Merry’s Crying Face–An Unforgettable Motivation to Ministry

July 14, 2008

Today I turned in a 7-page report on my recent missions trip to Uganda. This was one of the questions:

What person or event has impacted your life the most during this time? Please explain.

This was a hard question to answer, but I answered it with a journal entry I wrote on our last day of ministry in Uganda. I thought those that read this blog might enjoy this window into my brain on the trip. This is what I wrote:

6/27/08 Friday

“I just had the most heart-breaking conversation of the trip. We visited two nearby schools today with our program. They both felt like business as usual.

“After the second school, we were talking with kids. My group dispersed, and I was waiting for everyone else to finish up. To pass the time, I sat down on the edge of the building to be available if anyone else wanted to talk.

“Eventually, one boy came up to me with a very soft, high voice. He told me his name was Merry. He began asking me the standard Islam questions. Are the Bible/Quran the same? Is Allah God? So I gave him my standard 2-point answer:
1) the Bible says Jesus is God and our Savior, and
2) the Bible says we get to heaven through faith, not works.
At the end, I began to question him about what he believed.

“This is where the conversation took a new tone of intensity. This talk was no longer normal. He told me he believed in Allah. I then proceeded to remind him that Allah is not God. Jesus is the only way. If he wants to go to heaven, he must believe in Jesus.

“Merry sat there in silence as I found myself hating the cultural barrier once again. What was going on inside his head? Where was he coming from? Where was he going?

“I began to notice a sadness in his eyes. He remained silent as his eyes began to tear up. The tears began to form on his eye lashes, and they slowly dropped down his face.

“I did not know what to feel or think. What was going on with this boy? What kind of persecution will he face if he believes? Who will remain there to help him? Who will teach him more about Jesus? Who will be there for him if he believes?

“All these questions began to tear me apart. Our conversation was fairly silent til the finish. He asked another question about whether Moslems go to heaven. I again explained that Jesus is the only way, and I tried to say that as many ways as I could.

“Merry never came to the point where he said he wanted to be born again, but I pleaded with him to believe in Jesus. I encouraged him to find others who are born again to help explain more to him.

“Our group began to leave, so I prayed for Merry and said good-bye. As I left, I could not feel right. Something about that conversation broke my heart, and I knew something was wrong. Just like the feeling I had when I broke my collar bone, something is not right, and I want to wrestle with God now until I know what it is.

“Why did that conversation break my heart so much, and what difference will this make in my life?

“For starters, it put a crying face to all the ministry we have done this week. When I think of this week, I will not think of crazy questions and laughing kids; I will picture Merry’s tears. How many more are there like him? I can never, ever take ministry lightly. Souls hang in the balance. People are really going to heaven or hell.

“Again, this conversation challenged my faith. I am so frustrated by the fact that I am leaving tomorrow. I have planted a seed, but what will become of it? Do I really believe that God is mighty to save? Do I believe God can work here when I am gone? There is so much tendency to doubt, but I must live in faith that God will bring the increase and produce fruit from this ministry.

“I have often said that God does not call us to success; he calls us to faithfulness. Ultimately, I cannot be successful. It is God who works. God is the one who changes hearts. God is the one who brings people to repentance. And God will be faithful to complete what he started.

“BUT he calls us to be a part of the process. He calls us to go and make disciples. He calls us to be his ambassadors. This conversation with Merry has only increased by desire to be faithful. It has given me a whole new sense of urgency. The battle is real, and it is the most important thing in the world. Every comfort, every song, and every sporting event (that I might think is important) looks like rubbish when I think of Merry’s crying face. Nothing is more important than the work of Christ and the ministry of the gospel.

“And that ministry is more than just evangelism. God calls us to make disciples. I have so much opportunity to do this in the States. I have ministry in front of me at Compass. I have a year as Head RA of Hotchkiss in front of me. And I have a whole new sense of urgency about it.

“But I pray this conversation does not quench my desire for evangelism. I don’t want to pass up any opportunity to share the good news. Again, I must have faith in God. He will continue to work even when I can’t.

“At the end of the day, to live is Christ. My life must be about kingdom work. I pray for Merry, but I will most likely never see his face again. I pray that God saves him and uses him to bring others to Christ. But I must be radically faithful to the work of Christ. I must have a whole new passion about the phrase ‘to live is Christ.’

“This will look like a commitment to discipleship—whether reaching out to unbelievers or nurturing younger Christians. I have plenty of opportunities to that over the next year. This will look like commitment to the church. The church is Christ’s body, and it is where discipleship happens. This will also look like a commitment to missions. I cannot help but think of the Hurleys and the Conovers. They are working to make disciples who will make other disciples. I want to give my life to ministries like that.

“I thank God for my encounter with Merry. I pray that his life is forever and eternally because of it. And I pray that mine is, too.



4 Responses to “Merry’s Crying Face–An Unforgettable Motivation to Ministry”

  1. Bruce Blakey said

    You’ve got good stuff going on in your brain. Bob Conover appreciated the reference and what you wrote. He’s ready to have you join hum in Jordan.

  2. kelly said

    Ben — What a touching account of one your experiences in Uganda. I have a similar story of talking to a homeless man on the streets of Chicago that I will never forget as God used it to impress on my heart the treasure of God’s Word. To hear of your renewed desire to serve Him — I can’t help but think how the Lord answered your prayer that your trip to Ugunda along with all your summer activities would produce ONE thing….a greater love for and thirst for Christ!! Keep zealous for him, friend! “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.” 🙂

  3. Beth said

    And you have a God who has promised that none of your labor will be in vain…even if you don’t see the fruit.

  4. Bart Horton said


    By the time you are finished with TMS, there will be a spot for you in Lebanon. Like I said earlier, God loves you, and I have a wonderful plan for your life.

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