Mercer & Curry to Christians: Jesus worthy of mission risks

ST. LOUIS (BP)--Heather Mercer and Dayna Curry encouraged Christians to be on mission for God despite heightened risk of persecution overseas and the reluctance of many volunteers to participate in mission projects.

"For those that know Jesus and love him, I would give the encouragement that he is still worthy to be followed even if it costs us something," Mercer said during a June 10 news conference hosted by Baptist Press.

"I think that there's something that people see when we're in a culture where it's difficult to follow Jesus or make his name known. They see people who are willing to pay a price for doing that, and it somehow reflects how wonderful Jesus really is because we'd only follow someone who is really truly worthy," she said.

Mercer and Curry, who were among eight westerners arrested by the Taliban in August and imprisoned until November for sharing their faith in Afghanistan, will address the Southern Baptist Convention June 11.

Though they realize that many Americans may have a difficult time understanding what they endured, they still have a powerful story to tell.

"I think the thing that we've tried to communicate since we've been back is really the true essence of the story, which is the fact that no matter what the trial is that we go through in life -- and we all go through tremendous trials of different sorts -- that Jesus is faithful, and if we call on him, he'll meet us in our place of need, and that he gives all that we need to overcome," Mercer said.

"And so even though our story may be unique in this culture, the story of trial and having to find a place of peace and rest in the midst of it is a story that any American can relate to, especially in the uncertain days that lie ahead."

The women commented on the recent tragedy of three people in a situation similar to theirs, missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham and nurse Deborah Yap, who were held captive in the Philippines for more than a year before Martin and Deborah were killed in a rescue attempt.

"It shines a new light even on our own situation and the reality that things don't always work the way we think they should," Mercer said.

Even in the Burnhams' dark situation, Curry said, God was in control until the end.

"It really was hard news to hear because almost every single place where Heather and I spoke we would pray for the Burnhams," Curry said. "The one thing that touched me was when I found out that Martin a few days before he was killed had felt like he might die, and he stopped and wrote a note of farewell to his children. So it just shows me that God was preparing him for what they were going to face.... Their faith has really inspired me."

Despite such traumas, Curry wants people to know that there is no need for a decline in missions service.

"Friends [who] have just recently been in Afghanistan say that you are just put up on the highest pedestal and are so welcome. They love you. They love Americans right now and are so thankful for what the military has come and done to help free their country," Curry said.

"When I've gone overseas I've felt so loved and accepted by the people, both in Pakistan and Afghanistan and also in the former Soviet Union. I've only felt more welcome, and a lot of times I've felt more safe there than here in a lot of ways. I would say don't let that hold you back."

She went on to address any apprehension single women may have about entering a Muslim country.

"You can make a huge impact as a single woman. It's really easy to make friendships in Afghanistan because one out of every five women is a widow, so they're hungry for relationships. Also, the men would ask questions because foreign women are respected, and you just have an inroad into the family. Don't feel intimidated as a single woman."

Both women have plans to return to Afghanistan as soon as possible to continue the work that they know is so urgent there.

"Just being in Afghanistan, your whole view of life changes. You're more thankful for the freedoms that you have here in America," Curry said. "Things you took for granted as a kid growing up, like as a girl learning how to ride a bike -- things like that the girls in Afghanistan never get to do. My heart has been broken for the poor and I just want to get back as soon as I can."

Though Mercer and Curry had not had much time to get acquainted before being thrown in prison together, they found they had a common bond of knowing the best way to deal with the situation.

"Because of the church we came from, we really value worship and reading God's Word and praying together because that was so firmly in us," Curry said.

"That's what we clung to, that's what we did while we were in prison, that's where we were able to enter God's presence and find comfort through the whole ordeal, and that kept our sanity, that we knew how to get in God's presence, how to look to his Word, how to run to him in the situation and how to support one another."

Both women are members of the nondenominational Antioch Community Church in Waco, Texas, and graduates of Baylor University.

"It's really an honor for Dayna and I to be here at the Southern Baptist Convention this week," Mercer said. "We know all the Southern Baptist pastors and churches here at the convention did so much to support us during our time in prison in terms of generating prayer and just getting behind our local church in Texas."

Their book, "Prisoners of Hope," is being released June 11. All proceeds from the book and from their speaking engagements will help fund ministries in Afghanistan.


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