Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | August 8, 2010

An Under-Rower’s Grave

Dinajpur District, Bangladesh | 06 August 2010

In his letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul wrote that he wanted for others to regard him as “a servant of Christ” (1 Cor. 4:1). However, Paul selected a very particular Greek word to describe the kind of servant that he was referring to. Out of five Greek words for servant, Paul used the word “huperetes” – a word that is literally translated “under-rower.” An under-rower was an individual who served as a rower at the bottom of a trireme, a three-decked ship. Under-rowers were chained to the lower deck and rowed cooperatively with others to the cadence of a drum. Their lives served a purpose bigger than themselves and they received no recognition for their labor. And as slaves, their lives were expendable. Under-rowers generally died at their post.

This morning, my friend Gil and I met with forty-five men who are committed to advancing the purposes of God in difficult places. Packed into a room half the size of the garage at my home, these men eagerly participated in our time of study and soaked up every encouraging word that we offered. At the conclusion of our time together, they kindly acknowledged that we had indeed encouraged them. However, Gil and I were the ones who were most encouraged. It’s impossible to spend time with men who render their kind of service and not be convicted by the depth of their commitment to the gospel. These men, most of whom are subsistence farmers, know the dangers of sharing their faith with others in this Muslim country. Yet, in spite of the danger and threats, these faithful servants continue rowing to the cadence of our Captain.

The most sobering experience of the day was visiting the grave of a young man named Tapan Roy. Tapan, a Hindu-background believer, and his friend Liflal Mardi worked on the staff of Christian Life Bangladesh and showed the Jesus Film in villages in the southern part of the country. Both of these men had received death threats from irate imams on more than one occasion. Yet, because they believed that everyone should have an opportunity to hear the story of Jesus and to decide for themselves how to respond, they continued showing the Jesus Film to hundreds of villagers at a time. And then one night, while they slept, someone quietly slipped into their room and cut their throats. News reports in Faridpur attributed their deaths to Muslims who were angry that they were telling people about Jesus.

Tapan’s family received the news of his death by a phone call. Someone in Faridpur called a man in their village and asked him to relay the news of Tapan’s death to his family. Tapan’s only surviving brother told us that although they knew that Tapan’s work was dangerous they never expected that he would be killed. As we sat on plastic chairs in the courtyard of his home, Tapan’s mother and sister brought out three photographs of Tapan. He was a man with a gentle countenance but who was firmly resolved to give his life to a purpose bigger than himself. And, ultimately, his commitment cost him his life. Like an under-rower, Tapan died at his post. His friend Liflal is buried in Pulbani, about ninety kilometers from the rice field where Tapan is buried. His family is not bitter but instead grateful for the service of a son and brother who loved God and loved the people of Bangladesh.

The task of reaching the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ will not be accomplished without the blood of the martyrs. More Christians have been martyred in the last one-hundred years than in the previous nineteen-centuries combined. But, as in Bangladesh, no act of terror will halt the advance of the gospel. Others have stepped in to take Tapan’s place, others willing to row at the bottom of the ship, others who believe in a purpose bigger than themselves. The blood of the martyrs is indeed the seed of the church. The work will go on. Acts 7:56 records the words of Stephen, the first Christian martyr: “Look, he said, ‘I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’” This is the only time the Bible speaks of Jesus standing at the right hand of God. Perhaps He stood to welcome the first martyr into heaven. And, perhaps He stood to welcome Tapan home — the ultimate honor for an under-rower.


Responses

  1. Thanks Omar for sharing what Christian brothers in Bangladesh are prepared to do to share the good news of Jesus. May the Lord bless them richly. We pray many will come to saving Grace in Christ. We will remember them in our prayers this day.

    We need to understand in the West more of the cost of what following Jesus involves.

    God Bless
    Paul & Sarah Beniston

    • Paul and Sarah,

      Thanks for your prayers for those serving in tough places. May we all indeed learn from their example.

      Blessings,
      Omar~

  2. Thanks for the posting this story. We’d realized that, how much can have to pay, for reaching people in this corner of the planet. Tapan paid final prize. and many people are still paying same today, around the world!

  3. To: Omar C. Garcia-

    From Mortuza. Dinajpur District, Bangladesh.

    I have been visited Tapan’s family & his grave. Its covered with jungles. Its needs to cleaning and good to do the boundary. If you’d (or anyone’els) like to know how his widow mother doing, please ask me any your curiosity.

    Thanks!

    Mortuza

    • Thanks for visiting his grave, Mortuza.


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