OUR YEAR HAS BEGUN FOR YWAM INTERNATIONAL ON A VERY SOBER TONE. We have been shocked by report after report from around the world of untimely deaths through senseless car accidents or heart failure at a far-too young age. The reports started coming in late November and have become so regular that I’m almost reluctant to read my mail. Other near-fatal accidents and armed robberies are part of the bizarre series of episodes.
So far (and please God, may there be no more) fourteen YWAMers have died with others seriously injured. We have never experienced a season like it in the forty-six years of our ministry.
These are not strictly martyrdoms. No human parties have set out to cause these deaths, although all the road accidents were caused by the reckless driving of others. But neither does this confluence of tragedies appear to be mere coincidence. Last year we engaged in fifty days of prayer and fasting around the world. This was to prepare us for new levels of authority and effectiveness worldwide, as we implement our so-called ‘4K strategy’ – identifying and targeting over 4000 ‘omega-zones’. These YWAMers represented a young dynamic generation of strategic leadership.
As our International Chairman, Lynn Green, wrote: ‘We are in a great cosmic war. At times like these, the world in which we live does not make sense unless we see it through the lens of warfare. The scriptures clearly present this image but we quite easily lose sight of it when our lives are going smoothly. But Jesus seemed to deal daily with demonic forcesintent on destroying people’s lives. In addition, Paul wrote clearly about our battle against the principalities and powers of the kingdom of darkness. When we look at life in these terms, it does make sense. In battle, there will be casualties. Great sacrifice is required. We must remain vigilant and stay obedient and ‘well-armed in the Spirit’ for this battle.’
The following is an incomplete list of the names I have tried to piece together from the various communications:
· Hilary Rue, King’s Lodge, England – struck from behind as she waited to turn into driveway of King’s Lodge
· Delphine Lemaire, Tahiti, killed in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, as the van she and 9 other YWAMers were driving inoverturned as a result of a reckless manouevre by a truck driver,along with:
· Brianna Esswein, California, USA, and
· Willie, and
· Rahim, and
· Ben, and
· plus three others and some still in critical condition.
· Elizabeth Mwebe, Zambia, director of a YWAM orphanage with 100 children, died through lack of basic healthcare;
· Tony Lima, Belo Horizonte, Brazil, heart attack at age 38, married to Christina with three young children.
· Sudhakar Simeon, Chennai, India, killed on his motorbike when hit by a truck, returning from a memorial service.
· Pryscilla Lisboa, Paraiba, Brazil, killed after a car tried to overtake her and her friend,
· Dennis Cesar daSilva, Parana, Brazil, causing them to spin into the path of an oncoming truck.
Carmelita Clarke, our Central Europe director, reminded us that last week marked the 50th anniversary of the martyrdomof the five missionaries among the Auca Indians in Ecuador. The living church among the Aucas today testified to the fruitfulness of that human sacrifice. A few days ago, I had the chance to visit sites of martyrdom of protestant reformersin Cambridge, England and of Waldensians in Turin, Italy (right on the plaza where the Winter Olympic medal presentations will be televised to the world in a few weeks,).
Lines from John Milton’s sonnet, On the Late Massacre in Piedmont, written on the occasion of the latter, fed my own prayers for our YWAMers who seem somehow to be victims of some dark conspiracy:
Their martyr’d blood and ashes sow
O’re all th’Italian fields…:
that from these may grow
A hunder’d fold…
Till next week,
Till next week,