For 33 years Dr Tom Little and his wife Libby served the poorest of the poor in Afghanistan. They had dedicated their lives to a ministry of eye care and preventing blindness. On Thursday August 5th, Tom and nine fellow aid workers were killed by the Taliban. The initial report from the Taliban was that they killed them because of their missionary efforts. Later that was changed to a charge of spying. That’s just a thinly veiled way of covering up the fact that these people were killed because they were serving others in Jesus name.
Tom’s wife made it clear that this was their ministry. It was their way of serving God by serving those in need. This was not a short-term two-week trip that they made on occasion. This was a lifetime of serving others. It even included having their children with them and at times avoiding rocket attacks and worse. As Libby put it, 100 rockets was a good day. These are people who are sold out to serving others in Jesus name.
Tom could have easily had a nice comfortable practice in America, living in the suburbs and working 9 to 5. He could have spent Sunday’s going to their church in New York and doing some occasional outreach events. Instead they listened to the radical call of Jesus to do something truly provocative. They did something that caused countless numbers of Afghan poor to honor, love, and do their best to protect them over the years. They provoked the kind of response that living radically for Jesus is supposed to provoke.
But they also provoked the kind of response that Jesus warned about when he said, “blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you for my name’s sake”. When we serve Jesus in radical ways, there will be lives that are changed because people are confronted with the love of Christ. Far to often we Christians fail to live radically for Jesus. We fail to sacrifice for others. We fail to give up our comfort. We fail to invite others into our homes to give them shelter. We fail to stop and help the broken along the road. When asked why, most people point to the uncertainty, even danger, of living a risky, provocative life for Jesus. Tom Little considered the risk well worth the reward of loving those in deepest need. He loved them with the sacrificial love of Christ.
When speaking about what has happened, Tom’s widow said very calmly “We had 40 wonderful years together — of serving together, all those years, doing what we thought we should do. And that’s enough for a life.” Tom Little gave his life, everyday, for 40 years. He gave it in service to others in Jesus name. When he was killed because of that service on Thursday, it was one more day of service and sacrifice for others, only this time it was the ultimate sacrifice. I have got to believe that 40 years of giving his life for others served to prepare him and his family for that day.
God be with the Little family. God be with us that we might live as Tom Little lived.