A FELLOWSHIP of suffering not granted to all," was how a missionary colleague recently described the tragic attack that cost the life of Medical Missionary Brian Dunn just before Christmas, 1965, in the Solomon Islands.
Mrs. Val Dunn, together with her parents in whose home in Charters Towers, North Queensland, she has been recuperating, felt that the sentiments expressed in a letter she has just received from the Solomons should be shared through the pages of THE MINISTRY. "So many do ask the question 'Why?' and Pastor Hawkes has so wonderfully answered it," she said.
Lester Hawkes is the medical secretary in the Bismarck-Solomons Union Mission, and immediately following the tragedy proceeded to Uru, on Malaita, to carry on the new hospital Brian and Val were preparing for opening in a few months' time.
The story of the fatal spearing of Brian will often be retold. An eight-foot length of reinforcing rod penetrated his back, grazed his heart, and emerged through his chest. Never to be forgotten were his dauntless courage as he prayed for his attacker and his endurance as he traveled the many miles, borne on a chair with its back cut out and with the spear still protruding through his chest and back, supported by native carriers on three mission ships, on a light aircraft, through a stormy sky and over rough roads to skilled surgical aid. His untimely death some sixty-five hours later will be remembered with sorrow.
Brian and Val had been in Malaita for only twelve days, filled with their loving ministry. Their first patient had been brought to them only half an hour after their arrival from Australia, where they had both been trained in nursing at the Sydney Sanitarium.
The heroism of the young bride (they had been married less than a year) as she ministered to her husband, aged twenty-five, on their long journey to seek for themselves the kind of help they had gone to bring to others, has gripped the imagination of editors and newscasters the world around. Church papers and newsletters have told of it. Newspapers have spread it across front and editorial pages, and radio and television have broadcast it everywhere.
Men and women in all walks of life have talked about it, and have already pledged their financial aid to help carry on the noble work that this young medical missionary couple had so recently begun. But many, as they express their sympathy, exclaim, "But why?"
"Pastor Hawkes's letter has been such a comfort," the widow said.
"I think he must be a wonderful man himself to have written such a letter," said Val's father, a man whose one aim in life has been to give of himself and his children to the Lord for service.
Lester Hawkes's letter, coming as it does with mature thought from the very scene of the tragedy, where he could not but wonder at times whether his own life was in peril, is an example of how to bring comfort to the bereaved and to give the answer that the question "Why?" so much deserves.
After telling Val of the things that she would most want to know, about the building progress in the new hospital, about the improvements he was carrying out as Brian had planned, of the garden plants that Val had planted and which were already flourishing, Lester wrote, "There is, however, one more thing I feel I would like to say. I have pondered over the whole of the horrible affair, and from time to time has come the question, 'Where was God that day?' Why didn't He stay the hand in midair?' Why did God allow it?'
"You, doubtless, have thought the same questions. People will ask the same of you for a long time to come.
"Here's what I feel is the answer. I believe that God was in exactly the same place and thinking exactly the same thoughts as He was almost 2,000 years ago when another Man was attacked with steel instruments.
"God stops some crimes—probably many. But He doesn't stop them all. Sin must be allowed to run its own course at times.
"Perhaps our people needed a shock to awaken them to the enormity of sin. And God, in His greater wisdom, saw that you could take it.
"I don't presume to understand everything about God's mind, but I do know that for some reason He allowed this to happen to Brian.
"No, I don't know all about it; I can't understand it all, but I do feel that God looked on with just as much heartbreak as He did when Christ died. It must have been just as hard for Him to refrain from interfering.
"Brian was called into a 'fellowship of suffering with Christ' that is not granted to all. Yes, God was there all right. Have no doubts about that. May He continue to bless you.
Could it be that it might have been as Pastor Hawkes suggested, "Perhaps our people needed a shock"? And God saw that Val "could take it."
A visit to the farmhouse back in Australia where Val is ready, waiting reappointment either to Malaita or some other medical missionary post, convinces one that fellowship of suffering with Christ, though not a thing to be lightly sought after, is not an experience to be despised.