In 1958 Pastor Mosie Lister wrote the words to a Gospel song entitled, “Till the Storm Passes By.” Popular among many in the South over the past half century, missionary Tom Jackson heartily sang its words in the late 1970s as he led the funeral procession down the aisle of his home church on the way to the cemetery to bury his wife. How do I know the story? Tom, a 50-year veteran missionary to Liberia, was a member of the church I pastored in North Carolina.
Tom went through many African storms on his way to glory. He and his second wife, June, were martyred in Liberia in 1989 during a devastating civil war. For him the storm ultimately “passed by” on that day outside the town of Bahn when he gave his life for the cause of the Gospel. He safely entered Heaven’s harbor—the Lord had “kept him safe till the storm passed by.”
I thought of Tom on Sunday, January 25, while I was standing in the pulpit of the Elandsfontein Baptist Church in Johannesburg, South Africa. Outside raged the most dramatic African thunderstorm that I have ever seen. Brother Stew Overmiller introduced me above the roar of the rain on the metal roof, and for 40 minutes I shared the unsearchable riches of Christ—all at the top of my voice. After the preaching was concluded, the storm gradually died away and three precious souls came to Christ. Hallelujah!
Whether related to the death of a loved one, the martyrdom of a saint or faithfulness in communicating the Gospel, the storms will come to each of us. They will rage, but they will die away—and the Great God whom we serve will “keep us safe till the storm passes by.” But He will do much more. He will give us fruit as we stand true to Him by faith in the midst of the storm.
Tom and June Jackson are buried somewhere in the jungle of Northeast Liberia in an unmarked grave—their remains were never recovered. I wept at his memorial service, but I rejoiced as well. You see, the fruit of Tom Jackson’s life transcends the storms he endured. Today there are believers and churches functioning vibrantly for Christ in Liberia because of the ministry of a man who trusted God to keep and use him “till the storm passed by.”
Be faithful in the midst of your storm. Keep sounding the Gospel above the din. By faith look forward to the fruit that will come once the storm has exhausted its energy against the bedrock of His grace.
Written by Dr. Bud Steadman, Executive Director of Baptist World Mission