Stories of absolute Christian legends: Corrie Ten Boom, David Wilkerson – and the stand out one for me: God’s Smuggler – the story of a Bible-smuggling adventurer called Brother Andrew. He dared to risk it all, driving his clapped-out VW Beetle across forbidden borders in eastern Europe. He prayer bold prayers that God would “make seeing eyes blind”. I think the fact he and his wife looked like a real-life Ken and Barbie added to the appeal of Brother Andrew.
The classic comic-book illustrations and the story of risk and adventure sucked me in. I wanted to be like this man.
Roll forward and years later I now work for the organisation Brother Andrew founded, Open Doors. For nearly 60 years we’ve been smuggling Bibles and hope to support courageous followers of Jesus who are living out their faith in some of the most dangerous and extreme places on earth. Open Doors is still taking risks – still daring to believe that “any door is open, anytime and anywhere”.
I love the fact that the Open Doors story began with a disgruntled 20-something having the vision and passion to stand up against the injustice he saw in the Soviet Union; where a generation of young people were passionate about Communism and knew nothing about Jesus. Bibles were outlawed; Christian leaders were sent to prison camps and tortured; churches were closed and illegal and the Church was silenced. Yet largely, while all this was taking place, Christians in Western Europe weren’t doing anything to help. Brother Andrew wanted to change this.
Today, the Church is still endangered in many places. There are 100 million people around the world facing persecution because they love Jesus. They are beaten, arrested and tortured. They are threatened, forced to flee and live on the run. Iraq, Nigeria, Syria – the shocking stories are all over the news. More often – they’re not.
It matters so much, because we’re family – “when one part suffers we all do” 1 Corinthians 12:26. This isn’t just another good cause, this is family business. The issue of the persecuted Church isn’t just for some Christians to respond to and care about. I’ve heard it said: “I’m not really into the persecuted Church, I’m more into worship.” Needless to say, I had a quiet word.
As a Christian, it’s my duty to care about the big issues in our world – the issues that really matter to God. As a Christian, I’m called to care about the poor and the oppressed, to speak out against injustice, to care for the lost. I’m also called to care for my wider family. After all, their story is my story. And it’s yours too.
You can share the story by praying and taking action. Open Doors is joining the International Day Of Prayer this year to encourage churches and small groups to experience the world of secret hidden Christians and do a ‘secret church’ meeting. Millions of Christians will never enter a church building. They will never experience the buzz of worshipping with thousands at a summer festival. Church, for them, happens in caves, forests, cellars, in the middle of the night or at dawn. They worship in whispers or in complete silence.
I’ve led quite a few ‘secret church’ gatherings and they’re really powerful encounters – both with God and with the persecuted.
This year, why not start your own journey with your persecuted family and worship with the world’s hidden Christians? And while you’re at it, why not dare to pray bold, massive Brother Andrew-like prayers. Who knows what might happen.
This Sunday marks the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. At threads, we think it’s really important to stand with those around the world who are at risk for their faith. To find out more, and to find resources to use on 16 November, visit http://www.eauk.org/church/networks/religious-liberty-commission/. Follow threads for the rest of the week to hear more about those participating in IDOP.