Dave Worth (now IM’s Director of Development) had worked with Glen Lapp when both were doing Mennonite Central Committee relief work following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Dave said that Glen wasn’t a disaster chaser, but a quiet and dedicated follower of Jesus who simply felt called to be at work among hurting people as a presence of hope.
Cathy Holmes (missionary to India who is also now my Administrative Assistant and Recording Secretary for the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society) knew Tom Little, his wife Libby and their three daughters as well as Dan Terry, his wife Seija and their three daughters. The daughters from both families became students at Woodstock School, the Christian international school in Mussoorie, India, while Cathy was the school’s Director of Admissions. IM missionary Debbie Mulneix came to know the families while serving as the girls’ resident supervisor.
Dan Terry had worked in Afghanistan since 1971 and served as the country director of Future Generations Afghanistan. Tom Little arrived in Afghanistan in 1976 and worked as optometrist and manager for the National Organization for Ophthalmic Rehabilitation setting up clinics and workshops.
Cathy said Dan and Tom were caring, positive individuals committed to the Lord who were passionate about seeing the Afghan people take hold of their own future. Woodstock School provided a safe environment for their children where, as one of the daughters had said, they would no longer have to study under the stairwell steps to be safe from bombings.
I’ve been thinking about the deaths of Glen, Dan, Tom as well as the one German, one British, two Afghan and three other American aid workers, and that has reminded me of the death of one of our missionaries in Burma 60 years ago.
Selma Maxville from Mississippi had become a member of the Delmar Baptist Church in St. Louis, MO and was appointed by the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society to serve as a medical missionary in Burma. On February 18, 1950, she was traveling by car from the mission hospital in Moulmein, Burma to the village of Kamawet where she operated a small clinic. She was bringing several patients back from the hospital when their car was stopped by a gang of heavily armed men. The men kidnapped Selma Maxville and demanded a ransom payment of 20,000 Rupees and about 5 ounces of gold. Then as well as now, the policy of International Ministries was that we do not pay ransom if a missionary is kidnapped. The mission society worked with the Burmese government, the US diplomatic corps, other mission agencies in Burma and with local village leaders to make contact with the kidnappers. Ten days later on February 28, local villagers managed to rescue Selma Maxville from her captors. Weak and needing medical attention, Miss Maxville was put on an ox cart to be carried to the hospital. Tragically, members of the gang returned and stopped the 12 Burmese villagers as they were on the road. Selma Maxville and all twelve villagers were immediately shot and killed.
The killing of the aid workers this month in Afghanistan, like the killing of Selma Maxville sixty years ago in Burma, underscores the reality that mission service is not a game that people play. If it is an authentic a call from Jesus, it is a call for the investment of one’s life.
In 1956 Jim Elliot and four fellow missionaries were killed in Ecuador while attempting to bring the message of God’s love to the Waodani people. On October 28, 1949, four months before Selma Maxville’s death, Elliot had written in his journal: "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose."
This is true for all who are called to missionary service. It is equally true for all who seek to follow Jesus as Lord in every walk of life.