The warning came exactly one week before we were scheduled to leave. It was a text message from Pastor Ronald, our representative in the Philippines. Puzzled by why he would text me since our correspondence was always via email, I opened my message box on my cell phone. What I read shocked me.
Rick, ISIS has kidnapped Pastor Danial of the church in the tribal area of Maasim, the church your team is scheduled to visit next week. We are trying to find him but until we do, we have to assume ISIS now knows about your team and your plans. You may want to postpone your trip.
For almost six months my team of five had been planning to fly to the Philippines to minister in the poor areas of Davao and the jungles of Mindanao. It was a trip I had taken every summer for seven straight years without a single problem although the State Department routinely warns American citizens not to go to this area. But now the danger was real and directed at my team.
I texted Ronald telling him to keep me posted then contacted my team. I knew Bonnie and I would go anyway, not because we were foolhardy, but because we knew God wanted us there. But I had to give each member of my team the opportunity to make a choice.
By that evening, the other three members let me know they were going too. I was proud of my team and the willingness of all of us to put our faith on the line. We were not going to let ISIS stop us from serving the Lord. The rest of the week I followed Ronald’s texts as if they were reports from a war zone which–in many ways–they were. The reports confirmed our decision and demonstrated the power of God. It was a tense week as we counted down the time to departure and monitored Ronald’s bulletins.
Six days before we were to leave, Ronald reported that Pastor Danial had been released but was still somewhere in the jungle. We were to learn later the miraculous means of his deliverance but for the moment we were concerned about his whereabouts.
Five days: Ronald reported that Pastor Danial was still missing but he and several pastors were planning to drive to the area at midnight to evacuate his family and look for him. My team prayed for the mission.
Four days: Ronald reported the mission was a success. They found Pastor Danial and drove him and his family back to his church to hide them.
Three days: Ronald reported that ISIS had Pastor Danial’s cell phone containing contact information for all of us and notes about our visit. He warned us that ISIS Commander Tokboy had called him several times demanding Pastor Danial be returned or he would hunt us down and in typical ISIS fashion, behead us all. My team talked it over and prayed. We decided to stick by our initial decision. We were going.
Over the next two days we packed, prayed and prepared ourselves. Ronald continued to report daily threats. Knowing that the family had left everything behind we raised funds to help them when we arrived.
After 22 hours in the air and sitting in airports, we arrived in Davao at 6:30 am. Ronald was at the airport to pick us up. It was hot and humid. We were tired. The jeep was small and cramped, but instead of going to our hotel we had Ronald take us to the church so we could meet Pastor Danial and his family.
When we arrived, Pastor Danial, his wife and eight children were sitting in a line on a bench under a canopy. Pastor Danial stood and smiled. He was short and had a weathered look about him. I was surprised at how thin he was. He didn’t look like someone who had just bested ISIS alone. Of course, I knew he hadn’t been alone.
I walked up and hugged him. “I’m so glad you and your family are safe.”
He smiled. After introductions, my team sat down to hear Pastor Danial’s story.
+ + +
He was alone in his church when two men with rifles walked in. They told him if he came with them they wouldn’t hurt him but Pastor Danial had heard enough stories to know that wasn’t true. Yet, he had no choice but to obey.
They drove him on a rut-filled dirt road deep into the jungle. He didn’t ask questions and neither of the men volunteered anything. He didn’t know if these were the New People’s Army or Islamic terrorists.
They stopped at a small clearing and then walked further into the jungle to a small camp. As soon as they arrived he saw the black ISIS flag on a pole. Islamic terrorist. They escorted him over to a hole about nine feet deep and a dozen feet across. Once on the edge they took his phone and pushed him in. He landed on his feet in the soft mud at the bottom. He knew his fate. He’d heard about these holes. No one came out of one alive.
He prayed and waited. He spent several days in the hole. Cold and coated with mud he got very little sleep. Occasionally, someone would drop down a little food and some water. Late on what seemed to be day three, four men, three with rifles and one with a handgun, circled the hole. The one with the pistol identified himself as ISIS Commander Tokboy. From Pastor Danial’s vantage point in the hole it was hard to make out his features but his voice was deep and laced with contempt.
“Are you the one that has been passing out bibles in this area?” Commander Tokboy asked.
Pastor Danial nodded.
“Then you are guilty of counter-Islamic activity. You must die.”
The Commander raised his pistol.
Pastor Danial closed his eyes and prayed for God to save him. At that moment a phone rang. He opened his eyes in time to see the Commander back away holding a cell phone. He couldn’t make out what was being said but it was clearly an argument and the Commander seemed upset.
After a short time, the argument stopped and Commander Tokboy appeared. He glared down at Pastor Danial. “You must have important friends. I’ve been told not to execute you. I’ll let you go but you will stop handing out Bibles. If you report this to the police or military I will kill you and your entire family.”
Pastor Danial only nodded as he looked down at the ground. He didn’t dare smile for fear the commander would change his mind and shoot. But he knew who the important friend was and he silently praised God.
+ + +
When he finished we all were quiet for a moment. It was so surreal, like something out of a movie. Eventually, Bonnie stood up and walked over to hug his wife. It seemed like the best time to give him the money we raised at the last minute to help his family. Both he and his wife began to cry.
Later that day, Ronald pulled me aside and said that Commander Tokboy continues to text him multiple times during the day demanding the return of Pastor Danial and threatening to find all of us and chop our heads off. I told him that though I was concerned I felt safe as long as we stay in or near Davao.
That’s far from the end of this story. It turns out we had nothing to fear but Commander Tokboy did.
Our original plan had been to spend a couple of days with Pastor Danial at his church and host a pastor’s conference. That, of course, had to be scrapped. In it’s place, Ronald found a small hotel on the Philippine Sea with a meeting room not far from our base in Davao. We decided to bring the pastors up from Maasim and have the conference at the hotel.
The pastors agreed. In fact, they were excited to leave the area. Even though they hadn’t been passing out Bibles and had not been harassed by ISIS they were understandably nervous.
The conference ran smoothly and the way it ended was nothing short of a miracle. It was clear to me that the pastors were unsure about returning home. So, I asked them to gather in the middle of the room. My team surrounded them and started at just a few minutes after 5 pm to pray that God would keep them safe.
At the end of the prayer they went to their rooms to pack so they could return first thing in the morning. Ronald took my team back to the hotel. We had settled in our rooms when the phone rang at a little past 9 pm. It was Ronald.
“Rick, I have great news. The pastors are in their rooms singing praises to God. They just got word that at 5 pm today the Philippine army raided Commander Tokboy’s camp. The commander was wounded in a shoot out and captured.”
And that is how God protects His people.
Richard Spillman is a retired Computer Scientist who typically writes Christian non-fiction (The Passion of Job and Do What Jesus Did, both available on Amazon) as well as a Christian blog (https://spillmanrichard.com). His latest passion, however, is Christian fiction. His first novel, The Awakened, is waiting for a publisher to pick it up. He is represented by Jim Hart of Hartline Literary Agency. The story asks the question: “What if Lazarus didn’t die a second time?” He was led to write it after avoiding being kidnapped by ISIS in the Philippines and then receiving death threats (to behead him in standard ISIS fashion) during the rest of his missionary service there. Besides the blog he is active on Twitter (https://twitter.com/awakenedtrilogy) and Instagram (http://ink361.com/app/users/ig-3176880720/spillmanrichard/photos) where you can see pictures from his missionary travels around the world.
“I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life . . .” ~ Deuteronomy 30:19
“We hold these truths to be self-evident . . . that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, and among these life . . .” ~ Declaration of Independence
“Thou shall not kill.” ~ God
“There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
~ Albert Einstein
“It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.”
~ Blessed Mother Teresa
“Nothing we do to defend the human person, no matter how small, is ever unfruitful or forgotten. Our actions touch other lives and move other hearts in ways we can never fully understand in this world. Don’t ever underestimate the beauty and power of the witness you give in your pro-life work.”
~ Archbishop Charles Chaput
“Pro-choice and pro-life activists live in different worlds, and the scope of their lives, as both adults and children, fortifies them in their belief that their own views on abortion are the more correct, the more moral, and more reasonable. When added to this is the fact that should ‘the other side’ win, one group of women will see the very real devaluation of their lives and life resources, it is not surprising that the abortion debate has generated so much heat and so little light.”
~ Kristin Luker
“An abortion kills the life of the baby after it has begun. It is dangerous to your life and health.”
~ Planned Parenthood Federation of America, 1952 (see the pamphlet)
Capital Punishment Quotes
“We oppose the death penalty not just for what it does to those guilty of heinous crimes, but for what it does to all of us, it offers the tragic illusion that we can defend life by taking life.”
~ Most Rev. Joseph A. Fiorenza
“You can’t save a man if he’s dead.” ~ Unknown
“That you may retain your self-respect, it is better to displease the people by doing what you know is right, than to temporarily please them by doing what you know is wrong.”
~ William J. H. Boetcker
“I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me… All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.”
~ Jackie Robinson
“Men are respectable only as they respect.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Here in the bathroom with me are razor blades. Here is iodine to drink. Here are sleeping pills to swallow. You have a choice. Live or die. Every breath is a choice. Every minute is a choice. To be or not to be. Every time you don’t throw yourself down the stairs, that’s a choice. Every time you don’t crash your car, you reenlist.”
~ Chuck Palahniuk
“Suicide sometimes proceeds from cowardice, but not always; for cowardice sometimes prevents it; since as many live because they are afraid to die, as die because they are afraid to live.”
~ Charles Caleb Colton
“Settle down, precious. I know what you’re going through. Ten minutes before you got here, I was gonna jump too.”
“The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering.”
~ Ben Okri
“Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”
~ Phil Donahue
“Anyone desperate enough for suicide…should be desperate enough to go to creative extremes to solve problems: elope at midnight, stow away on the boat to New Zealand and start over, do what they always wanted to do but were afraid to try.”
~ Richard Bach
“To make yourself something less than you can be – that too is a form of suicide.”
~ Benjamin Lichtenberg
“All healthy men have thought of their own suicide.”
~ Albert Camus
“The only reason I don’t end it all is because I keep waiting for it to get better, to make friends, and be prettier.”
“No one ever lacks a good reason for suicide.”
~ Cesare Pavese
“Nine men in ten are would-be suicides.”
~ Benjamin Franklin
“He who joyfully marches to music rank and file, has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice. This disgrace to civilization should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, how violently I hate all this, how despicable and ignoble war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be a part of so base an action. It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.”
~ Albert Einstein
“Patriots always talk of dying for their country and never of killing for their country.”
~ Bertrand Russell
“The direct use of force is such a poor solution to any problem, it is generally employed only by small children and large nations.”
~ David Friedman
“There is no instance of a nation benefitting from prolonged warfare.”
~ Sun Tzu
“There is nothing that war has ever achieved that we could not better achieve without it.”
~ Henry Ellis
“There was never a good war, or a bad peace.”
~ Benjamin Franklin
“War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today.”
~ John F. Kennedy
“What is the use of physicians like myself trying to help parents to bring up children healthy and happy, to have them killed in such numbers for a cause that is ignoble?”
~ Benjamin Spock
“You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake.”
~ Jeannette Rankin
“Man has no right to kill his brother. It is no excuse that he does so in uniform: he only adds the infamy of servitude to the crime of murder.”
~ Percy Bysshe Shelley
“Mankind must put an end to war before war puts an end to mankind.”
~ John F. Kennedy
“It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.”
“All wars are civil wars, because all men are brothers.”
~ Francois Fenelon
“An unjust peace is better than a just war.”
~ Marcus Tullius Cicero
“I’m fed up to the ears with old men dreaming up wars for young men to die in.”
~ George McGovern
“If it’s natural to kill, how come men have to go into training to learn how?”
~ Joan Baez
“If we don’t end war, war will end us.”
~ H. G. Wells
“In modern war… you will die like a dog for no good reason.”
~ Ernest Hemingway
“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”
~ Dwight D. Eisenhower
All too often we allow ourselves to be shifted, shaped and blown about by the world around us. That is the opposite of grace through faith. Distractions from morally-bankrupt leaders, outbreaks of violence, twisted social issues and our own personal dramas can take our focus off our love of God and our love of others. Keep your eyes on the top of the mountain. This is where you’ll find peace in the storms of life.
“Unfulfilled by life? That’s by design. Seek God.”
Ever wonder why the luster to life fades, no matter what it is? Whether you’re falling out of love with your job, your family, your friends, your church, your mission… have you ever considered this might be by design?
It’s not that the work or the people aren’t fulfilling anymore. It’s that you aren’t fulfilled by them. You’re not supposed to be fulfilled by them. Their effects on us are temporal. The warm feelings this world brings us are short-lived.
“Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:13-14 KJV)
We are not carnal creatures, though we have carnal bodies while we live on this planet. We were made in His image (Genesis 1:26;) we are spirit (John 4:24.) Therefore, nothing in the flesh will ever fully satisfy us. When we eat, we get hungry again. When we drink, we get thirsty again. Memories fade. History fades. Our physical lives fade.
So what are you chasing? Who are you living for? Who are you worried about pleasing more?
“And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.” (Mark 12:30 KJV)
The power of God goes way beyond our understanding, so why is it we allow people and events to shape us and our experiences instead of He who called us into being? Our identity is in Jesus; not the world. If we understand this, we will not be moved by the world, but by He who moves.
P.S. – Enjoy this message by Dan Mohler and let it mess you up in a good way.