Vernon Brewer – Liberty University Convocation

Vernon Brewer – Liberty University Convocation


Thank you! President Falwell, I am proud to be the first
graduate of Liberty University 1973. I brought along the very first diploma, 43
years old. Some of you may get one of these someday,
but this is what the first one looks like, and I am proud to ambassador for Liberty University
around the world. I’m a cancer survivor. I
was on staff here at Liberty when I was told I had cancer. The doctors removed a five-pound tumor from
off my heart and lungs. I survived 18 surgeries and a year and a half
of chemo therapy. I lost my voice, and I believe God healed
me, because one day over 2,000 held a 24-hour prayer vigil in the prayer chapel and called
it a miracle day of prayer, and God healed me. And every day since then, I try to live my
life in such a way that I accomplish at least one thing that will outlive me and last for
eternity. And since then I’ve had several defining moments
in my life which I have captured in a book called “Defining Moments,” a book of my
stories of what God is doing around the world, and I brought a thousand copies today with
me as my gift to you; they’re free. They’re up on the concourse. Please grab one as you leave. Recently I was just two kilometers outside
of the city of Mosul where ISIS had bombed Christians the night before, and a group of
Christians showed me this paper that ISIS had nailed to their door. It said, “convert, pay, or die.” The Islamic terrorist group ISIS is, as you
know, specifically targeted Christians for mass executions, and many, including children,
have given their lives in the name of Christ. More than 200,000 have lost their lives. The men and boys are still rounded up and
blindfolded and executed in mass burial sites, and not just in Iraq and Syria anymore, but
in all the other nations of the world where ISIS-inspired terrorists are on the move. Last month the ISIS magazine had a simple
message: “Kill the people of the cross.” It hasn’t happened just in the Middle East. A few weeks ago, an ISIS-inspired terrorist
beheaded a priest in a French church. The bombers who attacked the airport in Belgium
originally planned attacking a Christian community center in Paris also. One year ago, the ISIS magazine had a photo
of St. Peter’s Square on the cover. The only difference is they’d photo shopped
the ISIS flag on the obelisk that is the center of that famous Vatican Square, and the article
said they would march to Rome and on the way break the crosses of the Christians and enslave
their women and daughters. Countless women and girls have been abducted,
sold into marriage, kept in captivity to be used in heinous acts. Some children have even been kidnapped and
been forced to become child soldiers, or suicide bombers, or human shields in a vicious war
where there will be no winners. Many are calling it the Christian holocaust. And the United States congress and the British
parliament each unanimously designated it as a genocide. We are now living in a world where Christianity
is the most persecuted religion. Every two minutes a Christian is killed. Every few seconds a Christian is persecuted,
and I think we ought to care more about that. One of the Iraqi partners we work with told
me that ISIS has beheaded four children in their church simply because they were Christians. Can you imagine? They asked each child if they would convert
to Islam and none of them would. They all died because they believed that Jesus
Christ was worth life and death. After talking with some of these refugees
face-to-face, I can tell you they don’t want to leave. They don’t want to come here to America. They want to go home. In fact, many of them carry their keys on
a key ring around with them as a constant reminder of their desire to return back home
where they came from. They don’t want us to take them away. They want us to help them survive, and what
I’ve seen in Iraq and on the Syrian border with my own eyes is indescribable. Every single Christian I met had a story of
suffering and intense persecution. When I was in a refugee camp on the Syrian
border I saw a man hurrying toward me carrying a tiny baby in his arms. And he kept pleading with me to do something,
but I couldn’t understand him, and when he finally reached me he began to push the baby
into my arms, repeating the same words over and over. I quickly learned that his wife had been killed
by ISIS and that He was afraid that his baby was dying also, and he wanted me to take her
so that her life might be spared. He was trying to give me his baby daughter. I stood there in stunned belief and prayed,
dear God, this man’s just lost his wife. He’s about to lose his baby too. He would rather give her to me—a total stranger—than
risk her dying in his arms. I met a five-year-old boy; his name was Mazine. I learned Mazine’s story from his uncle who
had to speak for him, and before long I learned the sobering truth that this little boy was
so traumatized he couldn’t even speak. In fact, he hadn’t spoken a word in weeks. ISIS was executing in the streets in his neighborhood
because they refused to convert to radical Islam, and Mazine saw horrific acts of violence,
and beheadings, and tortures, and murder, and he was so traumatized that he became a
mute and hadn’t even spoken to his mother in weeks. I walked away with a broken heart. This little boy with his whole future in front
of him, lives every day haunted by horrifying images that no human being should ever have
to be exposed to or experience. I have a grandson his age. I immediately thought of him and how devastated
I would be if this were happening to him. And as I listened to these stories, the reality
hit me like a ton of bricks. The people of Iraq and Syria are losing hope. There’s no way you and I can relate to being
brutally persecuted for our faith like they are. I won’t even begin to pretend to know the
kind of suffering they endure, but as the body of Christ we are all part of the same
family. If one part hurts we all hurt, so I’m asking
you today to please stand with your brothers and sisters in Christ in solidarity. I think the most important thing we can do
is pray. When you wake, before you sit down to eat,
before you close your eyes at night pray that God would raise up an army to rally behind
the suffering people of Iraq and Syria. What could happen, just think, what could
happen if prayer for Iraqi and Syrian Christians went viral. If we truly understand this truth—that underneath
a conflict obscured by politics and fear are people who desperately need our help—then
we will do more than just watch our TV screens in disbelief; we will do something. We will get involved. We will get beyond guilt and pity, and start
practicing an authentic brand of compassion—one that actively meets people where they are
instead of simply hoping that someone else will do the job. Millions of Syrian and Iraqi refugees are
staring in the face of death, uncertainty, and hopelessness, and the question is: will
you, will we be the ones to say enough? Will we be the ones to give them hope? Why is hope so important? What are you willing to do to bring hope to
a desperate world? Lesslie Newbigin, a missionary to India, had
quite a bit of contact with hopeless situations. In his book The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society
he made this statement: the distinguishing mark of the Christian community is hope. That’s why the body of Christ exists. That’s what makes us different. That’s what characterizes what we do—a hope
in the God who can do anything. We can hope in the fact that God is sovereign
over everything, but chooses to use you and I as human beings to be His agents of hope. We must believe in a hope that can penetrate
hearts and change lives in a way that nothing else can—a hope that has no boundaries,
a hope that can overcome any obstacle, a hope that can give little five-year-old Mazine
a future, a hope for you as a student in your sorrow, in your worrying as you face a difficult
class or as you face an uncertain future, the kind of hope that accomplishes the impossible. And this is why: hope, by definition, is the
very essence of the Gospel, because hope changes everything. And I want to remind you, Liberty University,
as long as there is a God, there is hope. And as long as you and I can work to bring
that hope, whether by a cup of cold water in Jesus name, or an open Bible given in Jesus’
name, we must try. May our greatest desire be that we are the
hands and feet of Jesus on the ground for the helpless and the hurting. That’s why hope is so important. That’s why you are so important to what God
is doing around the world. This week can be a historic week in the life
of Liberty University. I am so thankful that Liberty prepared me
for a lifetime of service around the world, and God may want to make this a life-changing
week for you if you will choose to be an agent of hope. Will you be a hope-giver to someone who has
lost all hope? And I pray that God will continue to use each
of us to do something every day that will outlive you and last for eternity. It’s all about hope—a hope that can change
the world. And I want to encourage every one of you;
go on an LU missions trip this year, and be a hope-giver, and have your life changed in
the process. I went on my first missions trip when I was
17. Our youth group went to Mexico to distribute
Bibles and build a church building. I remember going door to door passing out
red New Testaments just like this one. This is one I brought back as a 17-year-old-boy. I only knew three words in Spanish: Regalo
gratis suyo, which translates roughly “free gift you.” And I would go door-to-door as a 17-year-old-boy,
knock on the door, a grandmother would come, and I would say “free gift you” in Spanish. And they would be startled, and then they
would take it. And they would thumb through it and realize
what it was, and their eyes would light up. Every one of them would kiss it, and then
they would hug it, and it made an indelible impression on my life—a profound impact
on my young life. A few weeks ago I was in the refugee camps
in Northern Iraq, and my partner asked me to go with him to distribute Bibles to the
Christians, because they had to flee with just the clothes on their back because of
ISIS, and they had to leave their Bibles behind. And they really loved their Bibles, and so
they asked me would I go and help distribute them. And as I walked up to that first gate for
the first family they handed me this red Arabic Bible. I brought one back as a souvenir, and I gave
it to that first woman, and she looked at it and saw what it was, and she kissed it,
and she hugged it. And my mind went back to that day I was a
17-year-old boy on the dusty streets of Mexico and handed out that first New Testament that
was a defining moment in my life. 52 years later, and ten million Bibles passed
out in-between, I’m still traveling the world distributing the word of God to people who
have never heard about Jesus. That’s hope. That’s hope. When my grandchildren ask me years from now,
“Papi, what did you do to help the refugees from Iraq and Syria?” I want to be able to tell them I gave them
hope. What will you tell your children and grandchildren? More so, what will you tell yourself when
you look in the mirror tomorrow morning, when you worship here without fear, when you read
your Bible without fear, when you eat yourself full without giving it a second thought? How can we look ourselves in the mirror, and
live with the fact that our brothers and sisters in Christ are dying every day, and we could
have done more? Oh, and one more thing. Remember those Christians that had to leave
their Bibles behind? I think, I know, that was God’s plan too. I can see this in my mind’s eye. One of those ISIS fighters coming into that
empty Christian house, and finding that Holy Bible sitting on a table somewhere, and he
picks it up and slides it into his backpack. And then one evening, in the dark of night,
he reads it, and reads it, and reads it until he believes it. Because maybe there’s another killer of Christians
like the Apostle Paul on another road to Damascus just waiting for God to make him a church
planter. Because the gates of hell will never prevail
against the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. They can kill us all day long, but we worship
a God who the grave could not hold down. Hallelujah!

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