Telling The Full Story
Whilst many of us were either enjoying an end of year break or contemplating the start to a new year, far away in Burkino Faso a tragedy was unfolding. An unassuming but legendary couple in their eighties from Perth were kidnapped by a militant Islamist group linked to Al Qaeda jihadists.
Ken and Jocelyn Elliot first arrived in Djibo in 1972 and since then have devoted themselves to the plight of the locals, taking few holidays. They have built up a 140 patient hospital where Ken is the only surgeon. Prior to this they worked in Benin, arriving in 1967 and re-opening a closed hospital where they worked for four years. Ken usually operates for between five to six hours a day, six days a week.
This example of sacrificial and selfless living by Christians rarely makes headlines. In our current cultural climate the focus is on a few red button issues. The stance of Christians on these issues serves up countless opportunities for the caricature of Christians as ‘phobic’, ‘intolerant’, ‘bigoted’, and ‘anachronistic’ to be fed with more evidence.
Being sucked into perpetual debate about a small range of issues negatively affects our capacity to engage in effective evangelism. You can’t win an unfair fight.
There are choices we can make about what we talk about and what we champion. Most people have never heard of the Elliot’s (who reportedly have a policy of never asking for money). Unless they were captured by terrorists we would all probably be none the wiser. The Elliot’s are heroes in anyone’s book, whether you identify as a Christian or not. Their life’s work, driven by their faith and the subsequent passion to share God’s love, is monumental. Their life’s work is worth talking about.
The Elliot’s are by no means in small company. Across our movement of churches there are countless people like them. Few may have achieved what they have, but at least in part their compassion for people and servant hearts are reflected by people in every church. Australia and the world further afield is impacted daily by an army of believers who love and serve people sacrificially.
These stories cut across the popular misconception of believers as hypocritical, judgemental and bigoted. These are the stories we need to be talking about, and these are stories few people will have an issue listening to.
Tony Kirwan’s story is an excellent example. Tony was an electrician living in Cairns until 2001 when, along with his wife and children, he sold the family business and possessions and moved to Thailand to launch a charity called Destiny Rescue that rescues underage girls from the sex trade. Throughout his recent tour of Australia he was featured in national newspapers and national television.
Many Australians were shocked to hear of the trade in under age girls and found his personal story and the stories of the work that the charity does compelling and worthy of support.
I got the members of my gym to engage in a 12 hour sponsored indoor cycle for Destiny Rescue in tandem with our church youth group. Here was a classic example of the church rubbing shoulders with the local community in a common cause united by compassion for the plight of young girls forced into sexual slavery. The fact that Destiny Rescue is a Christian not for profit organisation didn’t raise an eyebrow.
We cannot avoid dealing with the issues of the day, and as Christians we will always necessarily be cutting across secular society with regards to morality and ethics in at least a few key issues. But by only engaging in these issues we never get the chance to tell the full story.
Once we tell the full story our position on key issues can be understood in greater context. However that is a secondary consideration. The key reason we tell our stories is to point towards Christ. It is to have conversations about normal people who have encountered Christ, who go on to live extraordinary lives. The sum total of care and compassion that people in Australia and abroad encounter each day from the followers of Jesus is incalculable.
These are the stories that need to be told. To tell them is to speak of the love of God for all people.
- Stan Fetting, Crossover Operations Manager, February 2016