TWR Canada former president, Ray Alary blogs on Thursdays, telling behind-the-scenes stories and ministry updates you won't find anywhere else. Come back to read the latest, or sign up to get Ray's blog delivered directly to your email inbox.
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North Americans celebrated New Years over four months ago. Chinese New Year was celebrated in February; and in March, the Persian New Year was celebrated. This is a time of year when many Persians vacation, and their time off to travel provides us with an excellent opportunity to meet with them outside their homeland. For many years now, TWR Canada has held training conferences at this time, and this year was no exception.
Our conference this year got off to a slow start. Most of the people who attend the conference come by road. This year, travel became almost impossible for a couple of days as there was snow in the mountains, and buses were forced to slow down to a crawl. When they could move again, the number of buses arriving at the border at the same time made crossing a prolonged process as well. Some people added a whole day to their journey because of this. I went to the bus station expecting to pick up five people … when 16 got off the bus we were very excited! We praised the Lord when the final group arrived!
During conferences, all meals are shared together, with different sub-groups sharing responsibility for cooking, cleaning up, etc. There are typically a few speakers, speaking one after the other, and this year was no exception. And our speakers don’t just get to speak; they counsel and answer questions between sessions. Most of the people attending consider these conferences to be their church as they can’t meet freely inside their home country. They come with excitement and many questions.
One speaker got up and went around the room, asking a simple question of all those in attendance: “Why are you here?” I was so encouraged that I want to share many of their responses. As I sat there, I thought to myself that we often assume these things are part of being a Christian. As you read through the list, check how many you take for granted.
The first one I think that everyone in the west takes for granted is that we get to sing. That isn’t the case for these brothers and sisters in the Lord. They are either part of a home group or no group at all. Often before coming to our conferences, they don’t know any other believer and have not had any Christian fellowship. They have never had the chance to join their voices with others in praise to God.
Let me list some others:
I get to serve God and others when I am part of the conferences.
I get to meet with other believers for the first time.
I get to have fellowship without fear of someone arresting me for fellowshipping with other believers.
I get to simply help other believers out in small and simple ways.
I get answers to my questions from people who have in-depth knowledge of the Scriptures.
I get to know God better; the training is focused on discipling believers.
It prepares me for when persecution will certainly come. If I’m not equipped in the Word of God, it makes standing firm difficult.
We get away from business and the struggles we face each day. We can have true and uninterrupted fellowship with God and other believers.
I learn new things from new teachers.
I make new friends and renew fellowship with old friends.
I get to see how God is working in others.
I leave energized, prepared to fight the battle with Satan again.
Some who come to the conference have not yet prayed the sinner’s prayer. During this conference, a brother came to faith; he came with no intention of making this commitment, but God spoke to his heart, and he will now go home a new creation! How wonderful it is to see one who was living in darkness come to faith!
During the conference, three people went through the waters of baptism. This is a huge step for a Persian believer. There is no going back to Islam once you are baptized. Yet, in spite of the great risk to these people upon going home, they do it willingly.
We were also blessed to have a brother who was recently released from prison. His crime for imprisonment was simply that he is a believer, and he can’t help but tell others about his faith in Jesus.
It’s hard to put into words the experience of these conferences. They are encouraging for not just the Persian believers, but for each person who plays a part in making them happen. TWR Canada loves being a part of the Persian ministry, and we are so thankful for all of you who make this ministry possible. Thank you for having a part in encouraging brothers and sisters who are constantly persecuted for simply loving Jesus.