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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Persecuted Church

Today, I am thankful for the freedom I have to worship God, read the Bible and meet with other believers in safety and without fear.

I was a little embarrassed on Sunday that I was not aware that it was the International Day of Prayer for the persecuted church.  There was a display set up with information regarding this special day at our church.

Read Shafia's Story taken from some of the information given by The Voice of the Martyrs
"They were Christians in a place where Chirst followers are considered profane.  Islamic law ways these traitors to the Muslim faith can be killed.  Shafia and her family were known for their Christian faith.  In 2004, her brother, Rafi, stood up for Christian girls in their village.  He was murdered for his courage.  His killers were never brought to justice.  With Rafi's death, the family lost their spiritual leader.  Life only got worse.  A Muslim man in Shafia's village tried to trick her into marrying.  When she refused, he kidnapped her at gunpoint.  For four months, Shafia was locked in a small, upstairs room.  Each night the man raped her.  He tried to force her to accept Islam.  She refused, and he beat her.  Every night the cycle repeated.  Shafia's only solace was the memorized psalms she repeated as she was beaten."
We are blessed in the United States of America as believers to be able to go to church and worship with our brothers and sisters in Christ without the fear of "getting caught".  I think sometimes we take this freedom for granted.  Sure we may have acquaintances or even friends who may make fun of us for the stand we take for Christ or for our devotion to meeting with other believers.  But we have not gotten to the point of having to fear for our very lives as some of our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world do.

Like Shafia and her family does:
"Shafia's kidnapping nightmare ended when she found the door to her crude prison unlocked.  She immediately ran home to her family.  She thought she was finally safe.  But just as the nightmare ended another one began.  Her family had borrowed money from a local businessman to file charges against the kidnapper.  To pay back their debt, they were forced to work as slave labor in a brick kiln.  Shafia and 11 family members shared a tiny mud room at the brick kiln with no kitchen and no bathroom.  Every day the family made mud bricks for 12 hours a day. They earned just $3 for every 1,000 bricks.  Only faith in God sustained Shafia.  Each evening she prayed with her family and read Scripture.  Each Thursday night, they attended a nearby prayer meeting."

What sacrifice do we really make?  Or do we treat the Lord's Day like any other day and really make no sacrifice at all?  What message are we sending our kids about reverence for God on the Lord's Day?  Are we really making any sacrifices at all?

Shafia's story continues:
"The Voice of the Martyrs heard about the family and paid their debt to teh brick kiln owner.  'Surely this is answer to our prayers', said Shafia.  Now her family operates a taxi business with a rickshaw purchased through VOM's Families of Martyrs fund.  Each year VOM assists hundreds of families like Shafia's, to encourage them when they suffer and to enable them to continue to live out their faith in a hostile world.  Shafia's family now hosts a prayer meeting for friends and neighbors in their home.  They continue to let their faith in Jesus Christ shine in Pakistan.  The risks have not changed.  But neither has God.  Shafia does not hold a grudge against those who killed her brother or against the man who tortured her.  Despite her difficulties, Shafia told us, 'I have forgiven those who persecuted me.'" 

I am humbled and yes I am thankful.

What are you thankful for today.

Counting it all Joy,