afraid — of that?

He was laying in the small village church, grateful for the rest for his wearied body. He had walked thirty miles that day, and his body was screaming for repose. He smiled as he thought back to his reception at  Yan-Chia-Chi, how the people who had chosen to forsake all and follow Christ had embraced him, greeting him as a brother. They had been overjoyed to see him — up and walking, nonetheless — after his bout with appendicitis. Last they heard, he was recovering from the necessary operation in a small village near the coast.

He shivered as he remembered the journey to the country, the long walk, for endless miles. All because he heard that bandits had descended upon the village. His village. The village where the Lord had graciously brought many people to Himself, the village he had baptized so many of the inhabitants. He knew he had to go check on them. Had to go and provide comfort, had to go and provide support. It didn’t matter that he was weak and recovering — the Lord had called him to serve these people, and no surgical procedure was going to hinder that call of the Lord upon his life. And to find them well, to see them and know that they were fine, to hear them call him “Uncle Jack”….it was more than a relief. He was overjoyed when they suggested he lead the services the following morning, for it was always a blessing to his soul to worship with these people.

He settled back against his pillows, nestling under the warm covers; listening to the evening silence that was composed of more noise than quiet. The night time noises, the cool night time breeze rustling the leaves, the babies crying…it was all so peaceful.

Until that dreadful moment. The moment when the peaceful evenings silence was shattered. The yelling; the noises; the wailing of terrified human beings. The sounds of houses being torn apart, the shattering of glass, the ripping of paper, the crackling of flames, the loud report of guns, the sound of knives being used…..the sound of utter chaos. Pandemonium. Everyone struggling for their very lives.

Six hundred bandits burned, pillaged, killed and wounded in that tiny village. When they left the village, they left behind destruction. And took with them one hundred and fifty souls. One hundred and fifty people who were tied together with rope; men, women, and children. One hundred and fifty people who were ordered to start walking. And in their midst was their greatest prize: an American missionary. The one they called “Uncle Jack” — Jack Vinson.

He winced in pain as he was ordered to walk along. He stumbled as he tried to keep up with everyone else. He kept his thoughts stayed upon Christ, perhaps he talked of Him with those around him, urging them to keep up their strength. To hope in the ever living God for rescue.

Government troops overtook them at Lianyungang, and began to besiege the city. The bandits took refuge behind the village walls, and the head bandit called for the missionary. “Do you want to go free?” he asked. “Write a letter to the commanding officer of these soldiers to withdraw his troops and we will let you go.”

Perhaps Jack Vinson’s heart leapt within him. Go free. To liberty. To a nice soft bed instead of the hard ground. To rest his weary legs, to rest his weary body that was aching with every step. To allow himself to attend to the aching incision that was not yet completely healed. Of course, he wanted to go free. And then he remembered — his village. His people, that were still very much in danger.

“Will you also free all these Chinese prisoners?” the missionary asked.
“Certainly not,” replied the bandit chief.

The people the Lord had called him to forsake everything for, even his life, if need be, to minister the truth of the Gospel to them. To preach it, live it out, and be an example worthy of emulation. Perhaps he knew they needed someone to keep up their courage, someone to turn to when doubts assailed them as to why this was happening to them. Could he accept his freedom and leave the very people he was supposed to be ministering to in a state of bondage?

“Then I, too, refuse to go free,” he said.

The bandits threatened him. They argued with him, and finally, in desperation, a plan was formed to sneak by the government troops that evening, when the darkness should cover their movements. Jack Vinson looked on as the plan the bandits had formulated failed. Perhaps he reminded those around him that man may make plans, but God directs their footsteps. He saw many of the bandits killed, and he saw “his people” break free, rejoicing over the fact that one hundred and twenty five people were able to escape into the night during all the confusion. Escape away form the bandits, away from the danger, back to begin rebuilding their village.

Suddenly the bandits were surrounding the remaining people in their grasp, urging them to get up, urging them to run. demanding that they run fast enough to get away from the government officials who would bring them to justice for the crimes they had committed. The missionary tried his hardest to keep up; his legs were aching; his incision pounded with each throbbing of his heart. He was trying. He was running. As fast as he could. But it wasn’t enough. he was falling behind, stumbling over each impediment in his way, over his own feet. He heard a bandit come up behind him, felt the cold metal of a pistol being pressed against his head.

“I’m going to kill you.” he spat out. Enraged by the way the missionary looked at him, so calmly and quietly with such assurance, he pushed the tip of the gun deeper into the missionaries flesh. “Aren’t you afraid?”

The missionary looked at the bandit pressing the gun into his head. Was he afraid? Afraid to die there, in the wilderness? He had consecrated his life to Christ, he had lived for Him, forsaking all that he had. Would he withhold his life from his Creator if it was asked of him, even in this brutal fashion? What was there to be afraid of really? All he had was Christ’s, for Him to do with as He pleased. If he could serve his Lord now, by dying, then so be it.

“No, I am not afraid,” he replied, with a breath. “If you kill me I will go right to God.”

A gun shot rang out, and a limp body fell to the ground. A soul was brought before the Lord, ushered into the heavenly gates.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

A man walked to a railroad station, on his way to the place he called home in the heart of China. He heard the news on the train, and was deep in thought during the walk to house from the station.

When he arrived home, he read the full account of his fellow missionary’s marvelous testimony, of his death, and of his ultimate homecoming. Perhaps he wondered if he would be such a witness to others, if called upon to give his life for the cause of Christ. Those words wouldn’t leave his head, “No, I am not afraid.”

Could he be so strong?
Could he be so brave?
Would he leave such an indelible testimony behind him?

He went to his study and sat for a few minutes, gathering his thoughts. Those words “I am not afraid.” Over and over they ran through his mind, becoming a sort of chant.

He picked up his pen, and began to write. He wrote for fifteen minutes, and emerged having written a beautiful eulogy of those last minutes of his friend’s life. The words came easily and quickly flowed onto the paper:

Afraid — of what?
To feel the spirit’s glad release?
To pass from pain to perfect peace?
The strife and strain of life to cease?
Afraid — of that?

Afraid — of what?
Afraid to see the Savior’s face?
To hear His welcome and to trace
the glory, gleams
from wounds of grace?
Afraid — of that?

Afraid — of what?
A flash — a crash — a pierced heart;
Brief darkness — light — O heaven’s art!
A wound of His a counterpart!
Afraid — of that?

Afraid — of what?
To enter into heaven’s rest,
And yet to serve the Master blessed?
From service good to service best?
Afraid — of that?

Afraid — of what?
To do by death what life could not —
Baptize with blood a stony plot,
Till souls shall blossom from the spot?
Afraid — of that?

Perhaps as he wrote he prayed that the Lord would bring forth fruit from the life of his friend. And he was blessed to see the prayer answered. To hear the Gospel given to others at his funeral, to hear of his friend’s Master spoken of as a man who also gave His life for sinners, far less deserving. He saw the churches his friend had ministered in go from being cold to gaining a zeal for Christ.

And E. H. Hamilton continued in His labours for Christ, remembering the sacrifice his friend had made for the Chinese Christians.

“Sing above the battle strife:
Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
By His death and endless life
Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Sing it softly through the gloom,
When the heart for mercy craves;
Sing in triumph o’er the tomb:
Jesus saves! Jesus saves!”

“The bandit told the missionary, ‘I’m going to kill you. Aren’t you afraid?’
Jack Vinson replied simply, ‘Kill me, if you wish. I will go straight to God.'”
Kiangsu Province, Mainland China 1931
~”Jesus Freaks” by D.C. Talk and Voice of the Martyrs~

For more information:
Afraid?
Real Manhood the Life and Martyrdom of Uncle Jack

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4 comments

  1. Bekah says:

    Thank you for sharing this story. Hearing of other missionaries’ lives bolsters my own faith! And I love the poem at the end. Praise the Lord that it is because of HIM that I needn’t fear death. Reminds of that song called “When Death was Arrested”. There’s a line that goes like this, I think. “When death was arrested and my life began.” So I can live my life here on earth with joy, knowing that I am bound for a better land.

    -Bekah

    • Kaitlyn S. says:

      I had never heard that song before….so I looked it up =) I really liked the words! Thank you for sharing it!
      Isn’t it amazing how learning about the lives of those before us can encourage us in our own walk with Christ? Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

    • Kaitlyn S. says:

      I’m glad you could learn something new :P I always enjoy learning about the ordinary, everyday missionaries (if there is even such a thing), who may not start or do anything “big” by the worlds standards, but live faithfully for Christ – even dying for Him if need be.

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