Martyrs! Those are the Christians that were fed to the lions, right? Or those guys that were burned at the stake a few hundred years ago for their beliefs. But, surely in these modern times there aren’t any martyrs. This is the age of tolerance and people are allowed to believe what they want. If that were only true, it would be a different world. It almost sounds like it would be paradise allowing each person to believe as they wanted.
Recently I was listening to a podcast from the chapel service at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. President Paige Patterson related the story of David McDonnall. David and his wife were called by God to go to an area near Mosul, Iraq. They were engaged in helping the Iraqi’s to have fresh water and more importantly they were sharing the love of Jesus Christ. Upon returning to the city after a day’s work, they got caught up in an apparent traffic jam. Within moments all hell broke loose. The sound of AK-47 gunfire rang out and David, his wife and the others in the party were badly wounded. Although David’s wife survived the onslaught, the wounds proved to be fatal for David and the others.
A few days later, David was buried in Colorado near the Sangre de Cristo mountain range. After the funeral, an old crusty rancher cowboy approached Dr. Patterson. Looking in the preacher’s eyes, he asked why David’s death had to happen. Noticing the beautiful red hues of the mountains, Patterson nodded towards the mountains and said, “Because of that.” The cowboy asked him what he meant. “What is the name of those mountains?” asked Dr. Patterson. The cowboy responded with the Sangre de Cristo moniker. Patterson asked him what that name means in English.
After responding with the anticipated answer that the name was Spanish for “the blood of Christ”, the seminary president related how David McDonnall had paid the ultimate sacrifice for the gospel and given his blood for the one who had shed His blood for David 2,000 years ago. The cowboy nodded and said, “I think I understand now.”
David McDonnall had a passion to share Jesus Christ and to be a witness. As mentioned before, he paid the ultimate sacrifice. When taking the gospel to the world, he was gunned down by extremists who oppose Christianity. If it were possible for Dave to come back to life, I believe he would do it all over again. David’s presence in Iraq wasn’t a miscalculation. David was there because the God who created Him had laid it upon his heart to be a witness in Iraq.
Many people over the centuries have been martyred for their faith. They weren’t extraordinary people. They were obedient people. Certainly, the way they died was extraordinary. But, they were merely being faithful to share Christ with a lost and dying world. David McDonnall through his death has been an evangelist. There are people that have heard the story of that evil day in Mosul who will remember the story forever. The blood of David McDonnall that soaked into the hot desert sand of Iraq will serve as a seed of faith for many that will encounter his story for years to come. David’s death will be a witness that though a person may perish, the gospel message we proclaim is worth the sacrifice. The world around us needs to know that the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is life changing. Our community needs to know that we are willing to die if need be for our faith. It should be evident to our realm of influence that we serve a risen Christ.