My God, why … ? is not an unknown prayer among Christians—Why did she contract cancer? Why was I fired? Why does God seem to forget us? Yet Jesus, having uttered My God, why … ? on the cross, then whispered, It is finished, signaling not only the end of his suffering, but the completion of his work.
Irene Ferrel graduated from the Bible Institute of Los Angeles with a burden for overseas missions. She found her place in the Congo (Zaire), where for 10 years she taught school, shared Christ, and worked in a dispensary in the Kwilu bush.
In 1964, Communist rebels mounted guerrilla raids to overthrow the government. Missionaries in the Kwilu Province were threatened. Irene and her co-worker Ruth Hege decided to evacuate from their station. A helicopter was ordered, and on January 24, 1964, the two prepared to leave.
They packed essential belongings then gathered their Congolese workers for a final time of worship, Irene playing the organ. The final songs died down, the last prayers were offered, and the women began anticipating the chopper’s arrival. When it didn’t come, they decided to retire and rise early to await it the next day.
Shortly after midnight, young, intoxicated rebels attacked. The youngsters, some barely teenagers, were smoking hemp, smashing windows, and screaming for blood. Storming the house, they dragged the women from their beds and danced around them in wild circles in the moonlight. One youth shot an arrow into Irene’s neck. With her last ounce of strength she pulled it out, whispering, “I am finished,” and died.
Ruth Hege, also struck by arrows, pretended to be dead, not even moving when one of the rebels jerked out a handful of her hair. Only after the attackers finally ran into the forest could Ruth crawl to safety.
Many other Christians perished during the 1960s Congolese turmoil, including both Protestant and Catholic missionaries. It was a killing time. Why was the helicopter late? Why do God’s servants sometimes perish? We’ll understand someday. Till then we trust, knowing his kindness never fails.
I tell myself, “I am finished! I can’t count on the Lord to do anything for me.” Just thinking of my troubles and my lonely wandering makes me miserable. That’s all I ever think about, and I am depressed. Then I remember something that fills me with hope. The Lord’s kindness never fails. (Lamentations 3:18-22)
Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). Jan. 24.