A Faith to Die For

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:
and the book:
Whitaker House (September 2, 2013)
***Special thanks to Cathy Hickling for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mark Geppert is president and founder of the South East Asia Prayer Center. He teaches seminars on prayer walking, micro-economic kingdom business principles, and team building to leaders in Latin America, Asia, Australia, Africa, and Europe, as well as throughout the U.S. He is known as a “master communicator” through his work in radio and television. Mark has worked in over 30 countries and has authored four books. Ordained through Elim Fellowship of Rochester, New York, he has served on the staff of several churches in the U.S. and has most recently established and pastored the English-speaking congregation of the Church of Singapore (Bukit Timah).

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

“He stood and looked at us. The weapon was hot and heavy in his hand as he lowered the barrel toward us. His face was streaked with sweat and dirt; his eyes were filled with the sights of combat. He stared at me and asked, ‘Are you Mr. Mark?’”

How can you face death squarely with an absolute absence of fear? You can if you have hope. You can if you have traveled from Guatemala to Kiev to Beijing and seen God restoring hope in the midst of hopeless situations. Recounting his action-packed, journey from captivity in Indonesia, to freedom, Mark Geppert reveals the reality of knowing a God who neither fails nor abandons him. Many who have read A Faith to Die For compare it to an action spy thriller. The big difference is that Mark’s story is true. He believes he lived to tell it not for personal glory, but to encourage others to welcome God’s intimate involvement into their daily lives and watch Him transform the mundane into the miraculous!

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99

Paperback: 192 pages

Publisher: Whitaker House (September 2, 2013)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1603748911

ISBN-13: 978-1603748919

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

“What Do You Want from Us?”

“What do you want from us? Do you want to convert us all? Do you want us to be your slaves forever? What do you want from us?”

If hatred had a face, it would have been his—turban askew, eyes aflame, mouth spewing the red-hot lava of “jihad jargon.” Only the steel bars of the jailhouse window kept us from being consumed by this molten fury.

It was a terrible day in paradise. The gentle breezes of the Indian Ocean and Malacca Strait could not quench the fire. If he had been free, this Indonesian imam would gladly have done Allah a favor and killed an American Christian. His rage was the result of a lifetime of being forced to serve ExxonMobil executives and sleep in a one-room wooden coop, while they danced the night away in high fashion. His people had waited hand and foot on elite Dutch and Americans while the Javanese government collected the few crumbs falling from Aceh’s tilted table.

Finally, he and the multitude he served had captured three of the oppressors, as well as their Chinese friend. Justice would be served, if only for one torrid afternoon.

USA Today reported that it was a group of missionaries who “ran to the police station for help when faced with the mob.” The Jakarta Post said it was “another unfortunate incident of Muslim/Christian conflict.” While most of the world sat at their breakfast tables, turning the pages of these newspapers while sipping their juice and coffee, a group of people in Aceh, North Sumatra, expressed its indignation at the injustice of what had become an international incident. The events that transpired in March 1999 were just the tip of the iceberg, eventually escalating into larger events that would polarize the world.

We had come to the town that morning in our desire to pray for the Indonesian province of Aceh. A day’s journey north of the provincial border, the little town of Perlak is the last police post before a stretch of highway feared by police and freedom fighters alike—a location of mass graves. This stretch of land is one that military personnel do not dare to travel during the night. It is the place where seeds of rhetoric grow into large armies of youth that are ready to blow themselves up for militant ideologies. It is a recruiting ground for extremists, a place where boys become men before they can shave, and where families send their young sons to fight holy wars against the infidels.

We arrived on a beautiful, calm, peaceful March morning, and looked forward to reaching Banda Aceh, which had some of the best scuba diving in the world, beyond the checkpoint. Our hired driver felt that he could make our journey more comfortable by stopping to have a bite to eat before going on the road again. He parked in a central area, and we agreed to go to the market and then venture on to the police station so we could register and be on our way, within the hour. We decided to pair off in twos so that we could experience the quiet little town with another person and share what we had found with each other.

A secondary school had dismissed for lunch and Friday prayers, and we found ourselves in the midst of hundreds of teenagers who wanted to practice their English. Happy to oblige, we haltingly entered into conversation about the NBA and other American topics that interested the youth. The young people were the same ages as our sons and daughters. It was fun to learn how they lived, what they thought about, what they studied, and what they thought was funny. It was a real joy to be accepted by these young people.

It was not long before they had noticed the books we had in the car, and we gladly gave a few to them. Finding that these books were written in their mother tongue of Acehnese, they became very interested. Soon, we had handed out five hundred books and ninety cassette tapes to the teenagers. It had taken about forty-five minutes to do so, and the parents started to call the young people, warning them not to be late for prayers.

In these villages, the mosque was central to the people’s lives. Although they had the freedom to choose their religion, there was a civic pressure to abide by Muslim traditions. The farther away one lived from the capital, the stronger the civic pressure was. As a result, the children’s delay in reporting directly to the mosque after school was not strictly their parents’ concern; therefore, with apology, the students moved along quickly. They got to the mosque at about the same time we arrived at the police station.

Our driver met us at the station. He had to show the officers his appropriate licenses because he had worked for a company in another state and had registered his vehicle there. The police officers were professionally cordial and more than a bit interested in the books and tapes we had brought along.

None of us read the language or spoke it, and so we seized upon the officials’ offer to translate the message we carried. They found a tape player and started to play our cassettes. We listened together to the Christian message and soon realized that it was the gospel of Luke and the book of the Acts from the Bible. Not illegal in Indonesia, the gospel message did not set off any alarms with the police. They did caution us, however, about the strong Islamic culture in the area and suggested that we use discretion when sharing the material. We assured them that there was no problem, because the young people had already exhausted our supply. After all, we just wanted to pass through this area to the beautiful city several hours ahead.

Then we were invited into the police station so that they could make a record of our papers and call the station to which we were headed, to give them a departure time and an estimated time of arrival. We were shown to a comfortable room in the back left of the police station, where we were offered cool drinks and made comfortable while a clerk recorded our passport and visa information. The Indonesian police were very professional, thorough, and hospitable. Soon, we found out that they were also well-tempered and very loyal to their guests. They made calls to ensure that our travels would be safe. We really enjoyed the good humor of our newfound friends, along with the conversations about basketball, the World Wrestling Federation, and the recent heavyweight title champion.

Then conflict crashed against the windows. “You mother __________! What do you want from us?” Not quite the material from Conversations in English, Tape 3. A thrown bottle accompanied the shout, breaking the window and sending shards of glass throughout the room.

The police quickly pushed us into a hallway for cover and began to reprimand the man at the window. We checked each other for glass and, after finding everyone to be all right, took up a safe place in a cell at the end of the hallway. This would be our shelter for the next five hours, the time it took a very unhappy group of Muslims to vent their hatred, anger, and frustration to their fellow Muslims who protected us (a hapless group that was definitely in the wrong place at the wrong time). We were in the midst of a civil war, with roots that ran too deep for any Westerner to fully understand.

In response to our question, “What do they want?” the police officer replied, “You, dead.”

***

“Multitudes” form when reason can no longer be found. They live in tent cities in the Sudan or gather on hillsides in Palestine. Multitudes lend their force of numbers to any cause. They can be built on a common fear or a common need. They gather in the deserts of Arizona for the annual Burning Man Festival, a celebration of hedonism. They gather on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., for many different causes. They gather at Tiananmen Square or Trafalgar Square or any other square that accommodates them. They march for causes related to the environment; globalization; abortion; political positions; academic freedom; funding for the research and treatment of disease, such as HIV/AIDS; and common needs, like food and clothing.

Many of them are harmless. They wait for trains, escape heavy rains, and attend sporting events. They walk through deserts to find water. They sell their possessions and carry few necessities on their backs to flee conflict. They search for their basic needs.

When a multitude forms, leaders ask, “What do they want?”

Of the multitudes of Cherokee Indians, who began to move west from the Appalachian Mountains, the leaders said, “Do not worry; they will never survive the winter.” When multitudes of people were herded onto train cars to be destroyed by fascism, it was said, “They are an inferior race; we are doing the world a favor to eliminate them.” When multitudes of people fled Atlanta in the face of Sherman’s March to the Sea, it was said, “Do not be afraid; the South shall rise again.”

The problem with the multitudes is that they can be directed and affected by a very small group of extremists. Hatred grows in hungry bellies. It spreads its ruinous roots until murder and suicide become viable options to people who are hopelessly bound to the life-sucking system. A multitude, once in motion, is an irrevocable force that meets the government’s immovable hand. Once it swells in the streets and gets a taste of forbidden power, it mutates into a mob that is viewed as a mutiny. Mutiny must be dealt with at all costs, so brothers take up arms against brothers; nations stand against nations. Eventually, people begin to kill each other.

What every mass murderer needs to be successful is a multitude that will follow his or her lead. It makes little difference whether these followers are disciplined and in uniform or undisciplined and blowing themselves up. They are a multitude. They want a slice of the pie; a crumb from the table; the freedom to farm; the right to have a child or to receive an education.

The multitude is not mindless, as some are led to think. It bows down to the one it thinks can give it a better life. It commits to the leader who promises change and reform, because it hopes he or she will be different. It wants to believe that its morsel will become a loaf of bread if it pays the price. And when it begins to appear that it has been used, again, it begins to hope for a better future for its children.

***

Would Aceh Province of North Sumatra, Indonesia, be any better if it were governed by Islamic law? Would the rice grow taller? Would the fish return to the Straits of Malacca in abundance, as they did in times past? Would passages to the Straits be free of pirates? Would the profit of ExxonMobil be shared with every home? This multitude, fueled by the rhetoric of a young man instructed in Arabia and armed by money from a man found in a hole in the earth, believes with all its humble heart that the answer is an unequivocal “Yes.”

When faced with the first messenger of this multitude, we were frightened to the core. There had been many other multitudes, in other countries, for other causes, but the heat of this fire, in particular, found fodder in our hearts. We could hear the multitude milling about the station. They threw rocks on the roof and bottles at the walls and windows. They chanted and cursed in English and Indonesian. They broke windows and cried out what they would do to us and to those who protected us.

The euphemistic phrase they used again and again was this: “The situation has escalated.” Across from me in the cell was the “Banker,” a three-time Golden Gloves boxing champion of the State of New York. With a black belt in several martial arts, and being no stranger to violent situations, he simply smiled. “Stay calm; this is a Level 4. The police will wait until they calm down. Stay away from the windows. Be still. Do not worry; the police know what to do.”

I glanced at the “Doctor,” a mild-mannered man who was also a close friend of mine. He smiled back. I am sure he was thinking of the other situations we had been through together. But the veins on his forehead looked like they would burst at any moment.

The Asians were calm, poised. They had lived with jihad for decades and knew how to ride out the storm.

I decided to think through past experiences with multitudes. Taking the Banker’s advice, I sat down to quietly wait it out.

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