- (Photo: Twitter)
American teacher Ronnie Smith, who was shot and killed in Benghazi on Thursday, depended on his faith in Jesus Christ alone while working in Libya, and had decided to move to that restive nation after listening to a message by preacher John Piper, according to reports.
"I want to go where no one could find a church if they wanted to, where no one has access to this gospel," Smith, a Texas native, said in a video before moving to Libya. The video was posted on the website of his home church, Austin Stone Community Church, until his death, according to CNN.
Smith, who served as a deacon in his church and was teaching chemistry at the International School in Benghazi, was killed by gunmen riding in a black jeep while he was out jogging on Thursday morning. The gunmen are suspected to be Islamist militants.
Smith, 33, who is survived by his wife, Anita, and his son, Hosea, was aware of the danger of working in Libya, but his faith in God gave him strength.
"No matter what happens, I'm good," he told his church members in the video, as quoted by CBS News. "That gives me peace, and I'm OK with that."
"That can never be taken away from me no matter what happens," Smith said, of his Christian faith.
Smith had been in Libya for about one and a half years before he was killed. Anita and Hosea returned to Texas, but Smith stayed back to help his students through midterm exams.
"I was raised in the church from the time I was an infant," Smith wrote on his church's website, about his Christian background. "It was only by the grace of God that I went through my high school and college years free from the major struggles that many of those I knew dealt with. It was not always sunshine and lollipops but God's hand was always leading me and He brought me to where I am today."
Smith admired the 18th century theologian Jonathan Edwards, who "understood that God gave us minds for the sole purpose of glorifying Him."
"All of his writings and personal letters are saturated with Christ and he always seemed to have the glory of God in the forefront of his thinking," Smith wrote about the theologian. "As a man of supreme intellect and prestige, he was refreshingly humble and holy. If I could model my life after anyone in the last 1000 years it would definitely be Edwards."
According to Dave Barrett, pastor of Austin Stone Community Church, Smith's greatest desire was for peace and prosperity in Libya "and for the people of Libya to have the joy of knowing God through Christ."
Smith was also inspired by Piper of the DesiringGod ministry.
"Ronnie wrote to us at Desiring God last year and told us that one of my messages was significant in leading him and his family to Libya," writes Piper on his blog.
"I came to tears this morning praying for Anita and Hosea," Piper says, but adds: "After sorrow and sympathy, my response was (and is) prayer. 'Lord, give Anita great faith. Help her to weep - but not as those who have not hope. Make that little fellow proud of his daddy. May he grow up thrilled to be in the bloodline of such a man.'"
Piper says he is also sobered by the news. "Ronnie is not the first person who has died doing what I have encouraged them to do. He won't be the last. If I thought death were the worst thing that can happen to a person, I would be overwhelmed with regret… But the whole point of Ronnie's life is that there is something worse than death. So he was willing to risk his own life to rescue others from something far worse."
Apart from the targeting of Western expats, local Christians of Libya have also been facing persecution at the hands of Islamists. The nation had as many as 100,000 Christians before the 2011 revolution toppled Gaddafi. But now, only a few thousand remain.