One of our mentorship teams recently had the opportunity to have lunch with some missionary workers in our base town. This couple has been here for almost two decades and they have many stories to share. However, it was one of the locals that captivated the room with his own story.
Ben is a 29-year old, hard-working husband and father. He is also deaf. Ben had just finished serving everyone’s food and drink orders when he asked if he could pray for our meal and time together. What followed were a couple minutes of the most joyful and expressive prayer that I’ve ever seen. Not heard, seen. Ben’s signing was more like dancing.
Ben proceeded to share more about the realities of being a believer in his home country. He talked about the persecutions and restrictions from authorities as well as run-ins with the police. However, through it all, Ben never stopped smiling. Even when he shared about the time local authorities confiscated everyone’s motorbike or when the police threw everyone attending the deaf church in jail. In his own words, this was because, “God is good and takes care of us.” A smile was still on Ben’s face when he shared about his abusive in-laws and the time he and his wife had to find different housing for their safety. Ben signed, “We just pray to the Father for them and try to keep peace while loving them.”
Hearing Ben share about how his community of Believers handles the daily challenges here was uplifting and encouraging. He joked that when the police slander the deaf community of Believers that they don’t hear any of it. This had the room rolling in laughter only to soberly quiet down when he signed to ask whether it was hard for any of us, as Americans, when we decided to follow Jesus. Not a single one of use could raise our hands. Sure there is the occasional hardship, but nothing compared to Ben’s experience. His story is one that is drastically different from my own and much of the Western world’s Believers. However, it is a common reality for followers of Christ in the rest of the world to face hardship and encounter resistance solely for casting their faith in Christ Jesus. Through it all, however, they are left standing stronger and smiling all the same.
Ben’s story brought me to three pieces of scripture that I wanted to share with you:
“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”
“But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”