Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 5, 1968
NUMBER 31, PAGE 7b-8

"Lord, Increase Our Faith"

George Pennock

Tonight I stood for some time looking up into the star-studded sky. This in itself was not unusual, for the tropical heaven reflects the glory of God so majestically and brilliantly that it never ceases to fill me with awe. The twinkling firmament seems to radiate God's smile as it looks down upon the comparative prosperity and security of lbadan, filling me with a feeling of contentment and wellbeing.

But tonight was different, for as I stood transfixed, waves of depression and intense sorrow swept over me. While I gloried in the prosperity and security of Ibadan, a short three hundred miles to the eastward that same canopy of stars looked down upon the misery and suffering that remains of "Biafra." My conscience responded to this realization and would not be quieted. Ravaged by hunger and disease: benumbed and bewildered by the events of the last few months; convinced (tho I believe mistakenly so) that they face extermination at the hands of Federal troops; certainly life has become for them a nightmare of suffering, terror and death, illuminated against the holocaust of war. Is there a man so calloused that his spirit is not moved by such suffering?

Yet, this natural sympathy for human suffering accounted only in a small measure for the distress of conscience I was experiencing. Hundreds of those swept along on this torrent of death and despair were much more than mere human beings — they were brothers and sisters in Christ! True, the majority were but babes in Christ. They had not yet achieved that spiritual maturity which could shelter and protect them from such buffeting, allowing them to maintain a placid and calm spirit in the midst of such chaos. But then, how many of us who have been Christians for years have achieved such heights of maturity? The mutual relationship we share in Christ Jesus, made it impossible for me to dismiss these brethren from my mind. Their sorrow is my sorrow: their weakness my weakness and their suffering is my anguish and vexation of spirit. 0 God!, envelope them in the safety of Thine everlasting arms and flood their hearts with that peace that passeth all understanding!

Was there not something I could do? Certainly the presence of a white brother could mean so much. Surely it would help raise their morale, while a few words of encouragement and hope would be of great consolation. But alas! the door is shut. The way is barred by two armies and a battle front. They cannot come to us and we cannot go to them.

My frustration and sorrow reach their apex as I realize that the door, closed so tightly now, was at one time wide open. Indeed, the brethren (liberals) had a once in a lifetime opportunity, to prove both their love for the people among whom they labored and their devotion to the cause of Christ. But they turned their back on that open door — in that day they were weighed in the balances and found wanting. Refusing even to evacuate women and children, many Catholic Priests and denominational "missionaries" tightened their belts and grimly made preparations to stay, while at the same time, the brethren were packing their bags and preparing to flee. Did these men find more courage and strength in their human systems and creeds than can be obtained from the word of God? I cannot believe it! (Now that the territory of Biafra has shrunk to almost nothing, and its day of doom seems to be at hand, many of these women and children have been evacuated within the last few weeks. This comes more than a year and a half AFTER the brethren ran away. And even yet, many of the men are preparing, if possible, to ride out the storm to the end).

No matter how distasteful they are, facts are facts. When the native brethren desperately needed an example of fearlessness and faith, unmistakably they saw fear, but very little faith. When an example of strength would have meant so much. they saw only weakness. When they needed help the most, there was no one to help them. Their white brethren had abandoned them to their fate and fled to the refuge of their homes in the U.S.

Would I have done differently had I been in the shoes of these white brethren? I have searched my heart for the answer to this question and in all honesty, I must confess that I don't know. Duty to God and love for the brethren would demand that I pursue a different course than the one followed: but would I have the courage to respond to the call of love and duty? Until put to the test it is impossible for a man to objectively measure his own courage. I make this confession to emphasize that I have no desire to belittle or demean the individuals involved, but only to point out the dire straits into which this regrettable action plunged the native brethren. What I might or might not do (due to the weakness of the flesh has little to do with determining duty and responsibility.

There in the moonlight, my heart went out to these abandoned brethren as I bowed my head and prayed. First, I prayed for them — prayed that by God's grace, their suffering and anguish would soon end and that they would emerge from this trial with increased faith and a greater dependency upon God. But I prayed not for them alone. For those of us who have been spared such suffering and sorrow, but who have an inclination to put personal security, comfort or ease of life ahead of duty, I could but bow my head in shame and plead like the disciples of long ago, "Lord, increase our faith."

— P.O. Box 4064 UC4 Ibadan