2 Deaths, 2 Different Legacies

I lost 2 of my heroes in the recent week.  It’s rare that 2 leading evangelicals over significant ministries would pass in one week, but it’s true.  One of those leaders was Chuck Colson.  The headlines have read “Nixon’s Hatchet Man Dies” or “Watergate’s Culprit Passes Away.”  Chuck Colson was deep in the scandal of President Nixon’s scandal years ago.  Before being sentenced to prison, Colson claimed he was converted to Christianity.

While many saw this as an attempt to lower his sentence, his time in jail, and his time after jail displayed remarkable fruit and he never backed down from his Christian commitment.  He started an international prison ministry that has impacted countless men and women for Christ.  He has written some amazing books filled with great intellect concerning a Christian worldview and a humble disposition concerning his previous way of life.  While he started very poorly, he finished strong.

The other man won’t make as many headlines, but he was still a strong ambassador in the Kingdom, but his death is more tragic.

Tom White, president of Voice of the Martyrs, died last Wednesday.  I got introduced to their ministry while I was in college.  Their ministry seeks to educate the world concerning Christian persecution around the globe and to assist and equip those that are being persecuted.  Tom was in a plane crash years ago while he was dropping illegal Bibles into Cuba while Castro was getting them out.  His time in prison filled with persecution had him committed to the work of coming to the side of those in the same situation.

The organization was founded by Richard Wurmbrand who was imprisoned and tortured for Christ in Romania.  After Wurmbrand, White took over and led the ministry to do some amazing things for 20 years.  I often read their magazine and am amazed at what his monthly ministry schedule must look like with the places he goes and the things he does.

His death, was more of a shock to me.  Here is the excerpt from VOM’s website:

The events of the last week are tragic. On Wednesday we learned that Tom White, VOM’s executive director, had died.

Allegations were made to authorities this week that Tom had inappropriate contact with a young girl. Rather than face those allegations, and all of the resulting fallout for his family and this ministry and himself, Tom appears to have chosen to take his own life.

None of those in leadership at VOM, including our Board of Directors, were aware of these allegations at the time of Tom’s death.

There is no doubt that Tom cared about his wife, his children and his grandchildren. And there’s no doubt that he cared about VOM.

We are deeply saddened by these events. Our hearts are broken.

However, the work that God has called VOM to do is bigger than any one of us. There are persecuted Christians who need our help. The legal process will go forward, and we will continue serving with our persecuted brothers and sisters.

We appreciate the many who are praying for our work, and we encourage you to join us in praying for Tom’s family during this difficult time.

Two men.  Two impressive ministry careers.  Two very different legacies.  One started poorly and finished strong.  The other started strong and finished poorly.  This reminds me: it doesn’t matter how well you start, it matters how you finish.  The Devil is in no hurry to get you, and he’s got a plan.  Know your weak spots.  Expose them.  Fight the fight with the strength that God provides.  Finish the race and finish well.

Travis Agnew is a Christian, husband, father, pastor, author, blogger, and religion instructor.

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2 Comments

  1. Thanks for this timely admonition, Travis. Tragedy can be turned into triumph or triumph into tragedy. It’s largely our choice. May we never lose focus or if we do, God grant us His Spirit and true friends to turn us back around so our legacy will bring Him glory.

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