I was at a security briefing in Mogadishu, Somalia, when word came that four Somali believers had just been killed. Leaving the meeting, I discovered that the four brothers martyred were the same believers whom I had taken communion with two weeks earlier. Certainly the Lord used the only Lord’s Supper these four men had experienced in ten years to prepare them to be broken and poured out.
Yet the pain does not end there.
Not satisfied with merely killing these followers of Jesus, they would also dispose of their bodies in an undisclosed location. Their deaths were planned and executed to such an extent that the killers, Al Shabaab, were able to hide the bodies of the four believers, perhaps throwing them in a garbage dump. This was normal practice by the killers of believers from Muslim backgrounds inside that war-torn country.
We had no bodies to bury. Neither their families nor us, their brothers in Christ, had their bodies to honor and to aid us in holding their funeral.
From 1988 – 2013, all Somali believers who were murdered, with a few dying of natural causes, had their bodies stolen by their persecutors and then buried or thrown away in a secret location. For twenty-five years we could not honor our martyred Somali brothers by having their bodies present for their own funerals and subsequent burial. Their persecutors wanted to short-circuit their witness even after their deaths.
Perhaps more importantly, these persecutors did not want the believing community to have a place where Somali believers were buried so that generations of believers could take their children’s children’s children to their graves and tell their stories. Somalis have a tradition of pilgrimages to the tombs of important people. The persecutors certainly did not want to accord Somali believers such an honor.
Such becomes a culture where evil has its mask stripped away. No longer is the enemy hiding behind Islam, communism, Hinduism, or any Western mask. Satan is revealed, evil is unmasked. One understands that this war involving the principalities and powers is between the forces of good and evil, God and Satan.
How do we serve Jesus as sheep among wolves when the wolves are in the vast majority and have become so vicious? Can Jesus truly love people groups like Somalis and killers such as Al Shabaab? These experiences, and the questions they raised, launched my wife and I on a pilgrimage that took us to seventy-two countries where we interviewed over six hundred believers in persecution, asking the question, Is Jesus worth it?
When I look at my church and my country in the West, I see the confusion and the anger toward those who believe something different than us. But I hear Jesus say, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you’ (Matt. 5:44). That way of thinking is countercultural. Some may consider it insane. After sitting at the feet of believers in persecution, we had to tell their story. We had to tell the story of The Insanity of God.