For the past several months missionaries Scott and Jennie Phillips have had questions. They wondered why God would allow their Dao friend -- Wikipai -- to die.
"I didn’t think I would ever in this life understand why God took home Wikipai a few months ago," Scott wrote. "He was one of the first two believers; a leader of the Dao people of the Asia-Pacific region and one of the strongest spiritual leaders around. He was one of my best friends and probably wasn’t any older than I am now. His death was a devastating blow to the young body of believers and also to the outreach that he was heading up to a new unreached area of the Dao tribe.
"From our human perspective it didn’t make any sense at all but Jennie and I were resolved to hold on to the fact that God knows best. This was and still is our only comfort. Almost four months later however we have just now begun to see the very slightest glimpse of hope spring up and grow out of this painful loss."
Paatoma, Wikipai’s younger brother, has spent the last month and a half trying to learn how to read and write along with his wife Paada.
In the past Paatoma has never shown an interest in the literacy classes, so recently Scott asked him, "Why do you have all this interest in the literacy classes all of the sudden? And why are you building a house here in this village? You never cared about such things in the past."
His reply left Scott humbled and encouraged.
"There are only two people in my life that I have ever seen die well," Paatoma said. "One was my father, Todopui, and the other was my older brother Wikipai. When I first heard you teach us about the Creator and His son Jesus I believed the message but I never truly took it all seriously.
"Then I saw the confidence that both my father and then Wikipai had even in death. They were confident that they would go to be with Jesus. They were happy to die and they told all of us that they couldn’t wait to go to the good place above the sky.
"Most of our people die in fear, screaming out to be spared from the evil spirits and asking others to kill and sacrifice their pigs so that they will not die. So when my father and also Wikipai died without fear, I had never seen anything like it. It was at Wikipai’s death that I decided this message must be true and it must be worth living for."
Scott couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
"There probably hasn’t been a day pass in the past four months that Jennie and I haven’t thought about Wikipai," Scott wrote, "and we have often wondered out loud ’Of all the people that could be taken, why one of our strongest believers? Why Wikipai?’ We wondered if we would see anything good come out of his death in this lifetime. Now we were seeing hope in the midst of despair. Now we are reminded and encouraged again in the fact that God is worth trusting. He knows what He is doing.
"God knows what it takes to turn people to Himself. It seems that in Paatoma’s case God used the death of his brother Wikipai as the final straw needed to turn him toward Christ."
Before Paatoma returned to continue building his new house he told Scott, "After my wife and I learn how to read and write I want to teach God’s Word to our people like my brother Wikipai did before he died. I have moved here because I want to live like Wikipai lived. I want to take his place."
"We are rejoicing," Scott wrote, "not only because we have finally seen a little glimpse of hope come out of this hard situation, and the recent loss of our friend, but also because we are reminded that our God is One to be trusted. He knows what is best for His Glory. He will do whatever it takes to bring His people to Himself so that there will be one flock and one Shepherd. He has called them out by name and if there must be death for some in order that there will be life for others then so be it. God can be trusted even in death."
"Please pray for Paatoma and his wife Paada as they come to the literacy classes and seek to grow in their faith. Pray that God will continue to work in their lives and raise them up as future teachers and spiritual leaders of the Dao people."