“The love of God is deeper far / than tongue or pen can ever tell…”*
The words of this hymn were recently illuminated to me. A few weeks ago, we took the visiting U.S. team that comes to do our yearly MAF Family Conference to the village of Nipsan so they could get a taste of life in a remote Papuan village. I was looking forward to learning the history of this area. What I didn’t know is how that history would change me.
We stayed in an old mission house built by Dutch missionaries, we worshiped with the people of Nipsan in their church on Sunday, and took communion with them. One night we ate supper together and listened to several of the village men tell the story of their first response to the Gospel; they rejected it. In fact, in the early 70s, the people of Nipsan rose up against a number of Papuan evangelists who had been left in charge of the mission while the Dutch family was on furlough. They murdered the evangelists and their families, and cannibalized them. To hear it told seemed like a distant story, but later my friend showed me an old book published by the Dutch Mission that told the story, complete with many pictures and the names of the evangelists that had been killed. Somehow seeing them in photos and reading more about their lives made it so much more real to me. And reading how they were killed made me horrified inside.
I felt a loathing for the people who had done this. At that moment I realized that, if I were one of the Dutch missionaries, I would have had no desire to go back into Nipsan. I was immediately struck to the core by the love of God. God loved those people—even when I did not. He loved them back then, and He loves them now. He loved them enough to continue to pursue them with the message of His Son. And because of His unrelenting, unchanging, unconditional love, the people of Nipsan know Him today. I was challenged and invited God to help me grow to love like Him.
* (Lehman, Frederick M. “The Love of God.” 1917)