Saturday, November 19, 2005

Friday, November 18, 2005

Last Full Day In-Country . . . Our Family

These believers, our fellow Christians here in this country that I cannot name--they are our family. They are being persecuted for their faith. Members of our family are going to prison, being beaten, being rejected by family and loved ones, and some have even been put to death, because of their faith. What are we going to do for our family?

The Bible says we are all one body because we worship one Lord. The believers here, they are our flesh and blood, they are our family. We cannot neglect the struggles and plight of our family here. What are we going to do for them?

First and foremost, we must commit to keep them in our prayers. We must pray for their protection, for their safety from persecution and the secret police. We must commit to pray that their lives and families would be blessed, that they would have everything they need to read their nation for Christ. We can also pray for this closed country, that the hearts and minds of the leaders will be opened so that the Gospel can freely be preached, and so that the church here no longer needs to worship the Lord in secret places and "safehouses." We should also pray for strength, that the Christians here would remain strong in their faith, in the midst of great persecution. Truly this is the lesson these believers teach the rest of us, how to be strong in our faith. This is how they are an example to me.

After having been here for this week, after having sat with them at meals, worshipped with them and prayed with them, I can no longer ignore their struggles. Another thing we can do is go. One day you can join me, to come back here and encourage the believers, and also boldly teach the word of God. Even for us foreigners, there are some risks in coming here, but it is nothing compared to the dangers these believers face every day. The rewards far outweigh the risks. You can be blessing, you can be an encouragement, you can go.

Another thing we can do is give. We can invest in God's kingdom here by giving to "workers" who come here and live and minister here. If you are blessed, you can be a blessing to our persecuted brothers and sisters. This is yet another very real way you can liberate this country with the power of the gospel.

It is my desire to come back here in February, and hopefully also in March. If God would open the door, then it will be my privilege to come back here and be blessed by these believers again. I can no longer say "I did not know" or "I had no idea." I have seen their faces, met their kids, worshipped with them and ministered along side them. I cannot ignore the plight of my family here any more.


Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Nap Time, Again. Day Four In-country

Today I joined my brothers and sisters here, and caught a few winks with them during nap time. Then the brother next to me starting snoring and woke me up, oh well.

There is a sister here who was beat up by the secret police. They knew she was going to this secret location for this training, and they were trying to get her to tell them where it was. She refused, and was roughed up for her defiance. Also, it seems that every pastor I meet here has been jailed often more than once, and still they are faithful.

I am teaching in a "safehouse" in the city. Some of the students have come from far away and they stay here during this week of teaching. Some live in this city and commute. We all arrive in the morning. This morning I was picked up by a different driver at a different location, and we took a different route to get here. We have prayer and praise and worship, then I start teaching. We take a mid-morning break and we also take the lunch time/nap time break. Nap time is over at 1:30, and I start teaching again. I usually teach until about 2:30 or 3:00. There is also a lot of time set aside for prayer.

I keep saying this again and again, I keep feeling this over and over--their faith and faithfulness humbles, teaches, and inspires me. The persecution here is so great, and they remain strong in the face of such persecution. These believers are an example to Christians all over the world.

Others are starting to wake up. There is a competition going on between two brothers, it seems they are trying to out-snore each other. Those who have awakened are having lots of fun with this. Almost time to start teaching again. The battle of the snorers is over, one brother is the clear winner.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Nap Time . . . Day Three In-country, First Day Teaching

As I write this, everyone else is sleeping. We ate lunch, and now everyone is taking a nap. They are sound asleep, a few of the students are even snoring.

My ride picked me up at 8:00 this morning. We joined the throngs of motor bikes and scooters during the Monday morning rush hour. We arrived at our location about thirty minutes later. I am teaching in a closed room, in the rear of a someone's house. All the windows are closed and curtains drawn. For security reasons, I am not allowed to step outside until the teaching day is over.

I am so humbled to be teaching these believers. They look to me like I am some kind of expert, when they are an example to me. Their faith comes with a high cost. Going to church is not just a quick Sunday drive away. Several of the students in this class are serving as pastors, and some of those pastors have been imprisoned. These students are very serious about reaching their country for Christ. They are in the midst of a revolution. They are praying that one day their home will become open to the Gospel, and they will no longer have to meet in secret places like this.

Their faith is an example to me because it is so strong and pure, it must be, for only someone whose faith is genuine and strong would continue to be a Christian in the midst of such persecution. They have seen many miracles in their midst, like people being healed from sickness, pastors being set free from prison, and one pastor even ran his motor scooter on water for a week because he was ministering in remote place with no gas stations. Jesus once turned water into wine at a wedding, I guess turning water into gasoline is easy for Him as well.

Well, nap time is over, and the students are starting to wake up. Class will begin soon.

Later . . .
What a day, I am exhausted, having been teaching for almost six hours. It is my privilege to be teaching these believers. I will do it again tomorrow.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Day One In-Country

The first day in this country that I cannot name. I am in one of the largest cities in this place. So many cities in this part of the world I can only describe using superlatives. This place is so this . . . or there are so many . . . It is on of the most unique cities I have ever visited in the world. I have read about this place for many years, I am now here seeing this place with my own eyes.

I found a free wireless network in a coffee shop. Their connection is very fast, and they are just two blocks from my hotel. Needless to say I will be visiting here quite often over the next week.

Met with our contacts here, to organize the week's schedule. I will be teaching several leaders of their work here. I need to meet my driver in a different place each morning. Fortunately, since I have dark hair and brown skin, I do not have to wear a disguise when I travel to the teaching place. Other Westerners who come to teach must sear sunglasses, long sleeves, and wear a big hat. If those who are watching see a white Westerner going to places off the beaten path, they will wonder and start to question and harass. I blend in very well. These underground church leaders are hard core and on the front lines. Some of them have been to prison, and some are being harassed by the authorities on a daily basis. These men need your prayers. If I get compromised, I get kicked out of the country, if they get compromised, they are beaten and put in jail. Their faith is an example to me.

I am so blessed to be here. This is an incredible opportunity, a great adventure. This is my life. I may be just an ordinary man, but I feel the Lord is making my days extraordinary.


Thursday, November 10, 2005

Tomorrow I Go

I think I have everything ready for my trip to the closed/restricted country I mentioned in a previous post. I have removed anything in my bag, wallet, or luggage that could suggest that I am a missionary (business cards, magazines, etc.), and I have packed clothes that do not have a Christian theme, like a Camp Sonshine t-shirt. I am bringing only one Bible, and my Bible school teaching materials are gift wrapped.

I am told this is not overkill, and that this country is officially very hostile to any kind of missionary activity, even the mere suggestion. I still find it hard to fathom that in this day and age there is still such a country that oppresses and persecutes the Christian church. Now some would say that this nation is a sovereign nation, and it has the right to conduct its internal affairs as they see fit, without foreign intervention. Bull. Oppressing a group of people simply because they are Christians is unlawful and ungodly. It is my privilege to be going to such a place, in the face of the official government oppression, and defy them by teaching in the underground church.

There comes a time when people must choose whom they are going to follow, no matter what the cost. There comes a time when Christians must fully commit to God's will, no matter where it may take you.


Friday, November 04, 2005

Worldview Changed

I was talking with G, one of kids who comes to Sonshine Center, the other day. G is about 14 years old. He has recently given his life to the Lord, opening up his heart to accept Jesus as his Lord and savior. His home situation is the pits. He lives in one of the poorest slums in the city. His mom is involved in various illegal and immoral activites, so he really does not like going home. Jesus Christ and the Sonshine Center ministry are the only bright spots in his day.

He also helps Chris with the preschool as a paid employee, and he is doing a great job. He has a wonderful way with children, teaching and nurturing them. I told him there might be a future in the education field for him, that he should look into on going to school to one day be a teacher. He told me that he would rather be a missionary. He told me he wants to share with others about the love of Jesus Christ, and maybe one day go to another country as a missionary.

A year ago when I met G he was confused, addicted to sniffing glue, aimless and without much hope. Now he is a positive role model among the other street kids, and he is starting to realize the destiny that God has for him. A year ago his main goals were to find the next meal, survive on the streets, and just get by. Now his ambitions have broadened considerably. He wants to reach his world for Christ.