Jesus, it is hard to believe we have been here almost a week—the days have sped past yet the moments continue to linger, breaking my heart for the things that break yours.
Today I am tired and weary. Sleep is nearly impossible to come by at night, though mid-afternoon naps continue to sustain me. Add the digestive issues and ceaseless sweating, sometimes I just wonder when the build up will prove too much—waiting for the explosion? Oh Jesus, please teach me to suffer well for your namesake. Whatever that means? Suffering—I don't know the first thing about it. Yet in these moments I am so convinced I have tasted and seen it. But I do not know suffering as these people do.
Tonight our host began telling us stories. Stories which testify to the almighty power of a sovereign, loving God--in the very midst of suffering. Aside from the beautiful beleivers on this mountain also reside those who persecute. Even during our time, our plans were thwarted a bit as a result of those who persecute.
A few years ago, the Christians in the state of Orissa endured horrific persecution. The Christians were blamed for the death of a Hindi leader, Swami Lakshmanananda. More than 18,000 were injured and 50,000 displaced. Around 11,000 people were still in relief camps months later. Many tribals fled to neighboring states during this time. 310 villages were affected, 4,640 homes destroyed, 252 churches fell to ruble, and 13 educational institutions demolished.
Please check out this link for more information of the persecution of the Christians in Orissa in 2008.
Many Christians lost their homes, their livelihoods, their lives—lives they had the power to save if only they denied the Lordship of Christ Jesus. In His grace, they knew that only God has the power to save, even as the truth of death with Christ exceeding life apart from Him became a reality.
After this persecution, about 80% of the Christians on the mountain fled to the city. The compound where our hosts live became a refuge for hundreds in need. Even the government officials and police force used it as a base point. The gospel was preached to all, even in the very midst of the persecution.
Following the attack, the Christians fled into the jungle, trekking a path which is a five hour drive to the nearest city. Because of those out to destroy them, it was only safe to travel at night. So during the day while they hid and rested. We were told this story of how God protected them through this time. During the day, a herd of tigers surrounded them, never attacking but literally encircling them on all sides, forming a shield of protection while they waited for the sun to fall, leaving it safe to travel. Are you kidding me?? Why are we so shocked by such accounts of His faithfulness--why don't pray with such boldness?
He is our refuge and strength in time of need takes on a whole new meaning here.
Several months after the persecution had quieted, in early spring, a heard of elephants stampeded into a town on this mountain. The elephants trampled through the town, destroying every home, hut, structure, and business they crossed. At the conclusion of this stampede, there were several houses still standing. As the entire village soon came to realize, the only homes which remained standing were those belonging to Christians. Many unbelievers came to faith in Christ this day.
So tonight as I wrestle to fall asleep, wet by my own sweat, I will pray for these people who know what it means to endure suffering for your namesake. I will remember these accounts of your faithfulness, Jesus, yes right in the midst of it all. I will not settle for watered down, complacent faith. I will fight to know you like this. To trust you--with my life. To trust that even in the middle of a jungle as I run for my life, you could in your GRACE send a herd of tigers to protect me. To trust that in a broken and fallen world where bad things happen that I cannot comprehend--that you alone bring JUSTICE, even if that means destroying the livelihood of the enemy through a herd of elephants while your faithful few remain safe.
His Promises to us, even in the midst of persecution:
Do not say, “I will recompense evil;” Wait for the Lord, and He will save you.” (Proverbs 20:22)
And in your steadfast love you will cut off my enemies, and you will destroy all the adversaries of my soul, for I am your servant .Ps. 143:12
I will send my terror before you and will throw into confusion all the people against whom you shall come, and I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you. Exodus 23:27
For you shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight; for the Lord will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard.” (Isaiah 52:12)
“The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” (Exodus 14:14)
“Plead my cause, O Lord, with those who strive with me; fight against those who fight against me. Take hold of shield and buckler, and stand up for my help. Also draw out the spear, and stop those who pursue me. Say to my soul, “I am your salvation.” (Psalm 35:1)
“When my enemies turn back, they shall fall and perish at your presence. For You have maintained my right and my cause; You sat on the throne judging in righteousness.” (Psalm 9:3)
“Do not be afraid of their faces, for I am with you to deliver you,” says the Lord. (Jeremiah 1:8)