paid the price. Christ, by the Father’s design, means for his atoning sufferings to be offered and presented to all those for whom he died, in every people group in the world; and this is to be done through suffering. However, this suffering must be accompanied with joy, because without it one will never survive. For the joy that was set before Christ, he endured the cross. And for the joy that is set before you, you will endure the choices that you make, which make no sense if there’s no resurrection from the dead. Joy is the only way you’ll survive your mission in this world if you decide to suffer for Christ. The joy of the Lord will be your strength through choices that nobody understands.“John Piper, Live To Die
We all take risks for one reason or another–some are noble, some are vainglorious and thrill-oriented ones (which, in my mind are foolish)–but I cannot think of a better reason to joyfully risk than for the sake of living out our original purpose as the Father‘s beloved, glory-spreading creation, heralding the self-giving love of a living-dying-resurrected-ascended Savior-Son who will gather for Himself a people from every tribe and tongue through the power of the Holy Spirit who was sent by Jesus to indwell, teach, comfort, convict, illumine and secure us for God. Every other risk has its merit by degree, but God’s glory beats all as worthy of our time, vision, priority, passion and resources.
Sometimes, this risk-taking looks like going to a place where, in case of emergency, there is little hope of a good outcome without the gracious sustaining hand of God. Such was the case for Randy Southwell, Overseas Director for ABWE’s Good Soil Evangelism & Discipleship Ministries (story shared by his permission) who came with the other members of the Teaching team (Dan Cook, Dave Drullinger) and ABWE East Africa Director, Caleb Mitchell. They had come to train and certify our Leadership Retreat attendees in “The Roots of Faith: Old Testament” ABWE curriculum. Little did Randy know that, on Day Two of the training he would suffer what was suspected but only later confirmed to be a heart attack. In Moyo. With no critical care unit. No oxygen. Few medicines. Far from a well-quipped hospital.
The teaching sessions were going so well–running like a well-oiled machine–and the attendees were loving the fast-moving, interest-holding, interactive lessons beginning from Creation. By Day Two’s end, they had worked through Genesis 3:15–the Fall of Man and the hopeful Promise of an Offspring that would come to rescue fallen humanity from the ruin of disobedience and self-orientation.
And then the machine came to a sudden stop.
The team had finished for the day and they were enjoying another round of rice, posho, beans and cabbage with the retreat attendees. Randy was not feeling well and had retreated to his room, thinking he might lose the little he had eaten for supper. After collapsing in weakness and severe chest pain, crawling to one of the beds, realizing that he needed to let someone know of his condition and finally ending up on the floor near the hallway, he pounded on the wall and floor hoping to get someone’s attention. Thankfully, our friend, Greg Helms, heard the pounding and went to investigate, thinking someone had fallen. What happened from that moment displays functionally and picturesquely Ephesians 4:16, “From him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part.“
Greg sprang to action to find Dan or Caleb. Dan, with critical thinking, gave Randy the first doses of Baby Aspirin that is recommended with a suspected heart attack. Greg came to fetch me (Carol) and, fortunately, I had a blood pressure cuff and a pulse oximeter that would be useful in monitoring Randy’s condition. Dave went into prayer warrior mode while Caleb administrated the necessary calls to ABWE’s Medical Director, Dr. Miriam Wheeler and to family members. Dr. Wheeler was instrumental in coordinating care and ensuring a safe trip to the States. I was able to call Dr. Neil Browning, a missionary physician and friend in Moyo who came to examine Randy, start an intravenous site with fluid and to give him a potentially life-saving medicine, Enoxaparin (long-acting subcutaneous blood-thinner). We got through that evening to MAF (Missionary Aviation Fellowship) and arranged for an emergency Med-evac flight scheduled for the earliest possible time the next morning. That still meant that Randy would have to push through the night with ongoing chest pain and fluctuating blood pressures and oxygen levels. By God’s sustaining grace, he made it through (albeit with little to no sleep). The next morning, crowded into the Land Cruiser, Jacob took us (with not a few bumps) to the Moyo airstrip where, within some minutes, the MAF plane arrived and we were taking off.
The flight from Moyo to Kajjansi (in between Entebbe and Kampala) felt like the longest hour and a half of my life–and, most surely, Randy’s. Though his pain abated somewhat, as he would drift to sleep in exhaustion, his oxygen levels would dip dangerously low after which I would awaken him to take deep breaths to bring the saturation level back to normal. I kept praying during the flight that the Lord would “whisk us away” to Kajjansi as He did Philip after he had preached to and baptized the Ethiopian eunuch on the road to Gaza. That didn’t happen. The captain’s announcement that we were soon to land in Kajjansi elevated our joy and hope AND seeing a very well-equipped (personnel and treatment wise) ambulance waiting to carry Randy, Dan and Caleb to IHK (International Hospital of Kampala) brought a rush of relief. Randy was soon transferred from IHK to Nakasero Heart Hospital where he underwent a procedure to break down a clot that had formed in one of his heart vessels. A number of days later, Randy was cleared to move out of the hospital to a hotel NEAR the hospital and then, later, to fly home with a traveling companion (Caleb Mitchell).
As of the writing of this newsletter, Randy is back in the States, enjoying a reunion with his family and friends. He suffered not grudgingly, but with peace that could have only come from Christ-centered hope and trust. We all praise God for His sustaining grace and for the outcome of this “event” which could have been grievous. When you prioritize the Gospel to every tribe and tongue, you are suffering by design because of a “joy set before you”–as Randy did. Caleb and Alair Mitchell write in their newsletter about Randy, “You would think after such a traumatic experience our patient would never want to step foot in Uganda again. On the contrary, he is talking about bringing his wife with him next time!” Jacob and I were impressed with ABWE’s leadership and support team who orchestrated day and night all that was necessary to return Randy safely home. We praise God for making His will clear that Randy should “remain and continue” for “the progress and joy in the faith” of many more people (Philippians 1:25).
Without diminishing our joy and relief in Randy’s story, we were sad to have to release our retreat attendees back home without completing the training (though they went home with a beautiful resource). Before they left, however, they were used greatly by the Lord through their immediate, fervent intercession in Aringa, Ma’di, Kuku, English and Sudanese Arabic for protection and healing for Randy. We hope, one day soon, to have another team back to finish the training that was started.
Not all risk-taking is that dramatic; suffering by design can simply be a long 3-day journey (times 2) to a place you have never been in order to visit people you don’t really know so you can ascertain if THAT is the place of God’s calling for a future that may demand greater risks and suffering by design.
The week after the retreat, Jacob and I welcomed Andrea Scruggs and Claire Williams to RAU. We met Andrea at an ABWE event while we were in the States called, “24-Hour DEMO“, where those who are interested in the missionary calling can explore opportunities with ABWE and potentially get connected to other missionaries or ministries. In our short time together, there was a definite bond with Andrea and we invited her for a “come and see” visit. Claire, her cousin, accompanied her here–which was an answered prayer for Andrea.
They both got a taste of the wide range of “missionary activities” from ministry to money to mundane! The day after their arrival, we headed up the Metu Mountains to meet with the political leaders of the newly formed Otce (pronounced “Oh-chay“) Sub-County to receive a certificate of appreciation from them for the work (Bible training, Agricultural training and Borehole placement) that Reaching Africa’s Unreached (RAU) has done in those hard to reach geographical regions.
From there, we traveled to Ayaa to participate in a Women’s conference hosted by Ayaa Baptist Church. Both Andrea and Claire shared a brief word of encouragement while I took long (though not “until dawn“–like the Apostle Paul who, in one short paragraph “kept on talking” and “kept on talking” and “talked a long time“, during which time someone fell asleep and fell out of a window–I think some of my audience may have, indeed, fallen asleep as well, though without injury)!
During the week or so that Andrea and Claire were here, they witnessed everyday missionary life–plumbing and building challenges, financial management, listening to the needs and pleas of a father for his 13-year old daughter with a heart defect and discussions of how and when to help, work in the garden and quiet times of walking the campus, reading and praying. We enjoyed conversation, laughter and opportunities to get to know Andrea, her faith-walk and her experience of the calling to the mission field. It was a privilege to encourage her in that calling and through our own hard-learned lessons, guide her in ways of further preparing for what might lie ahead.
We were hoping that part of their experience would include the answered prayer of a container of Bibles delivered safely to RAU campus and the joy of participating in the unloading of 1260 boxes (which, sadly, happened days after their departure). Our hope and prayer is that Andrea’s short visit will not be the last chance for her to “come and see” and serve with us at RAU!
A well-purposed risk may look very much like setting an “outrageous” funding goal for 20,000 ESV Global Study Bibles costing over $200,000 , receiving the funding and praying for and working through the logistics of getting those Bibles from the print shop in China to the USA to Uganda during a COVID pandemic which has stalled many operations, including shipping. [Valued object(s) + risk-taking x Providential grace = joy-filled realization of goal]. Seeing the following image in the news reminds us of what could be lost. Thankfully, we and all those who graciously gave to this task did not suffer this loss…
…but, rather, we were given the opportunity to celebrate this successful delivery of 20,000+ TruTone ESV Global Study Bibles to the RAU campus.
We praise God for the many brothers and sisters in Christ who have shared the financial burden, who believe in the value and power of good literature; Christian Book, Crossway and LMI have been among those beloved partners through the delivery of:
- 1,260 cartons of 20,160 TruTone ESV Global Study Bibles which equals 53,700 lbs. = over 26 tons of Bibles!
- In a Christian Book’s container which has arrived in Uganda there are: “leftover” Bibles that didn’t fit in Container #1 which equals 44 cartons or 704 Bibles. The total of ESV Global Study Bibles to 20,864! That puts the total of ESV Global Study that have come our way since 2013 close to 30,000! Praise God!
- 1 pallet of 6 book titles that were ordered (about 5,300 books) for pastoral/church leaders training.
- 2.5 pallets of Crossway Global Pastor’s Book Sets
- Close to 4 pallets of Dual language Tracts from our partner, Doug Salser with LMI.
- Recently we received 600 of Conrad Mbewe’s book, God’s Design for the Church: A Guide for African Pastors and Ministry Leaders via Crossway. They were printed in Kampala. We plan to use them and other books which are hitching a ride in Christian Book’s container and which should be here soon.
For both Jacob and me, suffering by design has been embodied by a family–Dad, Mom and 4 kids in tow–who have come for no other reason than that we would be encouraged and blessed in our calling to northwestern Uganda. We simply cannot adequately explain how much it means to us that Stephen, Maddie, Samuel, Olivia, Caleb and Meera McConnell have, for the joy set before them, endured the cross of cross-continent travel–JUST to see us and to be an encouragement to us! It has been a joy and highlight of this year.
Purposeful suffering and risk-taking in the Kingdom of God are the fruit of “seeing and savoring Christ” [John Piper] and being willing to overcome obstacles in welcoming others to savor the same treasure. Inherent risks are on a spectrum of difficulty–not every action carries the weight of Jesus’ endurance on the cross, or of the Apostle Paul’s long list of harsh treatment and grueling experiences, but every risk taken and sacrifice made for the sake of Christ displays the value and priority we have for God, Himself, His people and the Kingdom Invitation which He has called us to personally take and give.
The suffering we experience may not have been designed by us–not expected (such as Randy’s sudden cardiac event)–but the willingness to see our experiences from eternity’s point of view and to accept that risk again and again for the joy set before us is what will put us in the position to finish the Commission that Jesus, Himself, gave his followers. To be the message-carrying embodiment to others of Christ’s suffering for us means our eyes are wide open to the riches of His grace toward us and it will bear the fruit of generous, life-producing priorities, actions and investments.
“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you may know what is the hope of his calling, what is the wealth of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the mighty working of his strength.“Ephesians 1:18-19
Jacob and I thank you for your interest and participation in helping us to embody the message of Jesus Christ to the people we serve here in northern Uganda, South Sudan and the Republic of Sudan.
We invite you to pray with us for the following needs and upcoming events:
+ Arrangements for future Module trainings for 2022; pray that the groups that have expressed the desire to participate will be able to “plan and execute” without obstacles. Our hope is to do 5-6 Modules per year. Pray for Jacob as he works to finalize the curriculum and “iron out the wrinkles“.
+ Pray for Anzoa Gift, a 13-year old girl from Abeso in the Metu Mountains, who is going to India for heart surgery for a VSD repair (Ventricular Septal Defect). Several of our partners gave toward the travel costs that she and her father will need. Pray that the surgery will have the desired outcome without complications and that it will serve to bring her a long and healthy life, especially in knowing and serving Christ.
+ Pray for wisdom in the distribution of the many Bibles we received (and will receive). Our goal is to strategically place them in the hands of leaders. Already, we have been receiving requests and are planning to send four boxes (64) to: Terebinth Ministries in Gulu, a ministry which trains pastors in the fundamentals of the faith. Two boxes (32) are currently on their way to church leaders in Chad and the Republic of Sudan.
+ Pray for much needed evangelism and discipleship in Moyo (Metu Mountains), Obongi and Yumbe Districts. ““The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Luke 10:2) Pray for those laboring in the field who are stretched to their capacities and sometimes beyond.
+ Pray, along that line, for potential missionary families and a single that have shown interest in working with us at RAU (Reaching Africa’s Unreached) who are with ABWE (Association of Baptists for Worldwide Evangelization). Pray that these families and individuals would discern the will of the Lord and would have provision for the plans. Pray also for our growing relationship and partnership with ABWE.
+ Pray for RAU’s Agricultural ministry–that it would have the intended effect of inspiring and training farmers to think entrepreneurially in their farming practices and, through it, experience economic growth and opportunities they never thought were possible. On April 7th and 8th ZOA will be bringing 188 farmers for agricultural training. From ZOA: “Uganda houses the largest number of refugees in Africa. Even though Uganda is dealing with its own difficulties, refugees from South Sudan and DRC are welcomed with warmth and solidarity. COVID-related impacts have been serious with regard to our livelihoods and education projects, but fortunately there have been many achievements as well.” Just last month World Vision had brought 688 farmers for similar training.
+ As we finish the task of obtaining land titles, pray for wisdom and vision in developing the 3-acre plot across the way. There is so much that could be done there with the provision of team members, buildings and finances.
+ Please pray and consider giving to Reaching Africa’s Unreached as we continue walking out 2 Timothy 2:2 in the Sub Sahara
Jacob and Carol Lee
Love and Blessings from both of us!
Tax deductible charitable donations may be made via PayPal or check. PayPal also has a way to make recurring monthly gifts. Recurring monthly gifts are very helpful to the ministry. To do so, please click on the PayPal link below. PayPal deducts a small amount from each gift as a processing fee. All gifts given through PayPal and by check are tax deductible as Reaching Africa’s Unreached has 501c3 tax exempt status as a charitable organization. If you wish to write a check you may write it out to R.A.U. and mail it to Lifegate/RAU , 395 Lifegate Ln., Seguin Texas 78155.
PayPal Link for donations: https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=WAR99DL4JFWXQ
Go to RAU’s Facebook page for up to date reports, pictures, musings, and exhortations: www.facebook.com/ReachingAfricasUnreached
RAU YouTube Videos: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRmHafoBSemE7jS8kEHCG6Q/videos
RAU’s Mission and Vision Statements/Statement of Faith: https://reachingafricasunreached.org/about/
The greatest evil is having the gospel and not doing everything within our power to get it to those who do not have it!
Sowing seeds of love and kindness should not be separated from preaching the gospel of sovereign grace but completely intertwined with it!
When at least 35% of the world; “the unoccupied fields”, have no access to the gospel, we (believers) must all do all we can to reach them. We who are saved owe the gospel to every lost person, most especially the 2.4 billion who will not hear unless someone breaks into their “unoccupied field” with no thought of their own life!
Sowing seeds of love and kindness should not be separated from preaching the gospel of sovereign grace but completely intertwined with it!
I am sure that none of us will say when in heaven that we prayed too much, we sacrificed too much, proclaimed the gospel too much, and were too passionate to get the gospel to those who have little to no access to this gospel of grace. Let us together press on to make it our ambition to preach the gospel where Christ has not been named!
Our goal in our gospel witness is to take our eyes off the “risk” and place them on the cause for the risk. When God compels us like this he often will not tell us the risks…after all there are no risks for the all-knowing, all-powerful God. So let us be AMBITIOUS (Romans 15:20) to see that ALL are reached with the gospel of grace (Romans 1:16) in ALL places…there are no closed doors to the gospel, just some which are more difficult to go through!