People love seeing their name in print.
During my days as a reporter for a small daily newspaper, people who had been featured in the paper would often stop by to pick up extra copies. They wanted to send them to family or friends, or cut out their story to display on their refrigerator. Some would even frame it.
Seeing their name, story and photo included among the day’s top news and feature stories was a validating experience. They felt, maybe for the first time, that their story mattered.
Given the opportunity, I think we all would feel the same way. We all want to be known on a deeper level. We all want to be remembered.
In January, a field worker and I travelled to Bangladesh to collect new stories to share with our readers. During the trip, we met “Fani” Bitan, 44, a pastor living in northern Bangladesh. That night, he sat in a plastic chair across from us and, in front of a room full of other pastors sitting on a dirt floor, shared the story of the persecution he had experienced.
In our western context, his story was remarkable. It included him being shut off from the Muslim society and suffering multiple beatings. In the context of the other pastors in the room, it was somewhat ordinary. In fact, he started his story by saying, “As a believer of Christ, we have to go through lots of persecution every single day.” In Bangladesh, pastors often receive death threats and have been attacked conducting VOM projects for persecuted believers.
As I listened, I waited for something that made his story stand apart from the rest – those details that were unique to him.
Suddenly, his eyes grew big. He remembered something. He put his hands in his right pants pocket and pulled out some crumpled pieces of paper. Under the room’s single light bulb, he handed them to me.
I unfolded the papers to discover copies of newspaper articles. Although I couldn’t read Bangla, I knew why he was excited.
His story was print-worthy.
The articles discussed a Top 10 list created by the Islamic extremist group Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh. The list ranked the most-wanted Christians in the region – those who were working among Muslims.
Fani was Number 8 on the list for living a bold Christian life, sharing the Gospel and baptising former Muslims.
“Oh my goodness, I saw this news on TV, but I didn’t know he was one of them,” our translator said after Fani explained what he had just handed me.
Fani’s inclusion on the list didn’t bother him. He was actually thrilled to see his name in the paper.
“I am very happy because my name is on the list,” he said. “How many people can get their name on the list?”
I then asked him if he was worried since his name – and Christian faith – were now in print, for potentially thousands of Muslims to see.
“No, I have no worry,” he said. “I am not nervous. If God wants me to die in this way, why not? It is up to God. What can I do?”
One of our many goals at Voice of the Martyrs is to tell the stories of our persecuted brothers and sisters standing firm in their faith in the countries where we serve. And they are not spiritual superheroes. They are regular believers, like you and I, who, after remaining faithful, were empowered by the Holy Spirit to stay strong in their faith during persecution. The strength of their story is found in its ability to be shared as a testimony to God’s work in their lives.
Another goal of VOM’s is to inspire you, as part of the church, to live a better faith story by hearing those of our persecuted family members. After reading how they’ve overcome fears to stand for Christ, we hope you’ll be moved to do the same in your own unique circumstances.
Not all of us will experience the thrill of seeing our stories told in the pages of a newspaper. Thankfully, we don’t need that to happen to be known on a deeper level or to be remembered.
God already knows our stories intimately. He knew them before we were born (Psalm 139:16), and is recording the stories of those who look to Him in a “Book of Remembrance” (Malachi 3:16). Your story matters to Him. What a validating thought.
In the meantime, we must allow Him to continue writing our stories while prayerfully and courageously following His lead. Then, when the time is right, we’ll be able to reach into our figurative pockets, pull out our testimony of His work in our lives and be able to share it with others, printed or not.
Darren Sanders writes for VOM USA.
Nassif was tied to a banana tree and burnt – for putting his faith in Jesus. He is only nine and it was his own father who set light to the tree.
Please pray that God will heal this young Ugandan boy as he recovers in Kamuli Hospital. His family are furious with him for turning his back on Islam and refusing to follow Muslim practices: he was caught eating during Ramadan.
It was a neighbour who took Nassif to the church where the boy decided to accept Jesus as his Saviour. The neighbour too needs our prayers: he’s received threatening text messages. Other neighbours rescued Nassif and took him to hospital.
Nassif’s father, Abubakar, has been arrested and released on bail.
Source: Release International, Morning Star News
- Please pray that Nassif will know that God is holding him in His hands and that he is the apple of His eye (Psalm 17:8). Pray for his physical and emotional healing. Pray for protection and provision.
- Lift up Abubakar to God and pray that he too, like his son, will come to know Jesus.
- Pray for all our brothers and sisters in Christ, living in Muslim areas of eastern Uganda, where persecution against Christians is increasingly common.
UGANDA: Children Narrowly Escape Death
UGANDA: Pastor Poisoned After Theological Dispute
UGANDA: Woman Beaten for Accusing Imam
I’m your average young American. I grew up in a house with four bedrooms and plenty of food to eat every day. I worked hard in high school to get into a good college, and my parents taught me to treat others with kindness and respect. I love going to the movies, coffee is an everyday necessity and I spend way too much time on my phone.
At the same time, I’m not your average American. I’ve loved the Lord since a young age and that has been the determining factor in every decision of my life. I have a deep love for people and strong convictions about what is right and wrong. I went to a Christian school and studied theology, and I want to do overseas missions. My heart has been captivated for the broken and hurting of the world.
I was about eight years old when I first grasped the fact that there were Christians who had something to lose when they said they loved Jesus. I remember having a difficult time understanding this; loving Jesus was celebrated in the environment I grew up in. What did it mean that some children didn’t have shoes or a home and had lost their parents because they were Christians? I clearly remember when an American missionary couple was kidnapped and held for a year in the jungles of the Philippines; my family and I prayed every day for a year for their release. Even at a young age, these stories marked me. My parents choose to share what was going on in the nations with me at a young age, and as a result: I have a heart of compassion for the world.
When we hear stories of believers being persecuted overseas, western Christians typically have two types of responses: fear and guilt. We ask ourselves, “What if this comes to us?” In guilt, we wonder, “Why am I blessed with such a comfortable life while my brothers and sisters suffer?” Although both reactions are natural, neither response moves us to action. So what should be our response?
My answer is simple: prayer and obedience. Prayer is to be our natural response to both the horrors of our world and the blessings we receive in the midst of it. Suffering believers covet the prayers of the body of Christ, for prayer is the most powerful tool we possess. If we cannot lift up our brothers and sisters in prayer, are we truly part of the same body?
The second part of our response should be obedience to the Lord about how to best serve our persecuted family. We should strive for faithfulness, even if our response seems ineffective. If we are answering the Lord’s call to faithfulness, then the rest doesn’t matter. It is the Lord’s job to bring justice, to bring in the harvest and to reward the righteous. He simply asks that we be faithful sowers. God is concerned with the condition of our hearts towards our brothers and sisters, for hearts that are tender are hearts that can be broken for what breaks God’s heart.
I encourage you today to think about this answer of prayer and obedience. Although a simple answer, it is not simple to do. Yet aren’t we promised that when we are weak, He is strong? Let your faith be encouraged by our dear brothers and sisters who fight hard battles every day and let yourself be moved from compassion to action.
R J Everett works for The Voice of the Martyrs USA