We all have our little brush with death each in his own way. Granted, for most of us, that must have been driving some place and, of course, we are never at fault. For a few of us it might be something that happened during working a dangerous job like operating a crane on a sky scraper or training a lion in the local circus. But how many of us can claim that their life almost ended because of their faith? And how many are not able to say that because they are no longer with us? These are not stories we hear about in first world countries. Maybe in the far east, maybe somewhere in the jungles of Africa, but for sure not in Israel. Israel is one of the leading countries in technology today, it is powerful, versatile, welcoming and Holy. But hidden in the wrinkles of an offset printed newspaper, close to where the staples are, you find stories you'll never read or hear about. These are some.
Jack and Jill, obviously borrowed names, came to the Lord at an early age. Their father came to the Lord first and soon his wife followed and naturally the whole family. This was not easy since they were basically switching religions which should have lead to them being killed. Jack and Jill are still believers to this day. In fact, that is an understatement, they are full blown disciples, witnesses and living proof that God reaches into the darkest of holes with his light. When Jill got baptized she could not celebrate it with her family nor could she post a cool FaceBook picture. And when we shared a photo from our last annual youth conference we had to edit her out. Furthermore, both of them have questions about the future. What would happen if they marry someone the rest of their family would oppose? Or who would be brave enough to marry one of them and face the same consequences they would? Worse yet, what if the rest of the village finds out and decide it's time to honor what their religion requires of them in such a situation? It could be any day.
Arnold, another borrowed name, lost his father at an early age. He grew up along with many questions and very few answers. One day, he met a girl at work who loved Jesus, and she started answering some of the questions he had. This Jesus intrigued him, and he wanted to know him more and more until he fell in loved with Him. Unlike you and me, he did not have the privilege of being expected to believe in Jesus: he had to convert. And, much like converting currency, his conversion came at a price. He is another strong believer, but one who had to leave home because of his faith. He got baptized a few months ago, many pictures were taken, but none of him were allowed to be published; we are happy one day he will meet the Lord, but we'd rather that be later than sooner.
Tommy, you guessed it, heard about Jesus many years ago when a preacher came to visit his family. He was young, but the peacher's words stuck with him and changed his life. Talk about sowing seeds in faith right?! A few months ago this young man saught to find this preacher again, and he did. Tommy’s family is the only Christian family left in their village, and this preacher taught them to love the Lord. Being a follower of Christ means being willing to endure what He did; something Tommy had to endure himself. Seven young men jumped him, beat him up and insulted him for being a "filthy Christian." He got home and got in the car with his parents to go to the police, only to be blocked by several cars to prevent them from doing so. Soon enough a large crowd showed up and they ran back into the house. Tommy and his family, those "filthy Christians," decided they were going to leave the home and move to another village, except for their father who decided to stay to protect their property. When the elders of the village came to resolve the problem, Tommy's father shared the Gospel with them and they were "amazed at the words of grace coming from his mouth."
These are all people our team minister to directly. And there are many similar stories that we would like to share with more details but we can’t. Be in prayer for those who minister among those people. Pray for those who go after the lost sheep in the "other barn." Pray for those whose association with such conversion can lead to an equal punishment. Pray for those who are willing to go where you dare not, and for those who do so knowing that dying is gain!