Only One Life
By Lynette Morgan
During closing ceremonies for the 2016 E-TEAM student missions program, missionary Lynette Morgan shared the following challenge to nearly 100 students, along with their family and friends. The teens had just returned from ten fields across the globe, where they saw God at work in Free Will Baptist missions efforts.
When you left Nashville two weeks ago, I began praying. Not just for the ministry the Lord had for you there, but that you would have a God experience—awareness, relationship, or encounter—something you saw, heard, or felt that would change your life forever. When I was your age, it happened to me.
I was a missionary kid growing up in Ivory Coast, West Africa. My mom and dad had answered the call to serve as medical missionaries to the Ivory Coast. We lived 450 miles—dirt miles most of it—back in the interior where they had established a medical ministry among one of the most primitive tribes in the country. Eight months a year, my brothers and I would go away to boarding school. But summers we spent at home in our bush village.
I remember one particular summer day, I was out riding bikes with a younger missionary kid across the medical station. The station was very secluded, but also very well known. My dad’s reputation for treating patients with love, fairness, and God’s power had reached all the way to the capital city. Patients came from all over to receive treatment for all sorts of medical problems.
One day, a young man arrived to be treated for a serious respiratory illness we knew would probably end his life. Dad inserted a tracheotomy tube into his windpipe so he could breathe. Afterwards, they housed him in one of the five mud huts with thatched roofs that surrounded the clinic. The huts had been provided for patients who lived far away.
As we were riding our bikes by the huts, we suddenly heard a loud cry. I knew immediately it was a death wail, the heart-piercing cry that tells the world someone is about to die. I turned around and saw the young man stumbling from one of the huts, held up by his wailing wife. Blood was surging from his throat, from the area around the tracheotomy, and pouring down his naked chest. Before I could run for help, he held out a thin hand to me in supplication.
Of course, I couldn’t help him, so I rode quickly to the house of Dr. Griffin, the single, lady doctor who was on call that day. (Dr. Griffin had come to assist my dad for a couple of years. He was seeing more than 150 patients a day, something he did for nearly all the years he was in Africa.)
By the time we returned, the young man was lying on the ground, and scores of women from neighboring huts, who came running at the first cry, had gathered around the young man and joined the death wail. They were walking in and out and around the huts, flailing their arms in desperation.
Dr. Griffith immediately knelt by the patient’s side and began doing chest compressions. But it wasn’t long before she stood, blood dripping from her hands, and looked down sadly, hopelessly, at the young man, who was now just a lifeless body in the dust. I knew at that moment I had seen a soul pass into eternity, a Christless eternity.
When the African women saw the doctor’s reaction, the wailing and crying suddenly grew louder, their dancing and flailing arms became even more intense, and the desperate young widow began running down the road, crying out to the “spirits” of the ancestors, “Why did you take my husband?”
I turned and slowly walked back toward the house with an African friend. For a few moments, we walked in silence, moved by what we had just seen. Then my friend broke the silence with a question that startled me: “How is she going to get the blood off of her hands?”
I responded almost without thinking. “Water—water will wash the blood off her hands.”
But the question would not go away, and over the next few months, the Lord began speaking to me in a life-changing way. First, He led me to a passage in Ezekiel that says, “When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand” (Ezekiel 3:18). Then, he reminded me of Jesus’ command: “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).
So many Christians, like Pontius Pilate, try to wash away this responsibility. Bargaining with God, excuses, distractions, substitutions—they try to wash away what God has told them they must do. You have been given an awesome privilege to be part of E-TEAM. But with that privilege comes an awesome responsibility to respond to what you have seen and heard and experienced over these weeks. This response should flow out of you like Peter and John, who said, “We cannot help but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20).
When I was a little girl, autograph books were popular. I will never forget what my Dad wrote in mine: “Only one life will soon be past; only what is done for Christ will last.” I have never forgotten that moment, or what God showed me that day in that dusty African village. I cannot escape it! And neither can you. I pray for you—that you will use this “one life” God has given you and make it count for Him. Let it count for all eternity.
And I pray for you, parents, that you will let them go. As the parent of four children, I can tell you there would be no greater privilege than for all four of our children to serve God in the regions beyond. If God calls your children to go, don’t stand in their way! You cannot wash off the responsibility of what God has called you to do, or what God is calling your children to do. Let them go…for His sake.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future…You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:11, 13).
Only one life will soon be past. What are you going to do for Christ that will last?
About the Writer: Lynette Morgan is daughter of pioneer medical missionaries LaVerne and Lorene Miley. She and her husband Clint followed in their footsteps, serving as missionaries to Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), West Africa, from 1976-2005. They additionally served in Central Asia and France until 2011, when Clint was appointed general director of Free Will Baptist International Missions. They have four children (Trey, Adam, Aaron, and Autumn) and six grandchildren.