Apr11WedApril 11, 2018
I am sitting in a conference center in Central Asia. Around the room are over 50 believers and a few seekers who have left their home country to come to the center to increase their knowledge of the Word of God. Some have head coverings; others are dressed like most of us would dress in North America. Some have travelled 38 hours by bus just to get here. It is a diverse group; they come from many different backgrounds. Most have never met each other prior to coming. One thing that makes this conference unique from other conferences I have attended is that the majority of the group are young. Typically, the group has been older, and they have been Christians for years. This group is young in the Lord so the teaching is focused on increasing their knowledge of God’s Word.
Over the last number of years, many of the more mature Christians have gone through great persecution; many have been imprisoned and are not able to attend a conference at this time. Therefore, it is greatly encouraging to be with this younger group of believers. It is encouraging to see their hunger to learn the Word of God. They want to be grounded in their faith so when their day of persecution comes, they will be able to stand strong in their faith.
Another thing that makes this conference unique is the translator. For many years, Tony has been the primary translator for all the teaching. This is tiring in itself. However, his job doesn’t end when the teaching is over. Once he is finished with hours of translation, he counsels many of those attending. This time, translation is being done by a young man whose parents first heard the Word of God through TWR’s radio broadcasts. This family no longer lives in their home country as years ago they immigrated to Canada. But they have kept in touch with TWR. With this young man translating, we are seeing the second generation assisting in bringing the message to believers who get limited teaching in their home country. It is very exciting!
This conference was also especially meaningful for six believers as they were baptized here. Arranging the baptism was no easy task. Last year we baptized believers in a bath tub; this year we arranged to use a swimming pool. Baptism is a huge step for these believers; until you are baptised, you can go back to Islam. Once you take the step of baptism, there is no turning back. In the culture of this country, family is everything, so taking the step of baptism can cost you everything: your family, a place to live, your job, everything. As they were baptized, I thought of the song, “No Turning Back.” Taking this step in their lives does mean that there is no turning back.
As I looked at the group, I wondered if these young people realize what Christianity may cost them, the price they might pay at some point in the future. It may mean they are imprisoned; it may mean they are questioned; it may mean they are cut off from their family unit, something that is so important in their culture. How can we help them stand strong?
The reason our center exists is to encourage them in their faith, to ensure that they know that even though they may no longer have a place in their families, they are part of the much-larger family of God. We are here to equip them so when those difficult days come, they can stand firm on the Word of God.
Another unique thing about this conference is that we had a wedding! It is a blessing to have weddings as part of the conference. For most of us, it is hard to imagine that one could not have a Christian wedding; in Canada, we take this right for granted. However, a Christian wedding is simply not possible in their home country. The only way for them to have a Christian wedding is for it to happen outside the country. The marriage at this conference was extra special because this couple has a very interesting story.
They had been married to each other and had a son; then they got divorced. They had a large home, so even though they were divorced, they continued to live in the same house: the husband on one floor and the wife on the other. As the woman was dealing with the trauma of the situation, she learned about the hope that is found in a relationship with Christ. Even though she came from a very religious family who were very strict Islamic believers, she accepted Christ as her Saviour.
Her new faith didn’t just have an affect on her, however. It also impacted her ex-husband and their son. All three of them are now Christians and as a result were reconciled with each other. At the conference, they were remarried. As they took their vows, they began a new life together based on a new set of values, values based on the Word of God. Christ will now be the center of their marriage and family.
This conference center God has given us is much more than a building. It is a place where hearts are healed, where brothers and sisters in the Lord can join in fellowship with others, often for the first time. They get to laugh; they get to sing. They receive discipleship training that they need to be able to stand strong for their faith even in the most difficult of circumstances.
As they return home from this short time of refuge, we need to pray for them. For many of them this might be a one-time opportunity to come. We pray not, but if it is, I pray that we have helped them in some way to walk their journey with Christ, that they know he is with them every step of the way. I ask that you join me in praying for them.