Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Walking by Faith in the Midst of Persecution

All people in Pakistan are shaken by the news of this outbreak of violence against school children. Although this tragedy was not directed against Christians, the Christian community grieves with their Muslim neighbors in the senseless loss of life.

The entire country is in mourning and families are concerned for the welfare of their children in other schools across the nation. Sadly, innocent children are often the most vulnerable to attack.

I have never seen my son afraid before. Now he fears to go back to class because his school is near the Army public school in our city that is similar to the one in the recent attack.

It is thought that nearly 1,000 Taliban militants are in jails charged with various violations and other incidents, but there appears to be no clear way to punish them. The expectation is that nothing will happen. Previously, terrorists have not feared the law because they know that they will be set free. This is a concern for all.

Most Christians in this country are afraid to raise their voices against the persecution. A Christian cabinet member was assassinated in 2011 when he spoke out against laws that lead to open persecution against Christians.

I received a death threat letter from the Taliban in 2011. I briefly fled the country but realized that God has called me to serve my people and build His church in this place. Daily I serve the Lord with fear as to whether I will come home safely and my children will return from school. My response to fear is to walk in faith.

I have learned that following Christ is difficult but it is far easier than leaving Him.

The Christian community in Pakistan lives under oppression on a daily basis. Even so, there is a growing network of churches that are engaged in jubilant worship despite poverty, oppression, and persecution. When given the opportunity, they seek to demonstrate the love of God to all their neighbors. They are humble, capable leaders who seek to speak truth and address the lies of the culture, understanding that severe opposition could occur at any time.

Incidents like the school attack provide opportunities for speaking the truth of the Gospel, that our God is a God of love and peace. We often accomplish this by meeting the physical needs of poverty or natural disasters.

Demonstrations of the love of God in times of need through clean water, emergency relief, and the distribution of Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes have opened doors for sharing the Gospel and making disciples. Sharing the story of the Good Samaritan even to Muslims has been effective as it provides the opportunity to ask, “Who is our neighbor?”

Because of persecution, the Samaritan’s Purse name cannot be openly used in relief work in Pakistan; rather the local charity name is used. We are grateful for the willingness of Samaritan’s Purse to provide services without publicly getting the credit in order that the Gospel may not be hindered.

We can trace a Samaritan’s Purse gift of 350 blankets for emergency relief back in 2005 to an ongoing story of transformation in an entire community and beyond. In 2010, a water filtration plant was added to this former Hindu refugee village. Almost immediately, a small church of 40 grew to 350 people—one for each blanket. In 2013, a Samaritan’s Purse grant allowed the building of a permanent church facility in this town, and 500 worshipers gathered last Christmas.

This year, a family has been rescued and resettled from human trafficking. The local church is hosting a school and has recently reached an entire Hindu community that has converted to Christ. The ongoing impact of that original emergency relief has allowed the local pastor to serve this community in a way that continues to open doors for sharing the truth of God’s love.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak on behalf of the church of Pakistan during this time of great need. We ask for your ongoing prayers on behalf of humble leaders and congregations gathering to worship during this Christmas season.

Pray that Christians will take comfort in the message of Christ’s birth and that they will grow in their knowledge and love of Jesus. Pray that God would provide resources for these brave believers to continue to reach into their culture with a message of hope and love. Pray that they will find ways to effectively show love to their neighbors—and even their enemies—in a way that points others to Jesus.