A few days ago, I was privileged to attend a talk given by a team from the amazing ministry called Open Doors UK & Ireland which works with the persecuted church all over the world. Its mission is to ‘ strengthen the church and to be the church in the most hostile places. It does amazing work supporting and providing for Christians who suffer and are killed for their faith.
This particular event was very close to my heart, the speakers were all from the North of Nigeria (my country) and had personally experienced the cruelty and barbarism of boko haram. One sister described how fleeing from their village as she approached, they had been stopped. She was with her husband, two sons and two dependents young girls. They were asked if they were Muslims or Christians. When they confessed their faith, they were all asked to lie face down on the ground.
She recalled hearing a burst of machine gun fire which at the time, she thought were guns being fired into the air. It was only when the women were allowed to stand up that she realized they had just murdered her husband and 2 sons in cold blood. They were twin boys, 26 years old, just out of university.
Together, the team spoke of levels of cruelty, barbarism and persecution that defied all belief and human understanding, of churches blown up while people worshiped, of a young man driving a car packed with explosives into a Sunday school full of children, of pastors maimed, shot and killed, of women raped and children murdered for no other reason than the fact that they believed in Jesus and called themselves by His name. “Christian or Muslim?” (The answer for a Christian could be an instant death sentence).
(Now we know that boko haram does not represent the views of most peace loving Muslims who equally abhor their actions and this article is not about sowing more seeds of division. We are called to love not hate!!!)
The stories they told ripped my heart apart but even more than that, I sat in awe of their faith and love for Jesus in the face of such persecution. Even as she told us of her unspeakable loss, she proclaimed her love for her King, and in the days of captivity she and 30 other women had experienced following their capture, they refused to renounce their faith, they fasted, worshiped and prayed, holding each other up and continuing to confess Jesus in Lord. Can you imagine that dear brother and sister?
Today as I listen to Israel Houghton sing one of my favorite praise songs…Hosanna in the Highest, Let Your Name Be lifted High, I think about what it really means to lift the name of Jesus above all things – to confess his name when staring down the barrel of a gun as the students did in Kenya, to breathe his name as your throat is being cut on a beach by Isis murderers. To be persecuted for your faith as these brothers and sisters had in Nigeria and as so many are doing even now as I write and you read.
Philippians 2:10 says – “so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW and in Mark 13:7 Jesus warns us of the times to come. As terrorists claim innocent lives in France, Beirut, Kenya and so many other places…as people die in Syria and all over the middle east…we know that the times of which He spoke approach.
So what can we do as Christians? We can lift His name High. At the end of the talk, the team from Open Doors asked for one thing above all else – Our prayers. Yes, they need financial support too but as Christians we need to lift His name High , to pray without ceasing, to shout the name of Love above all hate.
To show the world who Jesus is and to spread His good news of salvation in the darkest places. Open Doors is an amazing organization. They need our prayers and yes if possible our financial support too.
They work in the most dangerous of places, putting their lives on the line, yet they are filled with a love and faith that humbles and inspires me and puts my little woes into sharp perspective.
Brothers and sisters, today please pray for the persecuted church all over the world, pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ being killed and tortured for their faith, pray that His name will be lifted High above all things and in your own life, today and every day…Lift His name High and let the name Jesus be glorified.