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Persecution, Perseverance and Prayer

Persecution, Perseverance and Prayer

Five young men stole away from the city, hoping their trek into the wilderness would go unseen. Getting caught meant facing dire consequences, but one thing made them impervious to the risk—baptism.

We told the story last year of a young man named Solomon* who began interacting with written and audio Bible stories through SESaMe, an online ministry that gives people from Solomon’s homeland access to Scripture. It was created by Ned and Cindy,* Christar workers in the United States whose hearts are still in the Islamic country where they served and where Solomon lives.

Ned was thrilled when Solomon confessed Christ. Solomon shared Bible stories with his parents and his siblings. His brother and two sisters decided to follow Jesus, along with several students from the private school where he taught. Soon, he and seven other new believers were meeting regularly for worship—secretly.

People who decide to follow Jesus where Solomon lives risk everything. Christian conversion is considered apostasy and punishable by death. Still, he and the small band of new believers gathered to study God’s Word, where they learned that believers follow Jesus in the practice of baptism. But how, without a church or any other known believers besides them?

“Can we baptize each other?” Solomon asked Ned, who saw no problem with the idea.

That’s when they came up with the plan for the young men in the group to sneak away. First, they baptized Solomon, and then he baptized them. And then persecution began.

Counting the Cost

Sometimes, we think becoming a believer makes life easier. Jesus frees us from slavery to sin and the guilt and shame accompanying it. But following Jesus means living in opposition to the world. Even a little light stands out in dark places, and apparently, Solomon became a person of interest when a neighbor overheard the online worship on his speaker phone in the courtyard.

Solomon was gathered with his believing friends for worship when the police came to the door. As he was taken away, Solomon thought, “This group is over.”

The police confiscated his cell phone—the one with a Bible app—while thankfully his phone with more sensitive information had been left at home. They questioned him. They beat him. No one heard from him for weeks.

Because Solomon also had Islamic books on his phone, he could truthfully explain that he was a teacher and used them all in his study of religion. This explanation must have satisfied the police. After a village elder negotiated for his release, he returned to his family, and then he went silent. Head trauma from the beatings left him incapacitated. Fear held him fast, and feelings of anger threatened his hope.  

As If Bound with Them

Jesus warned us that while salvation is a gift, accepting it means counting the cost (Luke 14:26-33). For some Christians like Solomon, the cost may be higher than Western believers like us can imagine. We are largely unaware of the violence they face for their faith, and few to none of us have encountered persecution on that level for what we believe.

But there is something that we can do as part of the whole Body of Christ. Solomon knew this and reached out to Ned to ask for prayer. Solomon’s physical and emotional wounds soon healed enough to continue in his faith in spite of his lingering fear. God has also preserved the group of seven other believers, who remained faithful. 

“Where else could we go? We must continue,” he exhorted.

Solomon returned to teaching at the school, sharing eternal truths with his students in addition to their regular studies. But today, he continues in the shadow of warnings.

A cryptic text message from an unknown sender threatened, “You are sending videos. I know you are Christian.” On another day, the police came to the school where he teaches.

“These students must be taken to the mosque to pray every Friday,” they demanded. For Solomon, obedience to them would be disobedience to His Lord. He had decisions to make, and once again, he called on Ned for advice.

Ned laid out the options for believers in the face of persecution. “Some flee. Some stay. Some God rescues and preserves, and some He doesn’t. What will you do?”

As of this writing, Solomon is still teaching, hoping that the police will forget about their visit and their mandate. He and his small group of believers are holding on together, standing on the promise that Jesus will build His Church.

As for us, we can join Ned and Cindy, though half a world away—we pray.


Participate by Praying

  • Ask God to open more hearts to the gospel through the faithfulness of Solomon and his believing friends.
  • Pray for perseverance, protection and faithfulness for Solomon and other believers as they continue to follow Jesus in a hostile environment.
  • Pray for a believing wife for Solomon and others whose prospects of spiritually compatible marriages dwindle in light of their faith.

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