"But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God." -- The Apostle Paul, as recorded in Acts 20:24 (NKJV)
The day after Thanksgiving, my Christian brother Josh Baley awoke in Jos, Nigeria, nearer to heaven. Hundreds of Muslims armed with machetes, bows and arrows, knives, farm tools and even guns were rampaging through the city that sits at the crossroads of Nigeria's Muslim north and Christian South. They had arrived at the compound where he was staying -- Josh was on leave from his church in Abuja, where he is an assitant pastor, worship leader and children's ministry leader -- and were trying to scale high fences while chanting, "Jihad! Jihad! Jihad!"
Josh had been sent out by Calvary Chapel Corvallis (I first met Josh probably in 2000 while we both attended the church, before I moved to Virginia in 2004) to the mission field in Nigeria in 2005. On Wednesday morning, while on leave from the mission field, he shared his testimony of persecution with our class at Cornerstone School of Ministry at Calvary Chapel Corvallis. "They were going to kill us," Josh said. "Wipe that whole place out. Because we were Christians."
Josh recounted how he remembers telling God his life is in His hands. If it was his time to go, he couldn't change that. Helpless, Josh nevertheless felt a surge of overwhelming peace. He told us he'll never forget saying, "God, you have to move. There's nothing we can do." Miraculously, the mob became distracted and dispersed enough for Josh and others in the compound to make an attempt to flee to safety. As Josh reflected on that morning in Jos, he spoke of how Paul went to Jerusalem, certain that "chains and tribulations await me." (Acts 20:23, NKJV) "You may have to lose your life for Christ's sake," Josh told us. "Are you willing? I believe Paul was at the point where, `If I die, I die. I'm going to go be in a far better place with Jesus."
Josh described how he made it to safety and how gunshots preceded the dispersal of the Muslims. The rampage claimed about 500 lives, Josh said. Throughout the ordeal, Josh became closer to God. "I learned of God's nearness, his closeness through it," Josh said when he spoke to me later. "You honestly forget about everything else and your focus is on the Lord. You forget about physical things. God is really near during those times."
In class, Josh said Paul always talked about finishing his race. "Man, I want to finish my race, but in order to finish my race I can't count my life dear to myself." Is he prepared to die for his faith? "Honestly, I can say yes," Josh said. "These fierce Muslims that are running around killing people, they need Jesus. I know if they got Jesus in their heart they would change."
Josh told our class he was called to the mission field in 2000, while attending class in the School of Ministry. Perhaps some of the 20 of us in class will enter the mission field in a place like central Nigeria, where martyrdom may await. Will we be deterred by Josh's diagnosis? "The problem is," Josh told the class, "we count our lives dear to ourselves." Josh's stay in the U.S. ends January 24th, when he returns to Nigeria with a "burning heart for the people," he said to me later. "Because they need to know the truth, you know? It comes down to I could lose my life -- well, I could lose my life here -- but these people, if they're going to die, they're not going to be with Jesus. We know where they're going. If I die I'm going to meet Jesus."