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Early Leader Augustine Chooses to Suffer with His People

When he first became a Christian, Augustine's ambition was to live the rest of his life as a private person, focusing on prayer and quiet contemplation. But other church leaders noticed the depth of his spiritual life and tapped him to be a bishop. From that point on, Augustine would have to relinquish his desire for a quiet, private life and focus on overseeing a number of churches.

Author Gary Thomas retells what happened next in Augustine's life:

In 427, the Arian Vandals advanced into North Africa, where Augustine lived and ministered. Genserik, the Vandal King, specifically sought out Christian churches …. Refugees poured into Hippo, the city where Augustine was serving, and it wasn't long before Genserik had laid siege to Augustine's city.
The refugees not only brought heightened responsibilities for Augustine, they also brought disease. In the fifth century, so many people packed into so tight a space, it inevitably created a sick environment. At this point, Augustine had three choices: He could flee …, he could stay holed up in his palace and ignore the needs of his people but perhaps preserve his own health, or he could get his hands dirty, and risk becoming ill himself.
Augustine didn't know how to be a bishop from afar, so he kept up his active schedule, being present with the people—and paid dearly for service. During the third month of the siege, in August of 430, Augustine developed a high fever from which he never recovered. This powerful man of God, whose books Christians still read … gave his last hours ministering to the most basic needs of a frightened flock.

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