Nashville: B&H, 2013
I can honestly say this is one of the most interesting books I’ve ever read. Baptist missionary Nik Ripken (not his real name) from the hills of Kentucky has had an incredible ministry over the last thirty years. He’s also super gifted at telling stories, true stories, his own and those of others around the world. I recommend this book to you if you want to be challenged, even weep at times, as you read it.
Nik and his wife Ruth labored in the early nineties in desperately poor and violent Somaliland (Somalia). Not only did they see no spiritual fruit during their years of service there, but the few Christians that they encountered were eventually killed for their faith. In addition, during that time in Africa their own young son died of an illness.
The rest of the book is the story of Nik as he tries to understand God’s ways in his own life and around the world as so many believers are being persecuted for their faith. In this search Ripken secretly interviews Christians in Russia, Ukraine, China, and many Muslim countries. What he encounters – persecution, but also tremendous faith on the part of these believers – changes him. It restores his faith and impassions him for bold witness for Christ.
The author perceives that if persecution was normal in Bible days, why shouldn’t it be today? He comes to the conclusion that the number one cause of persecution around the world is simply that people are coming to Christ. In other words, if we want to stop persecution against Christians, we should stop sharing the gospel.
Finally, a quote related to this book by missiologist Ed Stezer:
Jesus’ call to discipleship is to come and die. Few Christians take the call literally, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility given the current state of the persecuted church. INSANITY OF GOD is not for “safe” Christians, or those interested in pursuing comfort over the cross. Be warned, this book is a threat to mediocre, cautious, lukewarm faith.
By the way, if you are bothered by the title of this 322 page book, as I was, check out what Ripken says about it and learn more about this amazing man of God at: https://www.nikripken.com/
An excerpt from Insanity of God (pages 266-268)
During my time there (in an undisclosed Muslim country in Southeast Asia), a forty-three-year-old Muslim believer somehow heard through the oral grapevine that a Westerner had come to his country wanting to discover how Muslims were finding Jesus and what challenges these converts were experiencing as they lived out their faith in hostile environments. I still have no idea how he learned that I was coming or where I would be.
It turns out Pramana traveled twenty-nine hours to find me. He had lived his entire life in a remote, tropical, and rural region of his third-world country. He had never before been on a bus. He had not even traveled on a paved highway. Yet, somehow, he found me in one of his country’s major cities. Upon his arrival, he matter-of-factly announced: “I have heard about what you are doing. You need to hear my story also.”
This man had been born into a people group with a population of twenty-four million. In his people group, there were only three known followers of Jesus, and no church. The only religion that he had ever practiced or known while growing up had been a sort of folk Islam. Pramana knew the Quran by rote. He couldn’t actually speak Arabic, so (and an oral communicator from an oral culture) he simply memorized the words of the book as if they were part of some sort of magic formula. He knew the story of Mohammad, of course. But he had never hear of anybody called Jesus, he had never met a believer, and he had no idea what a Bible was.
“Five years ago,” he told me, “my life was in ruins. My wife and I were always fighting; I was ready to divorce the woman. My children were disrespectful. My animals were not growing or multiplying. My crops were dying in the fields.
“So I went to the imam of the nearest mosque for help,” Pramana continued.
The imam, who also functioned as the local spiritualist, told him, “Ok, son, here is what you need to do. Go buy a white chicken. Bring it back to me, and I will sacrifice it on your behalf. Then, go back to your village to meditate and fast for three days and three nights. On the third night you will receive the answer to all the problems that you are having with your wife, your children, your animals, and your crops.
Pramana did exactly as he was told. He went back to his village. He meditated, he fasted, and he waited. Then, as he explained it: “I’ll never forget, on that third night, a voice without a body came to me after midnight. That voice said, ‘Find Jesus, find the gospel.’”
This Muslim man had no clue what that even meant. He didn’t know if “Jesus” might be a fruit or a rock or a tree. Pramana told me that the voice without a body also said, “Get out of bed, go over the mountain, and walk down the coast of _______________ (a city where he had never been.) When you see those men, ask them where ________________ street is. They will show you the way. Walk up, find the number, knock on the door. When the door opens, tell the person why you have come.”
Pramana simply got out of his bed, hiked over the mountain, trekked down the coast, and arrived in the specified city the next morning at daylight. He saw two men who told him where to find the street he wanted. He walked up and down the street until he found a building with the right number on it. He knocked on the door. A moment later, an older gentleman opened the door and asked, “Can I help you?”
The younger man declared, “I have come to find Jesus; I have come to find the gospel!” In a flash, the old man’s hand shot out from the darkened doorway. He grabbed Pramana by the shirt, dragged him into the apartment, and slammed the door behind him. The old man released his grip and exclaimed, “You Muslims must think I am a fool to fall for a trap as transparent as this!”
The very startled and confused traveler replied, “I don’t know if you are a fool or not, sir. I just met you. But here is why I’ve come.” Then Pramana told the older man the story of how he had come to be there that day.
The Holy Spirit of the Living God had led this young Muslim man through his dream and vision and his obedience to the home of one of the three believers in his twenty-four million people group. Stunned the older man explained the gospel to this young Muslim man and led him to Christ. For the next two weeks, the old man discipled this new convert in the faith.
That had been five years ago. Now, Pramana had made another journey. This journey was to find me and tell me his remarkable story. He had traveled twenty-nine hours to share how his life had changed since he had found Jesus. There had been blessings and trials and tribulations during the last five years, but his life had clearly been changed in startling ways.
I rented a room for him in the large hotel where I was staying. We spent the next three days conducting one of the most memorable interviews I ever had. We tried to encourage him, and he certainly encouraged us. We were deeply touched by his genuine and growing faith. We marveled that his faith had grown in this hostile world where there had been almost no opportunity for fellowship with other followers of Jesus.