Written by a Cafe 1040 Student
It's late at night and muffled voices began to enter one by one into a storage room of their neighbor's home. They enter this room held together under a single light and there is a sense of quietness held by each of their breaths as they enter together. Even with such silence, they do not seem scared.
Actually if you were to ask one of them they would say there is a joyous occasion taking place. In this room stools are brought in and not too long after, the room is packed out with individuals of seemingly every age.
What these women, men and children are doing is illegal, but they know that. They've accepted it. In fact, some of their ancestor's greatest victories took place in punishment for what is taking place.
Here is a church meeting in secret. Located in a deep valley of a mountainous region here, these followers of Jesus have begun to meet even against the threats of the authorities. Sunday "services" take place at 1 A.M. and finish at 4 a.m.
Because the authorities patrol the area in the morning looking for gatherings like these.
Out of this church meeting I met a local follower, and for security purposes I will call her Z. A mother of four, Z is a strong leader in the community as her father was one of the first followers in the region. Her father became a follower in the region not too long ago, and when he accepted Jesus as his King and Rescuer, his family fell apart. His brother's rejected him. His family was torn apart between following Jesus and Buddha, but his suffering was just the beginning.
Even with this pressure to reject Jesus, he was not shaken and neighbors all around began to hear and follow too. Soon there were gatherings in the area, and that is about the time the authorities heard what was happening. After this, the authorities came and brought him a paper - a paper that held great significance.
On this document, it told him to reject his trust in Jesus or he would be taken from his family, and had no reason to believe that he would see them again.
They questioned him, and then they gave him the choice. A simple check mark could mean a life of comfort but a denial of Jesus. Or he could acknowledge his faith in Jesus and die to himself. He chose the latter.
Z's father was thrown into a jail committing himself to intense labor for 30 days and then taken out.
But why was he released? Not because he gave in. In fact, it was because in this camp he was rejoicing as he saw it as a time of freedom from his opium addiction.
What the enemy meant for evil, God turned to good.
I remember when I first became a follower of Jesus and I read Acts. I was startled by the passion of the church even amongst suffering and pressure, and how the gospel continued though those circumstances.
I didn't understand why I didn't see anything like this in America. I thought maybe the gift of freedom, which gives us the comfort and security we have to meet together, is a trade off for seeing God work. But after seeing this group of believers, I think I've been convicted that I was believing lies about this.
I think one thing I have been guilty among my brother's and sister's back home is substituting God for comfort in the church. I substituted true servant-hood to Jesus for an expectation of programs, services, and a consumer mindset in the church. In turn, I have taken part in reducing true authenticity out of my church.
Before this summer, I held on to a consumer-driven mentality in the church. I thought the church should be more focused on the response, rather than the message. I wouldn't say that in person, and in reality I would deny I thought that, but I believed it through my actions. I would look at a church that had less material comforts in their Sunday gatherings as underprivileged.
I have began to learn that although material wealth or comforts to aid in an church are not necessarily wrong, they are a temptation to take the reliance of God out of the church. We see this in the huge emphasis we can easily place in what our services look like - how they will be responded to, rather than being vulnerable with each other even if it hurts or feels uncomfortable. We dress up to hide from rejection or authenticity on a Sunday morning as if we have to hide our baggage from Jesus or the other believers who are supposed to love us unconditionally.
Even what is talked about on those mornings can be more catered to a "feel good response" rather than that of being broken before God in our mistakes for repentance.