There’s a special place in my heart for persecuted Christians who cannot freely worship and practice their faith like I do and can. Some years ago I was part of a Voice of the Martyrs’ team that smuggled Bibles into several countries which will remain nameless. For 45 years VOM has been a relentless voice for the world’s silent and suffering Christians. Founder Richard Wurmbrand’s zeal was fueled by 14 years of torture at his Romanian jailers’ hands. Once free he set his sights on informing the prospering church in the west about the suffering church in the east and elsewhere.
Mission accomplished. Pastor Wurmbrand died at 91 in 2001 but by then VOM had become the gold standard among persecuted church ministries. They distribute Bibles, provide surgeries for injured believers attacked for their faith, operate safe houses and employment to Christian women whose lives are in danger, purchase bicycles and motorcycles for indigenous evangelists, and release Scripture balloons into North Korean airspace. Pretty exotic and gutsy stuff.
Tom White has been executive director for over 20 years. Like Wurmbrand, he knew about torture and prison firsthand. He was dropping gospel leaflets from the air over Cuba when his plane crashed on the island. Fidel and company made him their guest for 17 months.
Each month I read VOM’s magazine from cover to cover including Tom’s provocative editorials. Sadly, there will be no more editorials. Tom died on April 18 and it appears it was by his own hand. Unknown to the rest of VOM, police had begun an investigation to see if Tom had had inappropriate contact with a 10 year-old girl. He left a note in his car. VOM released a statement which said in part:
Allegations were made to authorities this week that Tom had inappropriate contact with a young girl. Rather than face those allegations, and all of the resulting fallout for his family and this ministry and himself, Tom appears to have chosen to take his own life.
Suicide. Possible child molestation. No doubt such sins leave a wife and children and supporters and donors submerged in a maelstrom of grief, anger, horror, and more. For some, perhaps indignation. “How could he do that! What was he thinking! Didn’t he care about anybody but himself?!!”
I cannot pile on. Such demanding and self-righteous questions were ones I’d have flung not that many years ago. This smug, holy pastor would never do ___ or ___ or ___ (you fill in the blank). In a curious way, as I have become more and more gripped by the wonder of the good news, I have also become increasingly aware of the enormity of my sin, its breadth, and my potential for it which hides in the shadows trying to deceive me that it’s not there. Because I share the same totally depraved flesh with all people–my DNA is programmed for sin. Yes, even sin which in moments of passionate desire to glorify God, I find repugnant.
Christ has broken the power of sin in every authentic Christian’s life. But its presence remains. It remains in those who give thanks for Tom’s work on behalf of the gospel over the years and humbly intercede for his family and ministry. And it remains in those who sneer “I’d never do that!”
Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 1 Cor.10:12