Several years ago, I was at a Christian Writer’s Conference. One afternoon, the conference director offered an opportunity for attendees to relate any stories of how God had been working in their lives. Kay Marshall Strom took her turn and told this wonderful story.
First, a little about Kay. She writes books and stories of encouragement, each one of them exalting God, each of them highlighting reliance upon and faith in Jesus. She is often called upon to speak to various churches and Christian groups throughout the world. You can check her website at www.kaystrom.com.
Kay began by relating how a number of years ago, she had occasion to speak at a small and terribly poor village in India. Many of the people in the village were Christians, but on her arrival, she found the villagers devastated by grief. Being Christians in the midst of a largely Hindu territory, persecution was no stranger to their lives. The cause of their grief? Their pastor had just been murdered by a group of terrorists.
Late one afternoon, this group of men came to the village, took the pastor, poured gasoline on him and lit him on fire. Desperately, he ran to the river and dove in. The terrorists weren’t done. As he emerged from the river, the men took him and dropped him into a pit, fifteen feet deep – just deep enough that his family and friends could not rescue him. Nowhere in the village was there a ladder, rope, or even a tree limb long enough to reach him. Fatally burned and left to stand in four feet of stagnant water with no hope of rescue, the pastor survived for three days, then died. His last words to his wife and children who kept vigil at the pit’s edge were, “Do not give up your faith in Jesus.”
Under these dreadful circumstances, Kay said it was difficult for her to speak words of solace and encouragement, yet she persevered. Before she left, she told the pastor’s wife and her sister that she would do all she could to raise money and send it to them, that they and their village might be sustained. She left the villagers with a promise to return someday, if she could.
From India, she traveled to Tokyo, Japan, where she was scheduled to speak to a small church. Surprisingly, she arrived to find most of the people who came to hear her were Chinese – students, Christians, come to study in the university.
Kay said she felt moved to share the plight of the village in India. In response, one of the students stood and offered to give her all his tuition money for the people in that village. They needed it more than he did. He could get a job, earn what he needed to finish his studies.”
Kay was stunned, even moreso when all of the Chinese students did the same. Their donation totaled $500.
Before she left Tokyo, she made arrangements to have the $500 sent to the village in India.
Fast forward five years. True to her promise, she returned to the tiny village in India. As the villagers joyfully escorted her to their church, she was pleased to note some signs of prosperity. The people were eager to hear her words of encouragement. She began her remarks with a recap of the events that happened at her first visit, but no sooner did she begin to speak than a commotion erupted at the back of the church. Kay stopped, wondering what was happening.
Two women made their way to the front of the church – the wife of the slain pastor and her sister.
Overjoyed, they greeted her: “Kay, Kay, we must tell you the rest of the story!”
The pastor’s wife told how the terrorists returned to the village, took her, her sister and their five children captive. They locked them in a small concrete block storage building, about six feet by six feet. There were no windows, no ventilation, no facilities, just a square concrete room. The single door was the only way in … or out.
As the terrorists barred the door, they said to the women, “If you renounce your faith in Jesus, we will let you live. Otherwise, this room will be the place of your death. Here, you and your children will die.”
The women knew we must remain faithful to Jesus and refused to renounce their faith. They heard the wooden bar slide in place, sealing them in their tomb. They had no food and no water. For three days, all they had to sustain themselves was prayer. They resigned themselves to death.
On the third day of their imprisonment, they heard the wooden bar being taken from the brackets. They were afraid the terrorists had returned to kill them.
They joined hands and prayed. The door opened. Three men they did not know stood in the doorway.
The pastor’s wife asked the men if they had come to rescue them.
One of the men said no. They did not know they were there.’
She asked, tell us please, why have you come?
The man said, ‘We have come with a gift for you. A gift of $500.’