As we reflect on 2021, it can be easy to focus only on the difficult times. But we know through those seasons of trouble and trial God is still on the throne and He is still building His Church. This continues to be true for our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world. So, here are four surprising lessons the persecuted church taught us in 2021.
#1 A Lesson From Afghanistan: God Still Brings Hope In The Darkness
Saad and Fatimah are two secret believers who chose to stay in Afghanistan after the Taliban took control in August. The same night of the takeover, they gave birth to a baby girl. Now, Taliban soldiers go from house to house looking for Christians. A list has been circulating with Saad and Fatimah’s names on it.
Fatimah told us it’s not an option to follow Jesus in public. But the pain of living for Jesus is nothing new, as their families practised their Christian faith in the shadows for more than 40 years. Together they plan to help feed the hungry, clothe people, and share the gospel.
“I do not know where to begin,” her husband Saad said, “but I will begin by encouraging my wife that there is hope for our daughter…It will not be easy, but we do this because we believe Jesus is alive.”
#2 A Lesson From India: God Is Still Our Provider
COVID-19 changed everything for Praveen* and his family in India. With their store not making a profit, they struggled to survive.
Praveen said, “Due to the pandemic lockdown, we had no customers and were unable to afford a square meal. Throughout the uncertain times, God’s Word kept reminding us, ‘Trust in me, and I will deliver you and be your provider.’ And God has been our supplier. Today we have customers coming to the shop, and we can refill the groceries too, all because of your help at the right time.
“As an answer to our prayers, [Open Doors’ local partner] has come to our help and provided materials to refill the shop. Now the shop is running well and is a stable source of income for our family. We can pay our rent and meet all our basic needs.”
With all the challenges 2021 brought with it, God has continued and will always be our provider.
#3: A Lesson From China: God’s Word Does Not Return Void
Forty years ago, Open Doors smuggled one million Bibles into China overnight, in an operation called, ‘Project Pearl’. Those Bibles ended up in the hands of secret believers in every province in China, equipping the church and fuelling revival.
“This project has had a tremendous impact on the development of Chinese churches,” said one believer. “Many churches rose, thousands accepted Jesus and many leaders were born because they finally had their Bibles.
The Word of God is living and active, and where it goes out, it doesn’t come back empty.
#4 A Lesson From North Korea: God’s People Still Display His Goodness
In July, Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un publicly admitted to North Korea’s food shortage crisis. The crisis is now so severe that families are living on the streets and in rail stations. The United Nations now estimates that 10 million people are in urgent need of food aid.
Timothy Cho, a North Korean escapee, said, “Thanks to your prayers and support, and the goodness of God, Open Doors can supply persecuted North Korean believers… We also know that many North Korean believers continue a practice known as ‘holy rice’, sharing what they have, even if it isn’t much, with those in need.”
Even in the most dangerous place on the planet, God’s goodness can still be seen through His people.