Saturday, June 28, 2014

Sharing in their Suffering, helping in their Work

An odd series of things have happened recently that, taken together, confirm an increasing concern on my part about persecution of the church and the direction we are headed. 

The discussion at my office was about Sudan and the terrorists there. That led to a discussion of terrorism in general, and those imprisoned for their faith in particular. Because I do not watch TV, my friends and family make an effort to keep me informed about the happenings of our world, and my boss is no exception. He had seen the story of Dr. Meriam Yahia Ibrahaim, a young Sudanese woman, a physician, who had married an American man, and thought I should know about her. She had been raised as a Christian and had been Christian all her life. Her husband was also Christian. 

Unfortunately, when her husband attempted to get a visa to bring his wife back to the US, he met with considerable delay. They had a child and she was pregnant with a second child when a terrible thing happened. Because her father, who had abandoned her as a child, was Muslim, she was considered Muslim by the Sudanese government. Because she is Christian, she was arrested for adultery (because her marriage to a Christian was not recognized by the Muslims) and for apostasy (leaving the Muslim faith of which she has never been a part). She refused to recant her faith and was sentenced to 100 lashes for adultery and death for apostasy.  

Because she was pregnant, her sentence was delayed until the birth of the child. When she recovered from giving birth, she was to receive her lashes and, when her daughter is two years old, she was to be executed. She has committed no crime. She was imprisoned and facing death simply because of her faith. 

Ultimately, she was cleared of the charges and given emergency travel documents to leave the country. She, her husband, and their two children made it as far as the airport. On June 24 (just four days ago), she was arrested again. 

Last evening, I attended our church's Music Camp presentation of the children's musical "I AM".  It was wonderful on many levels, but the closing scene was particularly memorable. It was taken from Exodus 17 and the campers acted out the battle between the children of Israel and the Amalekites. As long as Moses held his hands with the staff of God in the air, the children of Israel had the advantage. When he lowered his arms, the Amalekites began to win. When his arms tired and he could no longer lift them, his friends, Aaron and Hur, held his arms up until the victory was assured. 

Imagine my surprise when I returned home and was flipping through the new Voice of the Martyrs newsletter. The entire edition was dedicated to front-line workers, those believers who are on the front lines for the persecuted church and face grave danger on a daily basis. Theirs is not just a danger of imprisonment, but of torture and death for themselves and their families. The passage on the first page was a quote from Exodus 17, asking readers to "hold up the arms" of these fearless workers. When asked what they need, they all had replied "Please pray".  Voice of the Martyrs is asking for volunteers to agree to adopt a worker for a period of one year and give them what they most need and desire - prayer coverage. Money is nice but not essential. They have wisely discerned that money will be of limited help if prayer is not given first. 

The very exciting thing about this project is that, if we volunteer, they will send us the name and photo of "our" worker, as well as a summary of their story. (For safety reasons, these names can only be released privately.) Our job will be to pray our hearts out for the workers entrusted to us. 

You can do it. We can do it. Go online to 2014 and join the effort to take the good news of Jesus to those who are literally perishing because of their faith. My adopted worker's information is already on the way! Please join with me in this effort.

Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body. (Hebrews 13:3 NASB)