Tertullian wrote, “[T]he blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” However, the “benefits” of persecution are often glamorized. The result, many Christians from a safe distance conclude that persecution is preferred over “a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” Certainly, God has allowed suffering for the gospel to test the church and use it for good (1 Pet. 4:12-14). God used persecution against the Jerusalem Church so “those who had been scattered went about preaching the word” beyond the confines of the ancient city (Acts 8:1, 4).
Nevertheless, persecution has often hindered the church by forbidding the saints to assemble for worship and has greatly curtailed the spread of the gospel in the world. In some areas of intense opposition the church has been decimated and destroyed. Would anyone argue that the church was aided when the translation of God’s word into different langauges was prohibited prior to the Reformation? Did the brutal opposition of the church in Mozambique, Russia, and Cambodia during the 20th century benefit the church? Is the “catacomb church” in North Korea healthier today because of the despotic rule of Kim Jong-un?
We must not glamorize persecution nor be indifferent to the plight of saints who endure suffering for the sake of the gospel. We are taught to “Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourself also are in the body” (Heb. 13:3). We are asking you to remember in prayer the persecuted church. Recently, we have received disturbing reports of increased maltreatment by authorities upon believers in China, Vietnam, and Myanmar.
Particularly, remember to intercede for the saints recently apprehended in Myanmar. The United Wa State Army (UWSA), suddenly and without provocation, began to incarcerate pastors, destroy church buildings, and force Christians to enlist in the army. The aggression by UWSA has affected many Christians, including HeartCry pastors Rufus and Chris. Thankfully, Rufus and Chris are in hiding and escaped imprisonment but Chris’s church building was demolished. We have been greatly encouraged by the work of God through Chris and Rufus and many animists have come to faith this year. However, the persecution has stopped the churches they serve from gathering publicly and the evangelistic meetings among the villages have ceased. Elijah, HeartCry’s partner in Myanmar, reported the following:
As an inevitable result of religious persecutions taking place now in a special
region, our missionaries, Chris and Rufus, have had to abscond to KT with their families. They are safe with us now. There are 10 pastors and evangelists under our association and many more from other organizations across the region in the special region. Hundreds of pastors, church leaders and well-known devoted Christians, even some army officers themselves, have been detained and taken away so that no contacts can be made with them. Four of our pastors (pictured above) are among the detainees. They are poorly fed in the police station. Family and friends cook for them and send the food through the police officers, but no one knows if the food is delivered as it is designated.
All churches have had their buildings either demolished or sealed off. Chris’ church is also demolished. Christian gatherings and worship are banned. We don’t know yet what will be done to the detainees. But we hope that they will be released once they have been questioned. Please pray for Chris and Rufus and their families to settle in here for as long as it is safe for them to return there. More importantly, please pray for the believers and their families so that they would remain faithful and persevere in difficult times by God’s special grace.
Pray for the pastors that they “will be rescued from perverse and evil men” (2 Thess. 3:2). Pray that the saints will be emboldened to make known the glorious gospel of Christ (Eph. 6:19), and will be given grace to endure hardship as good soldiers of Jesus Christ (2 Tim. 2:3). Pray for the Christians who are incarcerated that they will be treated with dignity by the authorities and will be allowed to return home. Lastly, intercede for those in authority in order for the church in these areas to “lead a tranquil and quite life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Tim. 2:2).