You may have already noticed but since the beginning of the year it seems like there has been an explosion of reports about persecution and violence related to religious issues in the world. It’s something I predicted would be happening the last few years as I watched the various country elections surge with nationalistic fervor.
Not long ago, I was with my colleagues from more than 12 countries many of whom face pressure and outright persecution on a weekly or monthly basis. More than a third to half of my colleagues live under constant pressure! Several of them live under death threats and in situations where violence could erupt at a moments notice.
One of my colleagues in meeting with a few of them recounted this story that I thought you might like to review. I hope that this will stir your hearts to pray for the persecuted church worldwide.
Four pastors from my classes in ______ were there, one with his wife as well, and we had a marvelous time talking together about the progress of the work in the country since my expulsion. In Pastor Z’s case where he lives in ______ province, they have perpetuated what they learned in Asian Access classes through what they call B2 and C2 ministries. ______ pastors journey down to help him with the teaching, and pastor Z, a graduate of my third class in ______, reproduces the leadership development learning experience by training other house church pastors in his locality. The participants in the B2 level are ______ pastors with less experience and training than himself, yet are geographically near and therefore fellow colleagues in the work; then, those more junior in age and further out geographically, constitute ring C2. Thus, those in ______ who have received are passing it on. This they do without western participation and without western money. I was greatly warmed in heart as I listened to him talk about how it has gone with him.
Then, they wanted to hear from me more details about my expulsion in 2010, and in addition, what happened to me five years later in 2015 when I tried to attend an A2 meeting in Cambodia by transiting through ______ airport on a very cheap flight with ______ Southern airlines. On that occasion, the immigration officers stopped me at the plane door, took my passport, and made me wait for 14 hours in the examination room on the immigration floor before escorting me back onto a plane headed back to JFK airport in New York City. They gave me no explanation for their actions. The brothers had not heard that story. They were stunned, laughed a lot, but also were not surprised! All of these men have been stopped, interrogated, and even incarcerated many times by authorities for their ministry activities, so for them, it is part of the professional calling!
On the one hand, this story was deeply encouraging. Asian Access footprints are spreading like wildfire. On the other hand, this is a simple story that happened to a westerner. The Asian colleagues we serve face far more severe situations: bomb threats, death threats, calls in the middle of the night saying their children will be abducted, etc., etc.
As the dynamics of our world become increasingly intolerant and as the world tends to respond in man-centered ways, will you join me in praying for our brothers and sisters in Christ who face monthly, weekly and sometimes even daily pressure. Recently we had to pull a news story in one country because of the backlash it faced in one country and the potential harm it could do to our national director but also to other believers and churches.
We covet your prayers! Pray for these brothers and sisters as they endure. And, pray for us that we could encourage, empower and support them well.
God bless you for standing with them and with us during this heightened season of persecution!