By Harold Sala
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13
Mable Shaw was one of the first women missionaries sent by the London missionary Society to Rhodesia. In 1915 she reported that as she was about to leave a village of lepers and bicycle home, she was told that a lion was prowling about, and it wasn’t safe for her to go alone. As she prepared to leave, the headman, an aged but venerable man who himself was a victim of leprosy, came out of one of the little houses.
She wrote of the incident saying, “He held a spear between the stumps that once were hands, and he went hobbling along the path in front of me. I called to him, and he stopped and looked around.
“Where are you going?” she asked.
“I am going to escort you to Mbereshi village. You can’t go alone with lions about,” he replied, matter-of-factly.
“I smiled at him, ‘but on my bicycle I’ll be there in a minute.'”
The old man would not be persuaded. It was a matter of protection and honor, and he assumed full responsibility for the missionary’s presence.
“I looked at him,” she said, “a feeble old man, handless, feet half-eaten, his whole body covered with marks of disease, and his face most pitiful.” Half jesting and with a smile, she said, “Now what could you do if a lion came?”
The old man drew himself up and with quiet dignity said, “Have I not a life to give?”
She was silenced, but she thought of a cross–the cross upon which Jesus gave His life. She concluded, “I followed him to the village, thanked him, and came home, having met with God face-to-face.” (From God’s Candlelight, as quoted by Elisabeth Elliott in The Elisabeth Elliot Newsletter, July/August, 2002, p.3).
In the Upper Room with the cross looming on the horizon, Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). There are few individuals like the old headman, a leper himself, who will volunteer,
“Have I not a life to give?”
While there may be few, there are some–nurses who go beyond the call of duty working with the sick, the infirm and the diseased; doctors who knowingly risk their lives, almost defying the odds of catching the very disease which has felled their patient; researchers who end up with the very bacteria they are striving to isolate and kill; teachers who labor without sufficient salary–often in rural areas, teaching boys and girls, driving back the darkness of ignorance; and a vast army of pastors, missionaries and Christian workers who give their lives for the cause of Jesus Christ.
Long ago David confronted a giant whose name was Goliath, and when he was challenged as to why he was willing to take on this monster, possibly to lose his life in the battle, he countered, “Is there not a cause?” (1 Samuel 17:29, KJV).
The world will never understand the elite army of men and women who, like the diseased headman in a leprosy village in Africa who was willing to lay down his life for the woman missionary, are willing to be expendable, to burn as a candle giving light in a dark world.
A fitting conclusion to today’s commentary is the true account of a visitor to the missionary hospital of ELWA in Monrovia, Liberia. Watching a nurse dress an open wound, the visitor said, “I wouldn’t do that for all the money in the world.” Looking up the missionary nurse replied, “Neither would I!” Thank God there is a motive for sacrifice far beyond the purchasing power of gold and silver. They make the world a better place in which to live. Think about it.
Resource reading: John 19:28-37