Today I have an amazing story to share with you! It's about a small group of young people who heard God calling them to reach others living in a very difficult and dangerous area. In spite of the risks, these precious young people put their trust in the Lord and said, "I Will Go!"
But before moving ahead, they spent much dedicated time in prayer, pleading for God to guide them. I believe you will be amazed and inspired by what happened next.
This story comes to us from Pastor Geoffrey Mbwana, one of our general vice-presidents here at the General Conference.
Along the Indian Ocean coast of Tanzania lies a town of more than 8,000 inhabitants. The town is predominantly of a non-Christian faith with more than 99 percent of its inhabitants belonging to that faith. It is known to be a highly superstitious town, causing many people to fear the town and its people.
Several attempts over the years to introduce the townspeople to the three angels' messages, but none were successful. But in the year 2000, a group of young people from churches in a city some kilometers away dared to conduct an evangelistic series in this town.
With some simple preparation they went to the town and rented a place to stay. Knowing the work before them was delicate and risky, they decided to spend two weeks in earnest prayer, pleading for God’s intervention for the salvation of the people there.
Amazingly, a few days later they received permission from the town government to hold religious meetings. It then became public knowledge that young Adventists would be conducting meetings.
The young people continued to pray earnestly, choosing to have their special prayer times early in the morning by the seashore, before the people of the town were awake.
The young Adventists faithfully met by the sea every morning before dawn, crying to the Lord on behalf of the townspeople and for the meetings. One morning, unbeknownst to them, a few young people were sent by the town elders to go and kill these young Adventists before they started their meetings in town. They had learned that these Adventist youth started their day with prayers by the sea at 5:00 in the morning and decided that would be the best place and time to kill them.
So, one morning as they went to the shore, they found the Adventist youth kneeling in earnest prayer by the sea. As they approached, ready to kill, the attackers saw a wall of fire surrounding the Adventist youth. They were shocked and dared not attack so they ran away.
The Adventist young people went on with their plans and started the meetings. But the elders of the city were determined to stop them. They sent their youth to steal equipment and furniture that was used for the meeting in an open area. But one night when they approached the place where the equipment was kept, they saw a very tall man wearing a white gown, holding a shining sword and walking around the equipment. They again failed to execute their wicked plan.
Finally, the elders in the city said to their youth, "You are cowards and don’t know how to do these things! We will take matters into our hands and destroy these Adventist young people!"
Soon after, as the meetings were going on in the open area, two elderly people dressed in full traditional regalia walked through the crowd, heading toward the front where one of the young Adventists was preaching.
But before they reached the front, the town elders started running and jumping, screaming, “We're burning! We're burning!” They rushed toward the preacher, but then went out behind him.
Interestingly, while no one saw any flames, the intruders acted as though they were on fire. Later, these same leaders explained how they wanted to attack the preacher but saw a wall of fire surrounding him.
After this, the young men of the town approached the Adventist young people, inquiring about the superstitious powers they were using to protect themselves against the attacks. The Adventist youth told them they didn't believe in superstition and would have nothing to do with it. Then they asked the young men why they thought they were using some sort of magic as protection, and the town youth explained what they had seen when they had tried to destroy them!
The Adventists happily explained that they serve the living God of heaven and have the protection of divine angels sent by God. It became a big story all across that town and surrounding towns, and in the end many people were baptized. When the news of these miracles spread into the neighboring areas, a journalist came and reported the story in a nationwide newspaper.
Even though working in this area continues to be challenging, there are now three organized churches in that town, with a total membership of nearly 200 people. Several of these youth became powerful lay evangelists and two of them became pastors.
You know friends, we are told that the Lord is, indeed, like a wall of fire. In the book, The Sanctified Life we read, “God smiles upon the humble and lowly ones who follow closely in the footsteps of the Master. Angels are attracted to them, and love to linger about their path. They may be passed by as unworthy of notice by those who claim exalted attainments and who delight in making prominent their good works, but heavenly angels bend lovingly over them and are as a wall of fire round about them" (p. 13).
And in Historical Sketches, Ellen White gives this beautiful insight: “We must seek to separate sin from us, relying upon the merits of the blood of Christ; and then in the day of affliction, when the enemy presses us, we shall walk among the angels. They will be like a wall of fire about us; and we shall one day walk with them in the city of God” (p. 158).
May we, just as those dear young people by the seaside did, put our trust fully in the Lord and be willing to say, "I will go" wherever He may lead.
Let's pray. Father in heaven, thank you for sending angels to surround those young people. For opening the way for the proclamation of your message to that town. Lord, thank you for young people who are willing to do what seems impossible for many others, because they spent so much time in prayer gaining strength from you. Help us to learn that lesson ourselves. And Lord help us to march forward with confidence, knowing that if we place ourselves in your hands, you will be like a wall of fire around us. Thank you, Lord, for hearing us and the promise of yours soon return.
We ask all of this in the name of Jesus. Amen.