Friday, November 16, 2007

Response #7: Visit Them

(The following is part of a series of "responses to the persecuted church" based on a sermon by Eric Schumacher at An Infant in a Cradle. As a preface to his sermon, Schumacher noted: "It is important that we hear these stories. However, hearing them is not enough. We are called to respond. So, I want to ask this question...: How do we respond to the persecuted church?" I'm breaking down his "ten responses to the persecuted church," listing his suggestions and adding my thoughts.)

To say this series has been on hiatus would be putting it nicely. The truth is, it's been hopelessly sporadic since the very beginning. The fact that I started it in conjunction with the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church last year, and IDOP 2007 just passed, gives you some idea.

My persecuted church blogging has disappeared altogether since Elijah was born. I've been too absorbed in my own life to give much thought to persecuted Christians. I was embarrassed to realize last week that somehow I completely forgot about IDOP this year--either I never got materials from Voice of the Martyrs, somehow, or I got them long enough ago for them to get buried and forgotten; at any rate, I shamefully missed an opportunity to help my church remember and encourage the persecuted. (I'm hoping to organize something after the first of the year.)

Meanwhile, my brothers and sisters around the world are having babies, too, under much more dire conditions. They're facing trials that make my struggles look easy-peasy--and continuing to follow God faithfully in the midst of it all. So I'm resuming my series, attempting to remind myself not to be so self-absorbed, but to "Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body" (Hebrews 13:3).


7. Visit them.

I always love getting an email or a phone call or a piece of real mail from a faraway friend. What a blessing to know she's thinking of me and to reconnect in some small way! But an even greater blessing is to see her face to face--to hug her, to sit down over coffee and see her facial expressions as she tells me a story, to spend time just being together. And doesn't it mean much more to know someone traveled a long distance to see you--to know they spent time and money and effort because spending time with you was important to them?

I imagine a personal visit from a brother or sister in Christ would bring much the same encouragement to a persecuted Christian. But how could we do this? Doesn't it seem unrealistic, or at the very least unusual?

Yes--that's why I'm going to defer to Eric Schumacher to tell us about this one :)

In 1 Thessalonians 3:1-3, Paul writes, “we sent Timothy, our brother and God's coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, that no one be moved by these afflictions.” Apparently, letters were not enough. Paul saw it as necessary that suffering Christians receive face-to-face encouragement. So, he sent Timothy to them. That is just one of many occasions where this happens (cf Acts 14:21-22; 2 Corinthians 7:5-7; Philippians 2:19; Colossians 4:7-9; 1 Thessalonians 3:9-10; 2 Timothy 1:4).

I have heard of churches sending members around the world to simply visit persecuted Christians to encourage them. I used to think this was wasteful—we should use our money on unreached people, not on visiting those who have the Scripture and know Christ! I don’t think it is wasteful anymore. I think it is biblical. We ought to be involved in sending people to encourage the persecuted church.

A helpful exhortation from Scripture. Face-to-face encouragement does go even further than a letter. So, can you pack your bags tomorrow and head to China to visit a group of persecuted believers? Not likely. But you can pray about opportunities--and you can at least be involved in doing the sending. Voice of the Martyrs has staff members whose job it is to visit persecuted Christians. Their visits provide information on what the persecuted church needs, and seeing persecuted believers firsthand helps to get their stories out. But it also serves to encourage the persecuted. So by donating to VOM, you can support this vital ministry of encouraging the persecuted church by visiting them.



Previously in this series:
Response #1: Do Not Be Surprised
Response #2: Remember Them
Response #3: Research Them
Response #4: Pray for Them
Response #5: Have Generous Compassion on Them
Response #6: Encourage Them

2 comments:

kristin said...

Thank you for sharing this perspective! I've heard of people going to visit missionaries overseas or those in full-time ministry, but the concept of visiting persecuted Christians is a new one to me. Thanks for opening my eyes to this opportunity.

Eric M Schumacher said...

Thanks, Amy.

On Wednesday evenings, our church is watching "Underground Reality: Vietnam." It is documentary on several teenagers that VOM took to visit and encourage the persecuted church in Vietnam. It is a great example of what your post is about. The DVD's are available on VOM's website (http://www.persecution.com/).