Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.” -Revelation 14:13
Most of you will have heard of the death of Reinhard Bonnke, the German evangelist who spoke before millions during his life-time call to the continent of Africa. I am choosing to call his death a “good report,” since all of us who are followers of Jesus believe that life is grander after death – that death, for the believer, is a promotion, not a defeat. “To die is gain,” Paul told the community in Philippi, “I desire to depart to be with Christ, which is better by far” (Philippians 1:21-23).
Some of us will remember with joy when Reinhard and Anni came to Belmont in the 90s. I especially remember two things about his visit.
- His recall of the time when God was calling him to Africa. He responded by asking God why he would choose him for this weighty assignment. The Lord’s response to Reinhard was that he was actually not God’s first choice. He was choice number three, but the other two had declined, then asked Reinhard, “Will you do it?” Thankfully he responded positively and became a surrendered instrument in the Lord’s hand.
- The other memory was when a few of us were having breakfast the next morning with Reinhard and Anni. Anni assured us that we were seeing the real Reinhard Bonnke. “This is who he is day and night. This is his vocation, his avocation, his hobby, his joy – talking about Jesus and preaching the gospel to the unsaved.”
And that he did. On one occasion he spoke to over 1 ½ million people all gathered together in one place in Nigeria.
Two other brothers and I traveled in 1991 to Kano, Nigeria, to join in one of Reinhard’s campaigns, but unfortunately we were not able to complete our assignment because of the radical Muslim uprising at the parade ground where the campaign was to have been held. We were, in fact, under heavy police protection during the few hours in Kano, before we were taken to the airport, and the airport closed, until all of us who were a part of his entourage were out of the country. We never felt unsafe, even though, from the reports, about 200 people who were setting up the arrangements at the parade grounds were killed in the uprising. The people back home were in serious prayer for us because they heard of the opposition that came against us.
So – I am rejoicing with Anni and the family that this esteemed husband, father, grandfather and friend-man of God is at home with Jesus.
May we all look forward to the time when we, too, will be gathered together with the Lord and with the believers who have gone before us.