Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Focus on the Persecuted Church :Video 'Right to Believe and article 'Making Eye Contact With God' by Al Janssen of Open Doors

Last November,Brother Andrew and I celebrated IDOP Sunday with the persecuted church. My life will never be the same.At a secret location in Pakistan, I sat
with more than 30 church leadersas we read together the word ofthe Lord to Solomon: “If my people,who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray…
my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.” The leader of the meeting challenged us, “Today, let us make eye contact with God.”
After singing several hymns and psalms we heard reports from Gojra where, three months earlier, 50 homes had been destroyed,100 homes looted, and seven Christians burned to death bya fundamentalist mob. One eyewitness wrote of the horrible destruction of Hameed Masih and his family. He reported how their village had “turned into ashes. Children and women were wandering here and there beating
their chests. Seeing the whole horrifying scene,I thought that the things acquired after years might be regained, but the seven members of the single family would never be regained.” Another family, whose daughter was raped, wrote, “We request you accept our appeal, drenched with tears, to give us back our lives, for we have been buried alive with our child.” There was a time of intense prayer for Christians in Gojra. Then we sang again.One of the hymns was so melancholy, so deep in emotion, that though I couldn’t understand the Urdu words, I felt the heart cry of these people. Paul’s words to the Romans rang in my ears: if ever we needed the Spirit to help us in our weakness, it was then. We then broke into smaller groups for two hours of sharing and prayer.

There were nine church leaders in my group and all bared their hearts. One village pastor told how three families in his small congregation of twenty families had, under financial inducement, converted to Islam. When they tried to arrange marriages for their children they discovered that while their daughters were eagerly spoken for, no Muslim family would allow their daughters to marry these ‘Christian’
sons. “These families now want to return to the church,” the pastor reported. “But the Muslim leaders say they can’t convert from Islam or they will be killed. We want to welcome these families back and are trying to support them.”

Another leader served a far-flung congregation that could never meet together and so required him to travel constantly – he was away from his family for three weeks every month. Because he must pass through many check points he no longer carried Bibles and other literature for his flock. “I can only give them whatever Word is hidden in my heart,” he said.

There were three women in our group. Two were wives of pastors and shared about the pressures they felt on their families. A third directed a centre for women who have suffered from severe abuse because of their faith. Each time one of these leaders shared, we made eye contact with God and prayed earnestly for their needs.One man in his 30s sat quietly for most of our time. I finally asked him how we might pray for him.Hesitantly, he told us that he had attended seminary but had not found a church to pastor in his denomination, so he was starting a work among indentured servants who slave in one of the many brick factories throughout Pakistan.He didn’t know if this was God’s place for him. The other leaders immediately affirmed his work –millions of Pakistanis suffer this way and need to hear the good news of the gospel. Again we rose and laid hands on this brother as a veteran pastor prayed fervently for him.

After six hours of prayer we gathered in a candlelit dining room to celebrate communion. As the wafer of bread was snapped in two, I understood: these were my
brothers and sisters. Christ died for them, for me, for all broken people. In Christ we were truly one body and I had the privilege of sharing a little in their suffering.

This year I will spend IDOP Sunday in my home church. But my heart will be with those dear church leaders who give their lives to follow Christ. I will remember the day I spent with them and made eye contact with God.

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