By Mark Brandt
Here for the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be a burden, for I seek not what is yours but you. For children are not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less? (2 Corinthians 12:14-15, ESV).
In his second letter to the Corinthian church Paul expressed the feelings of his heart. The man we consider the apostle called to the Gentiles was instrumental in starting the Corinthian church. He had a burning passion for the Gentiles that was put there by the Holy Spirit. You cannot help but feel his love for those he led to Christ. In similar fashion, every genuinely called missionary I have known has also had a God-given burden and passion for the peoples to whom God sent them.
While serving in Papua New Guinea, I had the blessing and privilege of leading many men, women, and children to the Lord. One of my dearest children I led to Christ was a man named Aro. Aro accepted Christ in the living room of our house in Papua New Guinea. We had hired him as a driver for our ambulance. Although he had a reputation as being a bit of a scoundrel, he was also known as a seasoned driver with a lot of experience on the dangerous, steep, and often rain-soaked, muddy roads.
During the course of working together and sharing many harrowing experiences on those roads, we became close friends. Often we would take two vehicles to the coastal port to sell coffee and potatoes and pick up medical supplies, propane, corrugated roofing, and other items for a cheaper price than what it cost in the smaller towns in the mountainous rainforest where we lived. This was often a risky affair with steep hairpin turns and the possibility of encountering bandits who would take advantage of treacherous sections of road where they could block the path and rob people of their money, clothes, watches, and other valuables. Sometimes they even hijacked the vehicles. Aro and I navigated many occasions when we got stuck on roads turned to deep mud pits or were forced to maneuver around roadblocks. Traveling to a port city meant we had to spend several nights at missionary hostels. Consequently, we had a lot of time to talk and joke and laugh, but more importantly, I was able to share my faith with Aro and his family. Eventually Aro surrendered his life to Christ and became an awesome man of God and godly husband and father.
While my wife, Debbie, and I were on furlough in the early ’90s to raise support for our work, something terrible happened. A clan war broke out between two long-time enemy clans who had battled several times right on our mission station. Usually another Open Bible missionary named Wally Lee, several of our indigenous pastors, and I were able to break up those wars. (That’s a whole other testimony of God’s power and grace.)
The war that broke out while Debbie and I were on furlough was over the death of Aro’s sister, who likely suffered heart failure due to a long-term illness. But the local shaman determined that sorcery had been used by opposing clan members to murder Aro’s sister for some previous altercation between her and an opposing clan member which had given the opposing clan the grounds for having Aro’s sister killed. Hence all hell broke loose, and the two opposing clans went to war right on the station. For six weeks the battle intensified with many people on both sides being wounded. Sadly, Aro was pressured into participating in the battles and was mortally wounded in the head by an arrow. When Debbie and I received the news while itinerating, we were devastated and wept off and on for days.
When we returned from our furlough, there at the entrance gate to the mission station stood Aro’s wife and one of his sisters dressed in black and with faces painted in traditional red clay, indicating the time of mourning was not complete. We got out of the vehicle and wrapped our arms around one another and wept. Even now as I write these words 33 years later my tears are flowing – tears of sorrow, but also tears of joy as I have blessed assurance that even though Aro succumbed to the pressures of clan and culture, he had entrusted his soul to the One who had prepared a place for him. Those words of Paul still resonate in my heart, “I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls.”
About the Author
Mark and Debbie Brandt served the Lord as Open Bible missionaries for three, four-year terms in Papua New Guinea and five and one-half years in Australia among the Aboriginal people. They have also served as pastors, church planters, and INSTE facilitators. Mark has five years of experience as a general contractor and helped build an addition at Calvary Open Bible in Springfield, Oregon. Now semi-retired, the Brandts serve part-time as the seniors’ pastor at Calvary Open Bible in Springfield and relish their role as Nana and Pops with family in Texas and Louisiana. The Brandts would be honored to share about missions anywhere they are invited.