VOX magazine editor Ruth Garvey-Williams is at the New Wine Ireland summer conference in Sligo this week. She brings you summaries of all the Evening Celebrations and the morning Bible Teaching so you won’t miss a thing!
Wednesday 17 July
A speaker, invited by Open Doors, shared some of the challenges faced by Christian brothers and sisters in other parts of the world. Here is what Hana* had to say:
(*name changed for security reasons)
God is at work even in the parts of the world where things are difficult.
Some countries are on the Open Doors’ World Watch List – a annual ranking of the 50 countries where Christians face the most extreme persecution.
The country I am from is on that list. But I bring you greetings from a church that is not a victim church. We are people whose hearts are burning. The one who has walked with us has opened our eyes and He has led us to break bread and share His cup.
In those nations of the world that we might write off, where we wonder how people will ever hear the Gospel, in His faithfulness, God turns up in dreams and visions. The Father’s heart longs to sing over them.
His name is above every name and He needs no visa!
About four years ago, Jesus came to a young man in a dream. He did not know who this was but he saw the wounds on His hands and feet. Jesus said, “Follow me.” And so he left everything. Along with his wife, he chose to follow. But when the family found out, this couple lost everything and had to flee.
For four years, they never knew how to access others who had met this same Jesus. Then this year, through supernatural means, this young man was connected to another Christian brother who could answer the question, “Who is this Jesus? Who is this man with nail marks on His hands and feet?”
That is happening across the Middle East and South East Asia. It is happening everywhere that you think it cannot possibly be happening. People are meeting Jesus and they choose to follow Him.
They have questions. Questions like, who will take care of my family? And Jesus steps onto the road with them and their hearts burn within them. They lay their lives down and receive new life. And with that new life comes sacrifice: brother against brother, parent against child, friends turning away, people betraying them to the authorities. And yet they offer their entire being as a living sacrifice and they receive His promise that He will be with them even unto the end.
Persecution is a privilege. Persecution is a promise. And Jesus does not leave us alone on that journey.
The privilege is that He walks with us. We were created to give glory to God. In the midst of some of the most severe persecution, there is a song being raised. Like it says in Zephaniah, He will quieten us and sing a song over us. In the midst of chaos, in the midst of trauma and tragedy, there is the sound of His stillness.
My prayer tonight is that each one of us in this room will tap into that relationship with that marvellous love of God that we know through His son, Jesus.
And pray for us. Pray that persecuted Christians will feel the impact of those prayers. God holds back those hands of persecution when believers pray and are faithful. Some of the stories can leave you feeling desperate, angry and hostile but I ask you today to join with us in forgiving the persecutor. We love these people. No one else has ever loved them with the love of Jesus!
A group of women who have suffered all their lives created a refuge and called that place “Immanuel” because they said, “God is with us.”
There was a young woman who was ethnically Christian and she was considered the lowest of the low. She had been sold to do menial labour and had experienced physical and emotional abuse. Eventually, she came to a refuge. Whilst she was there, she would hold her Bible to her heart and talk to Jesus. Even though she was illiterate and could not read, God revealed many scriptures to her. She loved Him because He had been with her. I never heard her ask, “Why did Jesus let this happen?” She believed she was alive because Jesus had a purpose for her.
After a while her father discovered where she was and he sold her again. But this time the women at the refuge were praying for her. They had no idea where she was. One day there was a sense of urgency to pray for her. At that very time, the people she was with tried to force her to leave her Christian faith but she refused.
From being a quiet and gentle person, she had the courage without any shoes on her feet to run out of the house and to hide. In the morning a policeman found her and God used him to send her back to her home. And she was finally able to reach the refuge.
My friends, His song is over you and He longs for you to be released from fear, uncertainty and confusion. It is a song that sets us apart. It tells us every minute of the day that God so loved the world the He gave His only son…
Will we let that fire purify us from all fear? Will we be trailblazers? Will people see Jesus in us?
The story of persecution is not just a story. It is a story that ushers in the work of the kingdom of God. Will we allow our prayers to strengthen others who are in the midst of persecution? Will we be on fire so He can use us in supernatural ways? Are we willing to offer ourselves up?
Find out more at Open Doors