When I learned last month of John Allen Chau’s death on the beaches of North Sentinel Island, a small patch of land in the Bay of Bengal, my wife and I were shocked.
We felt like we knew him, though we’d never met. A friend of ours had talked to the 26-year-old missionary a couple months earlier about his plans to reach the Sentinelese, and we had joined a prayer team to lift John up for this perilous journey.
His untimely death was surely not the outcome we expected. What happened to the dream of this young hero who would usher in salvation to a lost tribe? Where was the victory?
John knew the risks. In fact, since he was 15, he said he’d felt a calling to reach these people. When he was older he got to know the region, traveling to the surrounding Andaman Islands and acquainting himself with the culture.
He knew how to survive in the wild as an avid hiker. He received wilderness EMT training, honing his medical skills for the day when he would finally dwell with his beloved Sentinelese. He wanted to serve their physical needs as well as share the gospel with them.
As the Lord’s plan unfolded, John’s first contact with the island indeed seemed miraculous. An arrow flew toward him, hitting his Bible as if an angel had guided it to the small waterproof book John held out like a shield.
Sadly, however, when he returned the next day, the arrows were allowed to pass to their mark.
In John’s journal, obtained by the Daily Mail, we get a glimpse into the heart of this inspiring young missionary. He wrote this just before heading to the island:
God, I thank you for calling me even before I was formed in my mother’s womb to be your messenger of your Good News to the people of North Sentinel Island.
Regardless of the risks, this young man knew his calling. For 11 years he fanned the flame of love and yearning for these people. He prepared, prayed and planned.
As one trying to live an example of biblical manhood, I can’t get John out of my mind. I feel like I need to respond to his courageous sacrifice.
What shall we do now?
If John had lived another 50 years without ever pursuing his God-given dream, would a great “what if” have plagued his final years?
Many people are uncomfortable with John’s actions. Perhaps he should’ve gone with a team, approached the island differently, or not gone at all.
Regardless of the abounding criticisms, I believe as Christians, and as leaders, we must capitalize on this moment. The time is now to act on our faith.
I don’t want to have a big “what if” when I look back on my life. Do you?
My own calling is weighing on me. I sense the Lord urging me to get after my dreams of building up Christian leaders with the Word of God to change the world for God.
What is your dream? Are you pursuing it like John got after his?
We don’t all have to land alone in the midst of a hostile tribe. But we do all have unique missions. They may not be glamorous or heroic, but God has prepared unique work for each of us to do.
A time for diligence
Proverbs 21:5 says, “The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.”
We need to be diligent – hardworking, persistent, and single-minded in achieving our calling. Biblical fatherhood gets this. John epitomized this.
Likewise, shouldn’t we seek God’s mission for our lives, make plans to accomplish it, prepare for the journey, and pray for success?
John’s mission was inspired by a vision of worshiping God with the Sentinelese in heaven. In a letter to his family, he wrote:
Please do not be angry at them or at God if I get killed – rather please live your lives in obedience to whatever he has called you to and I’ll see you again when you pass through the veil. Don’t retrieve my body. This is not a pointless thing – the eternal lives of this tribes is at hand and I can’t wait to see them around the throne of God worshiping in their own language as Revelation 7:9-10 states.
However you feel about the wisdom of John’s actions, the fact remains he did what he believed God had called him to do.
He was diligent to the end.
The story yet to be told
I for one am anxious to see how God uses this bold man’s sacrifice. Perhaps, decades from now, we’ll hear the full story of God’s mighty hand among a people obsessed with death.
Will the boy whose arrow bounced off John’s Bible wonder? Will a girl who watched from the shadows seek the God of this strange visitor? Will a tribal warrior’s eyes be opened, like the centurion who believed after Christ’s sacrifice?
Maybe a wave of missionaries will fan out to the last remaining unreached people groups. Or the Spirit himself might breathe an outpouring of grace upon tribes throughout the Andaman Islands, and beyond.
Or maybe, as your own life unfolds, you will be filled with renewed boldness and courage for the Lord.
When we pass through the veil, may we join John Allen Chau and forgiven Sentinelese to worship the King that died when his own body was pierced, and yet lived.
Before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. —Revelation 7:9a
About the author > Tom R. Harper
Tom Harper has been married for 25 years and has three children. He serves in various ministry roles at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky, as well as the Board Chairman of Manhood Journey. Tom is the author of Through Colored Glasses: How Great Leaders Reveal Reality and Leading from the Lions’ Den: Leadership Principles from Every Book of the Bible. Keep up with Tom at BiblicalLeadership.com and grab his Field Guide Breaking Barriers.