Many words have already been written about the death this week of John Allen Chau, a 27 year old American from my home state of Washington. Chau was killed in the North Sentinel Island, part of the Andaman and Nicobar Island chain and a Union Territory of India. Desiring to share the love of Christ with one of the most remote peoples on the earth, Chau died in circumstances still to be fully understood.
I was in the Andaman Islands just eight months ago, and heard about North Sentinel Island. The local museum in Port Blair gives some of the history of the Island and describes how remote it is. I came away thinking and praying for the people of the island, perhaps only 40-100 total inhabitants yet each one created in the image of God and loved deeply. I also could understand the desire to protect them from potential disease and other destructive outside influences.
But I also wondered how they could hear the Gospel of Jesus, believing as I do that it is a message of life and freedom for all, including for the North Sentinelese. Of course I did not know what would happen just a few months later with the death of this young man. With all that is being written about him and what he did, both positive and negative, it is important to take a deep breath and to some degree take at face value his motives as expressed in his diary and final letter to family.
In reading some of that so far, I am struck by a word that keeps appearing in John Allen Chau’s writing. It is the word “love”. He mentions again and again his love for Christ, and his love for the people of this remote place. Yes, he was into adventure tourism, and had a deep love for the wild. Yet this ambition to bring the Gospel to these people was not a sudden whim. He had prepared several years, back to his being a student at Oral Roberts University. Even then according to his friends he already knew about the Island, and had her people in his heart.
There will be more that will come out in the days ahead. And there will continue to be those who will question his strategy and tactics, if not his goals. But so far it his honest love that shines for me. Reckless? Yes. But when is love that overpowers ever measured? There are times when love trumps all. (sorry if some of you read this far hoping or dreading a post about the US President.)
Only time will tell what will happen related to the people of the North Sentinel Island. I, and many others, will continue to pray for them, that the light of Christ will fill that island. That the love greater than any power on earth will touch their hearts. Was John Allen Chau’s death, and the risk it was not only for him but for the people there, worth it? That will continue to be debated in the days to come.
But right now I’m deeply impressed, and challenged, by his love. I don’t know what other motives he had, if any. Perhaps for the adventure, perhaps for the sheer adrenaline of the story of contacting such a remote people. Why did he risk his life? Could it be that he did truly love the people of North Sentinel Island? Could it be that he felt a burden of love that filled his heart, placed there by the One that loves those people more than anyone else?
If you have never felt that love for yourself, you will not understand. It is a crazy love, a reckless love, and yes a love that sometimes does not err on the side of wisdom. It is a love that has filled the pages of history, resulting at times in the death of martyrs, in people seemingly throwing away their lives for a greater call and a greater homeland. A crazy, reckless love that just may have led a 27 year old Washingtonian to his death on a remote beach.
Only time, and eternity, will tell.