In the footsteps of giants

Dr. David Livingstone, George Müller, Hudson Taylor and  Jim Elliot are all names that people might recognize. Famous missionaries would ventured where others wouldn’t go (Livingstone), provided for the least (Müller), used techniques that were doubted (Taylor) or were killed by the very people they were trying to reach for Christ. These missionaries have probably inspired many people to follow in their footsteps, but I have a different set of footprints that I am following, that of my great-grandfather.

This past Christmas I thought of a gift that I knew my mom would just love, little did I know that I would be blessed by the gift as well. Growing up we had a set of cassettes recorded by my great-grandpa, Henry Wheeler and I transferred them to cd for my mom, her sisters and brother. We were in danger of losing the stories and transferring them to cd allowed us to keep them for future generations. While recording them I was able to listen to some of the stories and they were incredible. They probably aren’t stories that will be made into a book or movie, but to me they were inspiring. I was already planning on being a missionary by this time, but the time spent listening to my great-grandfather reinvigorated my desire to go to Germany as a missionary to serve the Savior of Henry Wheeler and myself.

My great-grandfather was in World War 1 as a machine gunner and was also a missionary in Belgium Congo, Africa in the 50’s and 60’s. Henry, his wife and two other missionaries were said to be the driving force behind the increase in the Tunda station area within Belgium Congo. After he retired he recorded some stories of his time in the war and in Africa. He told about how in World War 1 he was searching for some food under a tarp in the bed of a truck and accidentally put his hand in the mouth of a sleeping soldier, he talked about a fellow soldier and himself pushing each other just a little further so they weren’t left alone. Probably my favorite story about the war was when he probably saved his whole unit by killing a German scout by firing a single shot from his machine gun.

His war stories were cool, but it is his stories of being a missionary that were inspiring to me. My great-grandpa was sent as a missionary to the Belgium Congo where, as he tells in his stories, some people were too afraid to leave their huts when he walked by because they had never seen a white person before. Talk about a tough crowd to witness to. One of the more inspiring stories was when he converted a chief to Christianity. This chief had 54 wives, a lot of prestige, a lot of money (for their location) and a lot to lose if his people rebelled against him. Henry talked about how after the chief decided to become a Christian and give up his wives, he asked the chief why he decided to become a Protestant as opposed to Catholic. The Catholic mission was not far away, a Catholic evangelist lived in the village and  some of his sons were Catholic and the Protestant mission was 150 miles away through much more difficult terrain. The chief said that when he was sick and was told he was going to die, the Catholic priest prepared him for death. Dr. Lewis and his wife (missionaries with my great-grandfather and great-grandmother) took the chief to the hospital, treated him at their own home and then brought him back to his village once he was well again. When my great-grandpa asked the chief why he became a Protestant the chief said, “Such love is that, I have never seen before. You people at Tunda loves us and do whatever you can to help us. With all of our problems, with all of our needs, with all of our cares. I am an old man, I have seen love in the world, but such love as that, I have never seen before.”

This is not a knock on the Catholic mission at all, but it is more of an inspirational story for me on how all Christians should live. We, as Christians, should love others like no one else. We are loved like no other creature by the creator of the universe so it is the least we could do to love others.

My great-grandpa may never be known as one of the greatest missionaries of all time, but to me he has some huge footprints that will guide me to helping others see Christ through me.

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