He raised the rifle to his shoulder and slowed his breath. His scarred cheek rested on the old wood stock as he gazed down the sights with bloodshot eyes. His finger rubbed nervously at the rough rusting trigger. A trigger that had seen many wars. It wasn't the first time he had killed a man, but today was different he was about to shoot his friend, and he was about to shoot him in the back....
The Bible tells us that the enemy prowls around like a roaring lion seeking to devour and destroy us. He is hard at work, a master of miscommunication and false accusation. Today was no different.
There was a group of old men, whose faces were shrouded in the dark of a moonless night. Their whispers were hard to make out as clouds of smoke swirled around them, emanating from their long tobacco pipes that rested on the floor. It was after dark and the enemy was at work in their midst. Rumours were being shared, and seeds of lies, false accusations, exaggeration and doubt were being planted, watered and nurtured around that fire.
Their cluster of villages had been shaken to their core. The Gospel had come to this place and people were beginning to change. Men, women and children were all starting to walk, talk and become totally different. The very fabric of their community was starting to be re-woven, this tribe was changing.
These men, sitting around the fire had decided that they did not like it one bit, they did not like it at all....
An example of one of these pipes.
Lochino, was one of the very first people to come to Christ when we started our work with Mark in South Sudan. Over the last 3 years, he has personally spread the gospel and led countless people to Christ. As a result, he has been chased from place to place and had to run for his life, more than once.
A great sales pitch for missions I know.
You see there’s something about the work of God that the devil just hates, and what Lochino was doing was no exception. Without any rhyme or reason whatsoever (to the natural mind that is) there were crazy stories going around the villages. Tales of what a bad guy Lochino was, for example, people would say that at night he would turn into a serpent, that he was involved in evil witchcraft that involved kidnap and many more unspeakable things. These were the types of stories these old men were spinning around the fire late into the night. Stories that they would later share at home with their wives and sons.
Soon enough these villages felt there was nothing they could do for fear that Lochino would curse them or bring some kind of magic against them. The old men had done their work and now the people of the villages were of one mind, they needed to get rid of Lochino.
They needed to kill him.
The village elders came together and decided this was a family problem and so the family should be the ones to kill him, they could do it most easily. Poison perhaps?
But the family pushed back and said no, surely his peers should deal with this. 'Men should deal with men's problems'. This went back and forth for some time until three men were finally chosen to murder him.
Word gets around in the village fast and in no time at all Lochino knew they were coming for him. Filled with a mixture of faith and exasperation he decided to sit outside his house and wait for them to come and kill him.
Time passed and he opened his bible and began to read….
I took this photo of someone sitting outside Lochinos house just a few days before this happened.
A short distance away the assassins had arrived, one readied his rifle and looked down his barrel. Suddenly a pang of guilt took hold of him. He was a warrior and knew there was no honour in shooting a man in the back.
He shouted a warning.
But Lochino just ignored him and kept reading.
This infuriated him even more. He lowered his rifle and proceeded to try and start a fight. “Hey, why don’t you turn around and fight me like a man?” he demanded.
“Why don’t you run?”
“How can you just sit there and read in a time like this? Don’t you know we have come here to kill you?”
At this point, the assassin was almost pressing his face against Lochinos.
Lochino finally responded and simply said
"What have I done, that you come to kill me?”
The man jumped at the opportunity and started to rattle off some of the stories he had heard about Lochino turning into a snake at night, about his plans to kidnap people and so on... the reality was he had no idea why he was doing there. As he started to speak out some of the lies that he had heard, the words just fell flat on the floor. He knew in his heart there was no truth to what he was saying. He had known Lochino his whole life, he knew his wife and knew his kids, he knew his whole family and he knew Lochino's character.
Personally, I think the moment he spoke, he felt a deep shame. I wonder if the people who put Jesus on the cross felt that deep shame too, or maybe we are all too far gone in our sin and I am being naive about our true state, apart from God....
Lochino responded to the accusations but used the opportunity to share from the bible. He shared why he was telling people about Jesus and why there was a change in people's lives after meeting Jesus. He told them what Jesus had done for others and what he could do for these men.
He told them the gospel.
I believe Lochino could only have done this because he counted his life as lost.
Instead of trying to plead for his life, or rebuke these men, or run, or fight, he shared the Gospel.
Just imagine that.
I have no idea what I would do in such a situation.
Do you believe that the Gospel is important enough that it should be the last words on your lips?
The last thing on your mind before your life is unjustly taken from you?
Before you are ripped from your spouse and your children?
I am sure it will take me a lifetime to ponder the power and impact of all this.
Lochino led those men to the Lord that day.
Imagine they came to kill him but he led them to the Lord. They came to take life but instead, they were given life, eternal life.
That's the kind of God we serve.