In July 2007, twenty-three South Korean missionaries, sixteen men and seven women, were on a bus traveling from Kandahar to Kabul, when the driver allowed two armed men to board the bus. For the next month and a half, members of the Taliban held them hostage, moving them to a series of cellars and farmhouses in order to conceal them. Before they were split into small groups, all twenty-three rededicated their lives to Christ, pledging their willingness to die for his glory. There was even an argument about who might be given the privilege of dying first.
One of the missionaries had a small Bible, which was split into twenty-three sections so each person could have a portion of God’s Word to strengthen and comfort them during the difficult days ahead. Two of the men were executed before a deal was reached to release the hostages.
Oddly enough, when the remaining hostages were safely back on South Korean soil, more than one of them would later comment, “Don’t you wish we were still there?” Several spoke of experiencing a deep intimacy with God in the midst of their terrible ordeal—an experience they hadn’t been able to recapture since their return to the safety and comfort of their own land.1
Why this dynamic? Perhaps because in the midst of their difficulties, God was fulfilling his promise that the Holy Spirit would be with those who would be brought to trial for the sake of the gospel. Perhaps also because desperation can excavate more space in our hearts for God. Instead of feeling full and satisfied, we recognize a need only Christ can fill. Very few of us will ever face the threat these men and women did. But we can take heart from their story, believing that God can give us courage for whatever we may face.
- Francis Chan tells the story of meeting one of the missionaries on a trip to South Korea in Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2009), 107–8.