“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”
Matthew 13:44-46 (ESV)
In the Persian-speaking world, becoming a Christian is illegal and risky. Because of their faith, the majority of Christians experience some kind of suffering. This may include being arrested, interrogation, imprisonment, a loss of employment and/or rejection from their family. We have heard so many testimonies (like those of Jake and Lina). For some, their solution is to try to keep their faith a secret. However, many people are employed by the government or police, some of them secretly. This means that it is often just a matter of time before a believer is caught.
As well, many believers and even other non-Christians don’t trust each other. They talk, they become good friends, but they do not trust each other. In addition, many house churches have been closed by the government. House churches generally consist of a small group of believers that meet together in a home. All Persian official churches were closed long ago. Even those who are in house churches that have not been discovered are afraid to meet. As a result, Christians are scattered and become weak in their faith with no church for mutual encouragement, learning or strengthening.
If someone is arrested, they are labelled a Christian and they lose their job, and most employers will not hire them. Many new Christians are rejected by their families and, with home churches scattered and not meeting, they are alone, often watched, and have no way of earning money. It is not surprising that many flee the country after being released following their arrest.
This is the cost of being a Christian in this area of the world. Many believers have given up everything. But, like in Matthew 13, they have found something that is worth the price: a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.
These believers value the treasure they have found. It is worth the cost. Many reach out to TWR Canada’s follow-up team for encouragement, counselling and teaching. Radio listeners have told us that the strength to hold firm to their faith in difficult circumstances comes from knowledge of the Bible and the depth of teaching they have received. For this reason, even while facing persecution, jail time or isolation, they have asked us not to stop our work. They need solid teaching to endure the challenges they are facing. They suffer, and they ask us for more teaching so that they can endure for the sake of Christ.
Many are eager to come to TWR Canada’s conference centre, hungry to learn and deepen their faith. Some travel long distances – for some of them, several days on public transit – to attend a conference. These people are so hungry to learn and understand the Word of God. They want to know the peace and joy of Jesus and be grounded in their faith.
Baptism is a huge step for people from an Islamic background. Until someone is baptized, they can return to Islam. But once this has taken place, they cannot go back. And yet, people come to TWR Canada’s conference centre, asking, or even pleading in some cases, to be baptized. At our most recent conference, six people were baptized. These believers have taken the ultimate step; they have laid down their lives for the sake of Christ, and have given up all they had to gain a treasure of greatest worth. TWR Canada president Ray Alary recently had the chance to witness six of these baptisms! You can read about it in his most recent blog.
In Canada, we are not required to give up our homes, work or family; however, there is still a cost to following Christ. What is God calling you to give up to deepen your faith?