Are you discouraged with lack of fruit in your ministry? Do you struggle to see what God is doing through your obedience to Him? Read about a missionary family that was on the verge of giving up when God brought restoration and hope through the only person who responded to their message: a child.
Etched in my mind is an image of Jesus beckoning his disciples to “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14 ESV).
That scene amazes me! I’m struck by the high value Jesus placed on the little ones, children whom no one would have thought to be so important in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus looks deeply into their hearts. He pauses His life to affirm their value in His kingdom. There is something to be learned there. Something deep to consider.
When I think of that scene in Scripture, I’m reminded of a story my dad would share with our family and would share when encouraging fellow ministers of the gospel from the pulpit. It always reminds me of the pattern of the Kingdom of Heaven and of the incredible purpose that children have in bringing the gospel to the ends of the earth.
In 1921, two young couples from Sweden answered the call from the Lord to venture into the Belgian Congo in Africa to bring the Good News to a tribe who had never known the love of God. Their names were David and Svea Flood and Joel and Bertha Erickson. Svea was small in stature at 4 foot 8 inches tall and a well known singer in Sweden, but they gave it all to lay their lives down for the gospel.
They began their trek into the interior of Africa with the Floods’ two-year-old son strapped to their backs. As they hacked through the jungle, both of the couples caught malaria, yet they pressed onward, ready to lay down their lives and be martyred for the gospel.
Finally, they reached a certain village in the interior, yet to their surprise, the village chief would not let them enter for fear that “the white people would offend their gods.” The couples pressed on to the next village but found the response to be the same. The weary missionaries had no choice but to make a small clearing just outside of the villages and build mud huts to serve as their homes. Though tired and weary, they still burned with zeal for the people to know the gospel.
As the months went by, they suffered from loneliness, disease, and malnutrition and had almost no interaction with any of the villagers. Finally, after six months, the discouraged Ericksons decided to return to the mission station. They urged the Floods to do the same, but Svea had become pregnant and was not fit to travel. Besides, David said, “I want my child to be born in Africa. I’ve come to give my life here.” So the Ericksons said goodbye to their friends and began the 100-mile trek back to the station.
For months Svea endured a raging fever, yet all of that time she faithfully ministered to a little village boy who would visit and bring the family fruit. The boy was the couple’s only convert. As Svea ministered to him, he just smiled in return. Eventually Svea’s malaria grew so bad that she became bedridden. When the time came for her to give birth she delivered a healthy baby girl. But within a week she was so sick that she was at the point of death. In her final moments she whispered to David, “Call her Aina.” Then she died.
David was shaken by his young wife’s death but summoned his strength, made a casket for his beloved wife, and buried her near their mud hut in Africa. He erected a tombstone at the site with his wife’s name inscribed upon it. Soon afterward he heard his newborn daughter’s cries and became embittered at God. He shouted angrily at God, wondering why God would lead them all this way only to find such heartbreak and seeming fruitlessness for their efforts. He then hired guides from the village to take him back to the mission station. When he arrived he found the Ericksons and shouted, “I’m done! God has failed me. My wife is dead, and I cannot take care of these children by myself!” He then gave the newborn girl to the Ericksons and left with his son for Sweden in search of riches, totally embittered at the God he had been so ready to be martyred for only a few months prior.*
Check out part two next week to read how God redeemed a seemingly hopeless situation and transformed a failing ministry into a fruitful mission.
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*Adapted from a devotional given by David Wilkerson called “Are You Mad at God?” and from the book Aggie by Aggie Hurst.