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These persecuted believers are my role models in the faith



  • October 28, 2019
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Vernon Brewer

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My faith has been completely transformed because of the Christians I have met around the world.

Twenty-eight years ago, World Help was founded … and it all began with a Bible. Back in 1991, I was told about a need — a need for Bibles in Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe. For many years, that part of the world had been resistant to the Gospel, but finally there was an opening, and Christians were begging for God’s Word.

Nearly three decades later, they still are — only now, those Christians are in places like North Korea, China, Iran, and Nigeria.

Over the years, I’ve been privileged to travel and meet with some of these Christ-followers myself. Their passion, faith, and boldness inspire me, and I have heard so many incredible stories of my brothers and sisters in Christ enduring great persecution. They make me examine my own faith and deepen my prayer life. But mostly, they remind me of how important it is to get the Scriptures into the hands of believers around the world.

They believe that God’s Word is worth dying for, and a Bible is their deepest desire. Who are we to deny them that?

Here are a few stories I’d like to share:

North Korea

When I traveled to the North Korean border for the first time, many expressed concerns for my safety. After all, the country has been shrouded in secrecy for many years. But one thing that isn’t a secret is that North Korea is consistently ranked the worst place in the world for Christians to live.

Despite the brutal persecution they face, Christians in North Korea are boldly sharing the Gospel with others, and the church is growing.

I heard the story of one 17-year-old boy who escaped North Korea and was working in China when God called him to go back home and share the Gospel.

He decided the best way he could help others was by delivering copies of God’s Word.

On his way into the country, soldiers stopped him and searched him. When they found the Bibles, they began beating him. The boy cried out, not pleading them to stop, but pleading them to believe in Jesus.

Each time he said the name “Jesus,” the guards hit him harder. But he continued to witness to his torturers. Finally, one of the guards asked him why this Jesus was worth dying for. The boy explained the Gospel to him, and that soldier accepted Christ. The boy was eventually sentenced to a firing squad, but he said that his life was full because God had used him to lead someone to Christ.

In North Korea, owning a Bible or sharing your faith can easily end in death. But for most North Korean believers, the sacrifice is worth it. They are desperate to see their people set free by the Good News of Jesus, and they will stop at nothing until everyone has heard the Truth.

I also heard about a brave Christian woman who was thrown in jail after government officials discovered her Bible. Instead of acting bitterly toward the guards, she was kind to them and got to know their personal stories.

One of the guards shared how his two children had starved to death, so she prayed for him every day. He overheard her prayers and was so impressed by her faith that he became a Christian himself.

For Christians in North Korea, persecution is a very real thing. They are imprisoned, beaten, and shot. But their story never ends there. God uses their suffering, time after time, to grow His church.

Iraq

“Incredible,” I thought to myself. I couldn’t think of a better word to describe the scene before me as I stood in front of thousands of our Iraqi brothers and sisters to share a message of hope.

Dozens of people sat on the floor in the shape of a cross while hundreds more filled the aisles, the balcony, and even spilled out the doors into the overflow area outside.

They called it Christ Day, a day dedicated to thanking God and asking Him to bless Iraq.

These believers had endured so much. Many in the crowd had personally experienced persecution by ISIS. Most would be returning to refugee settlements after the event because they had been driven from their homes. They had lost everything — their homes, their jobs, and for some, even their families — all because they had chosen to follow Jesus.

And the hardest thing was, there was no end in sight. Many would remain in refugee camps for a very long time. Still, they praised God. They knew that as long as He is on the throne, there is still hope for Iraq.

One of the Iraqi refugees I met was a man I’ll call Yasin.

“Home” for Yasin and his family was the third and fourth floors of a mall that had been converted into many tiny rooms to house refugees. But a sign on their door thanking the church for helping the displaced people of Iraq was what struck me.

As I stepped inside their small space, Yasin pointed to several crosses hanging on the walls. He said these decorations serve as reminders that although they have suffered much for their faith, it is still the source of their strength.

Before ISIS invaded Mosul to eradicate Christians, Yasin had a job as an engineer, and his oldest son had a full scholarship to medical school.

Now, Yasin has no job to support his wife and five children, and his son dropped out of school because the travel costs were too much.

Yasin’s biggest dream was to return to his village to rebuild a strong Christian community there. Despite the pain he’s suffered, he still wants to help others by introducing them to Jesus Christ.

China

One of the truly giant heroes of the faith I have ever had the privilege to meet was Pastor Samuel Lamb of China.

He had endured more than 21 years in prison for his faith and because he had refused to register his church with the Chinese government. Fifteen of those years, he did hard physical labor in a coal mine after he tried to make a copy of the New Testament.

I’ll never forget the day I first met this great man. As I settled in the taxi, I pulled a crumpled sheet of paper out of my pocket with Pastor Lamb’s address. When I arrived, the first thing I remember seeing was a long table with about 20 Chinese young people writing feverishly.

I asked Pastor Lamb what they were doing. He matter-of-factly explained, “They are making handwritten copies of the Gospel of John to give to their friends at school tomorrow. We only have one Bible at this time, so we must make copies.”

These young men and women were so hungry for God’s Word that they were knowingly doing the very thing that had landed their pastor in prison!

I asked Pastor Lamb how I could help him. He asked me to bring them more Bibles. Over the years, I visited him many times and each time I took him more Bibles. But every time I visited the house church in Pastor Lamb’s home, there were only a few Bibles left — the rest had been given away to eager believers and seekers.

Often, I saw people holding crumpled, torn pieces of paper. I soon realized these were pages torn from a Bible and shared in the group. This was not done out of disrespect for God’s Word, but for the unquenchable desire to have a small portion of the Bible for their own.

So, what now?

I can’t even begin to understand what these men, women, and children are going through. Any struggles I face for my faith are minimal in comparison. But after listening to their stories, seeing their faces, hearing the emotion in their voices, I refuse to live my life pretending that they don’t exist — pretending that there’s nothing I can do.

They are family … brothers and sisters in Christ, and when one member of the family is hurting, the body must work together. One of the ways you can serve Christians facing persecution is by praying. Seriously commit to spend some time praying for believers around the world. Although you may never get to see the results this side of heaven, I promise that your prayers are opening doors and softening hearts.

But the other thing you can do is send Bibles. From that very first Bible delivery to Russia, I have seen firsthand how a copy of God’s Word changes everything. And for just $10, you can be the one who provides that gift! Best of all, if you act before Nov. 3, your gift will be DOUBLED up to $100,000 thanks to a generous matching gift. That means you will be able to send twice as many Bibles to believers who are crying out for the comfort of God’s Word.

The Bibles you send will encourage persecuted Christians or share a message of hope and truth with a seeker. That precious Book will be passed around and shared until it is tattered and well-worn — and your $10 gift will touch the lives of many with the Good News of Jesus Christ.

When you give Bibles, you not only remind a believer that Jesus cares … you show him that you care, too.

To learn more about how you can make a difference and to prepare for this year’s International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, click the button below.

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