Commit your cause to the Lord; let him deliver—let him rescue the one in whom he delights! (Ps. 22:8)
If anybody knows what happened to Don, that story has never come forth. Police found his body in a mangled vehicle near the place where he loved to go and pray.
He was born a white South African. In 1975 he arrived at the Presbyterian church in Fort Victoria, Rhodesia. The young assistant pastor often comforted government soldiers. Five years later, though, the rebels won the war. Rhodesia became Zimbabwe. Many white Presbyterians left.
Don stayed on. He started a family and took charge of the dwindling congregation. When the church could no longer afford its building, he rented a classroom—and kept searching for hope. Outside the town center was a large black community. Don discipled some local youths. Together they ran crusades.
The church they planted in the black community soon outgrew its parent church. Don remained true to both sides, however: one parish, one pastor, one biracial session. In terms of prophetic and compassionate ministry, he was way ahead of his time.
On a summer night in the year 2000, Don experienced a spiritual crisis. Accused of moral failing by an unstable acquaintance, he drove to his quiet place and never returned. Some believe that he never saw the truck that hit him. Others call it suicide. Still others suspect foul play, wondering if government agents framed and ambushed him and then faked the accident. I once witnessed Don confront the ruling party over a matter of human rights. In Zimbabwe that can be highly dangerous.
Four men whom Don mentored, all of them black, lead congregations today. When I served that region on behalf of our denomination, I also experienced part of his legacy. Don’s death was tragic, but it was never the last word. Good Friday teaches us not to be surprised.
—Rev. Ted Wright: pastor, Gaithersburg Presbyterian Church, Maryland; former PC(USA) regional liaison to Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Mozambique