One can’t tell the story of faith without telling the story of persecution.
For the first time in 20 years, another country—Afghanistan—rivals North Korea as the worst place to be a Christian. Religious violence in Nigeria has risen off the charts. China’s surveillance state is censoring more and more church members. And India, the world’s largest democracy, is quickly revealing its systematic hostility toward religious minorities.
Where’s the hope in all these downward trends?
But then when you look past the headlines and into the eyes of the people behind them. They are the eyes of people like Bae, who labors in a North Korean field during the day and sneaks away to worship at night. We see the Afghan refugees, who have been forced to follow Jesus in secret their entire lives but now reveal their faith in public light. And we see Faith and Damaris, who have turned their most traumatic experiences into testimonies of triumph.
They are the people who remind us that just past the suffering waits a deeper, brighter, hope. They make sure we remember to keep going toward Jesus.
How do we keep our persecuted family going to Jesus? Through projects like radio broadcasts that spread life-giving words behind the closed borders of North Korea. Through the trauma care centers in Africa that facilitate inner healing after deeply painful experiences. Through the presence of local church leaders who serve in secret, faithfully encouraging brothers and sisters who risk everything to follow Jesus. And, most of all, through your prayers and advocacy that fuel their resilient faith through difficult days.
Connection must remain the common thread in every effort to serve the persecuted church, because faith withers in isolation. We need each other to speak words of life, healing and hope when suffering closes in. We need to bear each other’s burdens without fearing bad news. And we need to run toward closed doors when others are turned away so we can witness what God does in dark places.
Self-portraits painted by Faith and Damaris David as part of trauma counseling in Nigeria
His work reminds us, over and over again, that the tides can turn, the circumstances can change, that there are greater joys in the days ahead.
It’s far too easy to keep the stories of suffering replaying in our minds, so we have to keep turning up the volume on the good things that God is doing.
We must remember how miraculously He has opened unprecedented global access to Scripture, so more people than ever can read or listen to their own copy of the Bible. We must recall how millions of people have come to Jesus through online, underground networks. And we must repeat the stories of how He’s met each of us in hardship, drawing us closer to Jesus through opposition and oppression.
Those of us who enjoy religious freedom must not forget how God works all things, together, for good. Because if our persecuted brothers and sisters forget what God is doing—we will remind them.