Spirituality for Today – October 2011 – Volume 16, Issue 3

Legacy Of A Christian Martyr

By Cynthia Cabo Sellers

Gunned down at close range on August 6, 2010, all ten humanitarian aid workers were killed while crossing through Nuristan Province returning home after a three week trip into Afghanistan's northern province of Badakhshan to deliver medical care. The team, organized by International Assistance Mission (IAM), had performed acts of mercy, traveling unarmed and defenseless. They received no mercy from their executioners. The Taliban claimed responsibility asserting the team members were spies and accusing them of spreading Christianity.

A photo of Cheryl BeckettCheryl Beckett

Every life tells a story, each unique. The joys and sorrows etched on the canvas of our personal lives are all shaded differently. The Word of God tells us that "... we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2:10 NIV) As God's workmanship our lives serve as "works of art." Each redeemed life, displayed in Earth's Museum, is designed to showcase the manifold beauty of God's love in order to draw the onlookers to the real masterpiece, His Son, Jesus Christ, who is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of His being. (Hebrews 1:3 NIV) This is the story of such a life.

One of the slain IAM team members, a young woman specializing in mother-child health, was Cheryl Beckett. Her father, Pastor Charles Beckett, interviewed only days after the attack, reported that his daughter and her colleagues, fully informed of the dangers of the work, were well-educated, self-sacrificing, compassionate and committed to their calling. The pleas of the Afghan people, particularly in this most isolated area, compelled them to go.

Cheryl was one of those individuals who stood out from the crowd. Graduating high school as class valedictorian, she entered college at Indiana Wesleyan University where she gained high honors in biology. Following graduation the question for this energetic and passionate Christian youth became, "What does God want me to do?" She applied to Johns Hopkins University and although accepted, she declined, believing God was calling her in another direction – one which led to Afghanistan.

Her life from that point on serves as a living epistle for all men to read; particularly Christians living in the post 911 era when hostility to Jesus Christ and Biblical Christianity threatens believers of all nations with fierce religious persecution. We would do well to seek instruction from the lives of saints like Cheryl Beckett who have chosen to serve in environments hostile to our faith. Their examples should be employed to train our children in the most effective methods of witnessing, ministering and glorifying God in a time when to preach Christ as Lord may mean putting our very lives on the line.

A devoted student of the Word of God, Cheryl understood that proselytizing in a country such as Afghanistan is strictly forbidden. Obeying the call of God to serve as the "hands and feet of Jesus," the work that Cheryl and the medical team performed was a kind of "preaching" in itself, expressing by their actions the compassion of Christ. Perhaps it is just this "love in action" which so threatens the enemy. Pastor Beckett shared a glimpse into the heart and soul of his daughter, disclosing the love poured into the lives of the women with whom she worked. The particular instance took place in a large gathering of women, some with children, where Cheryl was teaching. In the Afghan culture men are forbidden to be present in such gatherings. During the meeting a young girl, physically deformed and suffering with a number of handicaps, fell into a well. Paralyzed with fear, the women were unable to help the girl out of the well and to call in a man was unthinkable. Despite the cultural prohibitions, Cheryl urged the women to call for help. Finally lifted from the well the girl was laid on the ground, but no one would go near her. Offering a silent prayer for strength, Cheryl, put herself at great risk rushing to the girl's side and administering CPR. Assisted by her intern, she carried the girl to her vehicle and drove to the home of a doctor friend. In spite of feverish efforts, the girl did not survive.

In the grief which followed Cheryl called her father for counsel. The pain in her heart took the form of anger. She cried, "I am so angry with God that he didn't show up. I know He's here – I know He's working, but this could have been such a demonstration – why didn't He show up?" With wisdom and tremendous insight her father responded, "Cheryl, when you touched the untouchable, when you loved the unlovable – when you lifted her, breaking a variety of rules and customs, He showed up. In a largely oral society you will never know how far and long this story will be told. The Afghan people who witnessed your selfless act of love will not soon forget what you tried to do for one of theirs. They may never forget the day a Christian woman put her own life at risk to save an Afghan girl."

If we hope to impact the world, the nation, our community, friends or family with the soul-saving, life-changing, God-glorifying message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it is imperative that we not only "talk the talk", but more importantly "walk the walk." Peter's first Epistle, written to the persecuted church of his day, overflows with words of wisdom for the church surviving the attack of September 11, 2001. "Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing." (1 Peter 3:9 NIV) We must be willing to fearlessly show our love.

Great advice, but how do we do it? By following Christ's example when "He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly." Cheryl Beckett had done just that. In a conversation with her father prior to her last departure for Afghanistan she told him, "God will protect me or deliver me." Human language fails to express the sense of inviolability enfolding the soul who fully surrenders to the all-sufficient grace of God. The soul who unreservedly trusts the promises of God, is prepared to live or die. Taken from a Newsletter written upon her return to Afghanistan, Cheryl bears testimony to this truth in her own words:

"The number one question that I received in my weeks before coming back to Central Asia was by far, "So, are you ready?" I struggled with that as the answer in my head was usually a quick "no!" I wanted to "be ready," but even now I don't know how to do that. How do you get ready to leave a place of relative peace for a land sliding back into a war zone? How do you make your body ready to leave bike rides, hikes and simply walking outside, for compounds, guards and head coverings? How do you ready your eyes to leave cool forests, lush green hills, and stretches of beautiful farmland for the dry and dusty streets of a smog-filled city? How do you get ready to leave when the most striking similarity you have seen between the two places is in the fireworks at the college football game that leave behind pillars of smoke reminding you so distinctly of the remains of a car bomb you witnessed from your window? How do you prepare your heart to leave family and friends who have known you for years (and a new baby niece you had no idea you could love so much!) for a different culture, a strange language and a people you are still just learning to love. I don't have the answers to these questions. All I know is in sensing His leading to return again, His peace met me as I stepped off the plane. And somehow, I was ready. cheryl (shokria)"