two tales of tears shed: a story of persecution from a frontline worker

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Truly I tell you, Jesus replied, no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for Me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.

— Mark 10:29-30

Some years ago, a GCM disciple maker in a restricted-access nation was in a meeting with local believers where she would usually stay with the children. However, this meeting was special. All the people stayed together to pray and say goodbye to one of their friends, “Sari”, who had made a difficult decision. Because of Sari’s faith in Jesus, her family was persecuting her. Her choices were 1) stay and return to Islam, 2) stay but do not return to Islam and be killed or 3) flee to safety in a different nation. Deciding to stand firm in her faith in Jesus, Sari made the challenging decision to leave. In her mind, fleeing was her only option, but leaving behind her family and the only life she knew broke her heart.

When the meeting started, the disciple maker received text messages from a friend who was watching the World Cup match. The friend, without knowing what the disciple maker was doing at that moment, sent multiple text messages throughout the match, sharing the heartbreak and anxiety that was happening in the game. Only after the meeting was over did the disciple maker check her phone and see all the missed messages. After reading them, she realized the significance of the two contrasting scenes that had unfolded at the same time.

During the going away gathering, everyone was crying. Through tears, Sari spoke about her children—her deep love and concern for them. Yet even in this most desperate hour, she did not regret having met Jesus and giving her life to Him. Through more tears, she shared about the sweet relationship she had found in Him and how much she loved Him. All together, they sang a song, part of which declared, “Glory to You, O Father, to You, O Holy Spirit.” 

At the same time the believers in the gathering were crying and worshiping the Lord, the text messages from the disciple maker’s friend were telling a different story—one about another group of people who were also crying, but over a soccer match. With their team losing badly, they were all in utter despair. They even started praying for their team to play better—even atheists were praying.

Yet in a restricted-access nation, a woman—persecuted by her family for following Jesus—was on her knees with her hands lifted up to God singing “Glory to You, O Father, to You, O Holy Spirit.” As those watching the game were crying about their team losing and being out of the tournament, this woman was also crying, realizing she needed to quickly leave her family and nation. As the meeting progressed, all in attendance began praying for her and blessing her, making a commitment to pray even after she fled.

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Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: For Your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

— Romans 8:35-37

At the end of the gathering, our disciple maker said goodbye to Sari, both confident that one day they would see each other again. They knew that they were winners—more than conquerors. They had decided to run the race and play in the game with the prize in their hands, knowing that persecution cannot stop the gospel going forth or separate them from the love of God. They believed this—even when they cried, even when they did not feel it. And they still believe this.

Two groups of people crying for vastly different reasons—one over a lost sporting event and one for a fellow believer needing to flee from a dangerous situation. As the disciple maker pondered the dramatic difference, she thanked God for bringing her to this restricted-access nation and for having the privilege of crying while sharing in His suffering.

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But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed.

— 1 Peter 4:13

There is still time to fuel the frontlines in the Middle East. please visit our Giving page and choose ‘Fuel the Frontlines’ from the fund options.

To read more about living in the tension of persecution, please visit our pray page.

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