Surprising Stories from Creative Access Nations
by Every Home • July 27, 2023
Maybe you have to be crazy to see a riot as a gift that draws the attention of the authorities away from you. Even if you aren’t crazy, don’t you have to be a “special” Christian to risk everything for the gospel? Sometimes we may think so.
The believers who recently shared their story of carrying Christ amid unrest, however, seem ordinary.
“We easily handed out gospel literature in the empty streets,” they write. “But we never knew when the crowd would appear. People were burning trash cans. If the police came, we would have to leave. To avoid being caught with literature, we sometimes hid it on the streets.”
Stories of persecution may be familiar, but the opposition believers face is not always what we might expect. In complex, broken places, fractures divide along many cultural and religious lines. Fear, hopelessness, and anger are often more universal than one set of beliefs.
“A young man thought we were distributing Islamic brochures,” the report from our team continues. “He started to argue with us because many youth are against Islam.”
The angry young man drew a crowd. Someone slapped one of the believers.
“They were ready to beat us up,” the team says. “To tell you the truth, we were really scared. But one of our brothers was filled with the Spirit, saying that our God was the God of love. People began to listen with interest.”
The believer who had been struck asked to pray over the people and the nation.
Often in places that seem the most hostile, the gospel moves swiftly because people are eager for hope. In this sense, the places we might think of as “closed” are actually wide open.
“It was the first time we had seen so many people gathered outside for prayer,” our team says. “Several people said that they had been living under a strict religious regime for many years and now felt love for the first time, because our brother was beaten, and he still prayed for them.”
We might be awed by a believer’s love for their “enemies,” but, often, believers do not see the people they carry Christ to as their enemy—they are their neighbors. The fear they feel is mixed with love. It’s messy and surprising.
“We were greatly frightened, and, at the same time, we had joy in our hearts.”
“I’m thankful to God for using us this month,” writes one believer. “The police blocked streets and set up strict surveillance.”
A police officer approached and questioned our team. He asked for a New Testament.
“We were greatly frightened” our team shares. “And, at the same time, we had joy in our hearts. We were worried he would arrest us, but he told us his child had blood cancer and asked us to pray. He told us we could freely spread the gospel in this street; he would keep anyone from bothering us.”
We may expect the courage of believers in hostile places to be loud and impressive. But heroic faith in these contexts often looks like the quiet persistence of Christ’s love amid real fear.
It’s God who works mightily in these stories, not people.
“We met Michael, a nineteen-year-old young man,”an Every Home team shares. “He said that Muslims are better than Christians because Christians do not live by Christ’s principles.”
The young man became angry as he spoke. He wanted proof that Jesus is God. None of the believer’s words seemed to make any difference.
But when disaster struck the area the next day, the believer met the same young man in the street.
“I repent of all my words, and I believe in Christ!” the young man said.
Perhaps it was witnessing the power of the disaster or the compassion of believers in its wake. Perhaps the seeds of what the believer said germinated in this man’s heart. The work of the gospel is often mysterious, but the evidence of its impact was immediately apparent in the young man’s life. He began to coordinate the distribution of medicine to those in need through a local church, becoming the evidence of Christ he wanted to see.
We can imagine places and hearts that are “closed” to the gospel. Sometimes, we think those places and hearts are very different from our own. But the risk of the gospel is the same for everyone: What if it changes you forever? What if we become the sort of crazy people who carry peace in conflict, pray for the children of our “enemies”, and are so radically transformed by repentance that people notice?
Stories from “closed” places shouldn’t make us feel like lesser Christians. Rather, they should encourage us to open our hearts to be changed in the same wonderful, surprising way.