January 11, 2016

From the president's heart: taking risks

Written by  Nelson Okanya

This article appears in the January/February 2016 issue of Missionary Messenger; sign up to read more articles like this one.

“'Lord, if it’s you,' Peter replied, 'tell me to come to you on the water.'

'Come,' he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus" (Matt. 14:28-29).

When I was 19 years old, I was bitten by a black mamba while visiting my grandmother in Mukuro, Kenya. A black mamba is one of the world’s deadliest snakes, named black not for the color of its scales but for the lining of its mouth. A friend of mine had died of a snakebite in third grade after being bitten at school. Even though the poison had spread and my tongue was so swollen I could not swallow, God’s hand of healing was on me. By His grace I survived.

After I graduated from high school, EMM missionary Carl Hansen informed me of an opportunity for discipleship training which was based in the northeastern region of Kenya. This area was considered a dangerous security zone. I consulted with my father, who reminded me that I had been offered to God as a firstborn son and that if God called me, I ought to accept the call. That journey involved a convoy with security vehicles and machine guns, lying in the back of a UN truck delivering grain, heavy gunfire, and a bike ride through the bush with a wounded lion lurking nearby. Although the risks were many, this experience opened my heart to people who had not yet heard the good news of Jesus.

As an adult and a parent, I understand risk quite differently now. I am continually impressed by EMM workers who choose to go to “risky” places, places where travel means narrow, winding mountainous roads, no electricity or running water — where it’s dangerous to be a Christian, etc.

Many missionaries have “counted the cost” and given their lives on the field for the sake of the gospel. And sometimes they've given the lives of their spouses or children.

The Bible is full of stories of risks. Of David facing Goliath; of Esther breaking the royal law; of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego choosing to only worship God. I am inspired and encouraged by these saints of old and the saints currently serving in difficult places. May we all be willing to risk all for the One who gave His life for us.

Nelson Okanya serves as president of EMM.

This article appears in the January/February 2016 issue of Missionary Messenger; sign up to read more articles like this one.