MATTHEW AYARIGA, of Ghana was the only foreigner in this select group of Egyptian believers. Young, single and unemployed, like so many sub Saharan Africans, he went north to try to make a living. But things didn’t turn out as he had hoped—in January 2015 he was arrested while in route to Ghana via Tripoli, Libya, and fell into the hands of ISIS.
As I sit here in my office in Granada, Spain, packing my bags for yet another ministry trip (to Amsterdam), I think of the inequity of my life as compared to Matthew’s: he had to travel (who knows how?) from Ghana to Libya, some 1750 miles—about the same driving distance as from Anchorage to Prince George, BC; I fly most places of any distance. I have had the privilege of education, all the way to a Master’s degree; I don’t know what education Matthew had, but given his work situation, is was likely minimal. He had to deal with police, beaurocracy in a country that is practically a failed state, with no support from his home country; wherever I go I have at the very least the security of my American passport, and all that that entails. When he left Ghana, his whereabouts were unknown to his family and friends, until that fateful day on the news; I enjoy continuous, uninterrupted communication through several different means. And yet, we are both on a journey. “…looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” Heb. 11:10
I don’t know how strong Matthew’s faith was—was he a new believer? did he grow up in the church? Was he on-fire for Jesus? Or was his a last-minute, not-deny-my-Lord recommitment? We will likely never know
But either way, he joined in his fellow believers in laying down his life—likely, not understanding much of what was happening given that he probably didn’t know Arabic. A foreign land….a foreign language…a foreign culture. And that is where his earthly journey finished. An unlikely but glorious finish to an unnoticed life.
‘Jesus…be close to Matthew’s family and friends as they assimilate his death; for the many who follow his footsteps…illegal, risky, facing hunger and thirst, just in order to work: may his fate be pondered, may his faith be multiplied, and may your eternal purposes for the life, and death, of Matthew, be fulfilled. Help me in my own journey Lord, especially in the surprises, to be faithful. Ya Rabbi Yasou,” (‘My Lord Jesus’) Amen.