In a small bamboo home in Burma, our team had the privilege of meeting with some of the 130 known believers who live in a very remote part of this restricted nation. Most of the believers work as day labourers, often earning no more than $1.50 per day. Others are farmers who grow rice and vegetables to provide for their family and earn a small income. Yet the joy on their faces and the passion in their prayers had a tremendous effect on all of us.
These believers live in an area that is sacred to the local Buddhists, who do not want any churches located near them. The Christians are therefore frequently harassed by local authorities and Buddhist monks, often culminating in violence. The home where we met with the believers had been torn down twice at the direction of local authorities for being “too big”; in other words, they knew it was a church and wanted it destroyed. Church leaders in this area are frequently called by the local authorities to answer allegations made against them by their neighbours and the local monks. This is a difficult place to follow Jesus.
As we sat with these faithful believers, we asked them why they stayed in this area where they are hated. Or, with so much harassment, why did they not simply give up and turn away from Christ? Their answers were what we have come to expect from persecuted believers around the world, but they still challenge us each time we hear them:
“After knowing the true and living God, how could we ever stop loving Him?” they said. “Our persecutors do not know the love of God, so we love them and share with them.
“We have peace in our hearts so that whether we are poor or persecuted, we have this peace. “It is the hope of heaven that keeps us going in the midst of persecution, so whether we are persecuted, beaten or not, it is the hope that we will be in heaven that keeps us moving forward.”
How could these simple rural people have such a confidence in Christ and such a solid hope in heaven?
We learned more about their lives and the activities of their church as our conversation continued over fresh papaya and tea. It became evident that the ‘secret’ to their faith and hope was an overwhelming love for and confidence in God’s Word. We learned that it is common for every believer to spend time in God’s Word each morning before going out to work for the day. In addition, Scripture memory is a vital part of their discipleship, with the average believer knowing from 150 to 200 verses by memory. One couple told us that they have a competition to see who can memorise the most verses and that they work together reciting verses as they prepare dinner each night. They had lost count of the number of verses that they have hidden in their hearts.
As our time together drew to a close, we enjoyed a time of prayer together as brothers and sisters in Christ. Our team prayed for them, and they lifted up prayers for the work of Voice of the Martyrs around the world. Together, we rejoiced in the hope of one day standing around the throne of God as the body of Christ, worshipping our King. This is the hope that keeps us all moving forward toward that glorious day!
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