Thomas and I are close friends. He is from an Asian country while I am from America. I consider us more than friends. We are also mutual mentors to one another, a brotherhood that began in 2010.
Back then, Thomas was gaining a heart for a certain unreached Buddhist people group. When I met him, he needed help learning how to serve this people group so I began to walk alongside him to mentor him in cross-cultural ministry.
Beyond just the cross-cultural ministry side of our relationship, I watched Thomas closely. I watched how he served this unreached people group. I witnessed how he sacrificed monetarily out of his poverty. I saw how he persevered through difficult circumstances. To say the least, I was learning a lot from Thomas and still do.
As I think about Thomas’ generosity tonight, my mind is going to the story of the poor widow lady in Luke 21:1-4 who gave everything she had. In whole dollar amounts, she gave very little. But based on percentage, she out gave every other person who gave large sums of money. Thomas is so much like this lady in that respect. He gives so much out of his poverty and never complains about lacking anything.
Saying all this, Thomas was called in to the local police station this past week and was interrogated, not once but twice. Even before he was called in, the police called his wife in and interrogated her about Thomas’ religious activities.
I wrote Thomas tonight to ask how he and his family were doing through all this. Considering all that he has been up against, I did not know if he could respond but he did. He said, “My wife is strong” and “I am ok, no fear”. He went further to say, “We know this is the way it is in our country and we need to sacrifice for our faith”.
I asked him about how I and you can pray for them. His response was, “Pray that we will have faith and wisdom when we talk to them (police interrogators)”.
Notice something important here. Thomas did not ask us to pray for protection. He asked us to pray that God will give him faith and wisdom to know how to talk with the police about his religious activities, which they have been cracking down on more and more this year across his country. He said he understands that this is the reality for Christians in his country so a deep sacrifice is what they must give to follow Jesus.
Thomas is just one house church pastor facing problems in his country and province. His situation is not hypothetical or a future probability. Suffering for his faith is his reality today.
As I thought about him tonight, I knew the medium by which we were communicating is not secure. I am 100% confident our communication was monitored by his government. But, I also thought that it does not matter because my friend and brother needs me (and other brothers and sisters globally) to stand with him, to encourage him and to not let fear keep us from communicating with him and the many others suffering for the name of Jesus.
This rings true in my heart more and more because I know of others this year who have faced similar and sometimes far worse situations than Thomas has faced this past week. Thomas and the many others who are being persecuted right now need us to pray for them daily. We need to pray that God will strengthen them so they can stand strong, even to the point of death if necessary.
Consider this. If you or I ever find ourselves in the same situation, what would we want from the body of Christ globally? I know I would want as many of my fellow Christians as possible praying for me, that I will remain strong in Christ because I know that apart from Christ I can do nothing (John 15:5). I know that I have no ability to face any level of difficulty or persecution for my faith without the Holy Spirit of God working in and through me. I would want the Church praying in this way for me and family on a daily basis.
May we all be found faithful in praying for and standing with our brothers and sisters in Christ who face threats, hunger and difficulties just for following Christ. Why? Because they are our family, plain and simple and family sticks together!
Steve Schirmer, President of Silk Road Catalyst and co-Host of Missions Talk. Least Reached Advocate. Dedicated to No Place Left.