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Friday, 2 May 2014

Withstanding pressure.

I had a cuppa Cuppa Soup for lunch, to day.  It was vegetable soup.  As  I tried to cool it down enough for me to drink, I stirred it with some force.  The liquid swirled around in the cup.  One by one, the little pieces of vegetable, and croutons, sunk under the pressure.  Except for one little piece of vegetable.  No matter how hard I stirred, it simply refused to go under.  Eventually, I pushed it under with the spoon.

As I watched it, I saw it as an analogy - an analogy of the persecuted church.  Disciples of Jesus in some fifty countries suffer for their faith in Him.  They are subjected to pressure that we, in the relatively safe 'West', cannot even begin to imagine.  But, like that one little piece of vegetable, these dear brothers and sisters maintain their trust in the Sovereign Lord of all that is.  

One of the countries in which I maintain a particular interest, is Nigeria.  The atrocities that have been committed in that country over recent months are almost beyond belief.  In February, Islamic militants stormed a Nigerian secondary school campus early Tuesday, locked a boys' dormitory and set it on fire, killing those who tried to flee and burning the rest alive.  News accounts report that suspected Boko Haram militants killed at least 43 young men during the pre-dawn attack at the school at Buni Yadi, in the north-eastern state of Yobe. A Christian charity active in Nigeria said its sources expect the death toll to rise to 100 or more.  "I heard the cries of some people outside the school even before they invaded the school," said a student who managed to escape, as quoted by Open Doors International (see link, below), which provides aid to Christians who live under pressure because of their faith.

On April 14th, at around 10.00 pm, suspected members of Boko Haram swooped into Chibok, northern Nigeria, in seven Toyota pick-ups. Some of the attackers set government and other buildings ablaze, but others went to the senior secondary school where they overpowered the security guards before herding around 230 of the female students - all between the ages of 16 and 20 - into trucks. They then drove the girls deep into the nearby Sambisa forest. Some 40 of the girls have escaped, but the remainder are still missing.  "Almost every house has a child in this school," said an Open Doors worker. "Cries of parents could be heard all over the town as they prayed for God's intervention."  The abducted girls will probably be responsible for cooking and cleaning for the insurgents. But there is every possibility that these young girls would be forcefully converted to Islam and married off to members of the group or other Muslim men, or simply used as 'sex-slaves' for the 'pleasure' of group members.  Christians in Chibok spoke to Open Doors following the abduction.  "I am not sure of what our daughters are passing through," said Elder Emma, a church leader in the town. "Please help us to pray and seek the face of the Lord on this situation and that the good Lord will reunite us with our beloved children."

Villages have been attacked; homes destroyed; church buildings set on fire - with members inside, and those who tried to escape, shot.  But, like that little piece of vegetable in my soup, these dear people maintain a faith that shames many in the 'West'.  

Of course, there are occasions when the might of the state, or the extremists, or whoever is responsible for the persecution, is too much.  People are swamped, and 'go under'.  However, this is usually by death, and they are assured of a martyr's crown.

Please pray for the persecuted church.  If you are a disciple of Jesus, you are, with them, part of the one body.  We may not experience their physical, and emotional, pain and sorrow.  But let us stand with them, as much as we can.  You will find much more information by following the appropriate links towards the bottom of this page.  Thank you for your support. 

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