Monday, October 6, 2014

Horrific Stories of Christian Persecution

October's Voice of the Martyrs magazine made me cry. As I read each story shared by fellow Christians who faced substantial persecution I was encouraged in my own faith. I can only hope and pray that if faced with similar persecution, or any testing of my faith in Christ, that I'm as strong as Habila Adamu or Monica Dra who watched terrorists murder her husband and then survived when men of Boko Haram nearly decapitated her. Habila Adamu's story in particular inspired me. Habila turned to his wife and told her, "Don't worry, the death of a Christian is a great gain, not a loss."  as members of the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram held an AK-47 to his head. Miraculously he survived a direct shot to the face and is sharing his testimony with all he meets. Also, his family were the only survivors after those same men attacked the homes in their village. The entire village, by the way, was put to death after refusing to convert to Islam - choosing to die rather than deny Christ. What faith!

Two other stories affected me deeply as well and one was of two women named Naomi and Ruth who were kidnapped by Boko Haram and forced to convert to Islam. With the help of other women they escaped but were guilt ridden over denying Christ. They were quoted for thinking they "weren't sure they could ever forgive themselves or that Jesus would forgive them." (Voice of the Martyrs, October 2014, p. 4) They were invited to share their testimony with VOM workers in the United States and when they walked in they wouldn't even make eye contact with those in the room, ashamed of their denial. It was these few paragraphs of one woman's servitude that inspired me beyond words,
"Wanting to serve and honor these two women who had suffered, Denise asked if she could wash their feet. Naomi and Ruth were surprised. In their stratified society they were near the bottom, and they would normally be serving their foreign visitors. But instead, this Christian woman they had just met was sitting at their feet pouring warm water over their calloused toes.  
The water seemed to open the floodgates of their emotions. The women tearfully poured out their story and all that had happened to them. They admitted that they didn't feel like they could ever be forgiven for denying Christ and "converting" to Islam. They weren't sure Jesus could ever accept them again.  
Denise and Simon told them the story of how Peter was forgiven after he had denied Christ in the high priest's courtyard while Jesus was being questioned." (Voice of the Martyrs, October 2014, p. 6-7)
What an incredible form of servitude that reassured these women of God's grace and forgiveness! I never would've thought to serve in that way. Thank you Denise for being an example of Christ for all Christian's to mimic.

The last story I'm going to share is Ronald's who was displaced by jihad warriors 14 years ago in Indonesia. His only treasure when he fled their persecution was the small Bible he had hung around his neck. His favorite verse? Proverbs 15:3 because "pleasing him is more important than pleasing man." (Voice of the Martyrs, October 2014, p. 11)

I found these stories heartbreaking and incredibly encouraging. I have absolutely no idea what it's like to face persecution and neither do my fellow American Christians. How much more should we hold fast to our faith and thank God for all that He has given us? How much more should we value the freedom of religion and the availability of Bibles? How much more should we appreciate being able to attend church services without fear. We take so many, many things for granted.

After reading these stories I kept asking myself,

  • Do I value God's Word with such intensity?
  • In the face of persecution will I be more concerned about pleasing others or pleasing God?
  • If I ever do face persecution of any sort will I be strong in my faith? 
  • If facing death because of my faith will I be able to echo Habila's words, to die is gain?
  • Do I serve others as well as Denise? Or encourage others in their faith like she does?
Reading such stories encourage me to pray for these amazing individuals. Serve where I can. Pray that if faced with such threats God helps me hold fast to my faith. Realize that...
And so no matter what happens in this life nothing will separate all who have faith in Christ from His love - not tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger or sword. "For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:33-39) That total security as a result of our faith in Christ gives me great comfort and the stories I read today stand as an amazing testimony of this absolute truth. Let their stories encourage you in your faith as they did mine. 

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