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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...




Celebrating in the Face of Suffering

By Greg Mundis
Nov. 2, 2014

I first visited Sri Lanka in the mid-1990s when I was area director for Central Europe. My family and I were headed to India for meetings, and a Sri Lankan friend arranged for us to make a side trip to his country.

During this trip, I got my first glimpse of life in the Buddhist world. The experience made a deep impact on my heart and greatly influenced my prayers for Sri Lanka. I remember telling my family I could spend my life in ministry to that island nation and its people.

One of my most vivid memories was a visit to a Buddhist temple. I watched as people participated in ceremonies during which they prostrated themselves or walked on hot coals, trying to find favor or merit with the spirit world. The images were haunting.

With these scenes replaying in my mind, I returned to Sri Lanka in early July to participate in the 100th anniversary of the Sri Lanka AG. What I experienced this time was in stark contrast to the hopelessness and despair I witnessed on my previous trip. With great joy and excitement, people from across the nation gathered in Colombo, the nation’s capital, to worship God and celebrate what He has done.

Before the celebration, organizers estimated an attendance of 15,000, but more than 22,000 people came. Part of the group participated via video at a second location because the main stadium could not hold the crowd. People came at great personal sacrifice — some walking long distances or riding many hours on crowded buses. Personal comforts were of secondary importance. Their sole desire was to gather with other believers to celebrate God’s work in their nation.

Among the group were nearly 500 AG pastors who lined up across the front of the stadium. Each wore a clerical collar — a government-mandated item designed to identify Christian pastors. As these men and women took their places in front of the crowd, I was struck by their great commitment and dedication to God.  They put themselves and their families on the line every day to share the gospel and are so convinced and committed to the charge of the Great Commission they are willing to live — or die — to see it fulfilled. I was both humbled and overwhelmed to be among them.

The church in Sri Lanka is, in many ways, a microcosm of believers in numerous areas of the world who suffer daily for the cause of Christ. Their passionate commitment to Jesus and their belief that He is the only way to heaven is intolerable to those who oppose the message of the Cross.

In country after country, opposition to the gospel is increasing. Even in nations that proclaim religious freedom, believers are ridiculed for their faith. Such a response should not come as a surprise since Jesus told His disciples, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first” (John 15:18, NIV).

In some places believers endure obvious harm involving beatings, imprisonment, and destruction of livelihood. In other places, their sufferings take subtler forms, such as being refused enrollment at a university, rejected for employment, or denied promotion in a job. Whatever their situation, they need us to lift them before the Lord and pray earnestly on their behalf. All of us make up the body of Christ, and as the apostle Paul said, “If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26, NASB).

As I travel around the United States, I hear people express their gratitude for living in a land in which we are free to worship without fear of harm. However, this blessing comes with the potential risk of insulating us from the reality of what believers in other places are enduring. Whether from gospel-resistant religions, oppressive governments, or society in general, they face suffering as a regular part of daily life. We pray for suffering believers when we hear reports of violence that have come against them, but we quickly become distracted by our own agendas.

Looking out across the great crowd that gathered in Colombo, my heart was stirred by the plight of these Sri Lankan believers who had come to celebrate what God has done since their fellowship was established. Through the years and under difficult circumstances, they have continued to preach the gospel and boldly stand for Christ. Today the national fellowship has grown to more than 600 churches and thousands of believers.

Those who gathered for the centennial celebration serve as testimonies to God’s faithfulness. As they honored the past, they eagerly expressed anticipation for the future, despite the uncertainty they face. To them, the risks are nothing compared to the joy of knowing Christ and sharing Him with the lost.

May their passion for Him serve as a challenge to us all.


 

GREG MUNDIS is executive director of AGWM.

 

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