With the second day of ASI came a stark reminder of just how blessed I am to live in a country where being open about my faith is taken for granted. A country where on any given day I will meet men and women who believe that Jesus Christ is the Messiah.
Can you imagine living and working someplace where you cannot openly proclaim that Jesus is your Savior? Someplace where you could very well be called to give your life for doing just that? That is the stark reality in most of the countries in the Middle East and North Africa Union (MENA), a union that includes Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, with 20 countries in all.
This area has a population of more than 500 million people and only around 3,000 Seventh-day Adventists, meaning that if every Adventist living in the MENA Union reached out to one person a day to share the love of Jesus, it would take 450 years before the work is done.
These are the facts that Elder Homer Trecartin (photo above), president of the MENA Union, shared during the morning session today. I have heard some of these numbers before, but I was still blown away by them. This area desperately needs men and women who are willing to uproot, leave family, and put their lives on the line (if needed) to go be tentmakers. Men and women who will, by how they live their lives, witness to the love of Jesus where it is punishable by death to defame the deeply imbedded Islamic beliefs.
I looked at the relative comfort I live in, the freedoms I have, and asked myself if I would be willing to go—to be the face of Jesus. The answer is yes, yes I am. I will go where He sends me…
As Elder Trecartin pointed out, while there are areas where secrecy is required, there are also areas where people are perfectly safe and situations are stable.
Looking back to the General Conference Session and a group of prayer warriors who came together to pray for the 10/40 window (the area of the globe with the least Christians), I remember how we prayed for God to open doors in this region for the love of Jesus to be made known. I was struck by the thought that not only is He opening doors for servants to go in, but He is opening doors for refugees to come out. As situations grow more unstable and ISIS continues to persecute select groups, they are fleeing to Europe, where we can more easily meet their temporal needs.
Think about it: as we provide services and help with basic needs, the hearts of those who have fled will be open and receptive to hearing who Jesus is. God is working even in the darkness of persecution!
The Opposite of Persecution
The flip side came this evening with a powerful testimony given by David Kim. He is a fourth-generation Seventh-day Adventist who has been blessed with talent as a world-renowned cellist and now businessman.
Yet David contracted a serious and life-threatening disease called Congenital Christianity.
This condition was so severe that spending more than 2-3 minutes a day in prayer (that included at meals) was difficult. Being asked as an elder to attend the prophecy seminars his church was sponsoring brought excuse after excuse to his mind as to why he couldn’t. His condition was made worse by good-hearted church members along the way.
That made me wonder if I have ever contributed to Congenital Christianity. Could I have, while meaning to do good, caused someone else to slip into a deeper state of lethargy? Scary thought!
Looking at the differences between these two messages, the contrasts are stark.
In one part of the world, people are willing to die for their faith. In another, people are willing to die because of their lack of faith.
I pray that we, as God’s chosen people, will be willing to step out of our comfort zones to finish the work so that we may all go home.