Monday 11 May 2015

Glimpses of the Suffering Church

I believe firmly that the global Church is one family.  This weekend, I was reminded that the lives of some of those brothers and sisters are very different to our own.

Firstly, I was reading about the massacre of (mostly) Christian students at Garissa University in Kenya last month.  When I was at university, I was part of the local Tertiary Students Christian Fellowship group, EU.  TSCF is part of a global organisation called IFES and so has sister groups all around the world, including Kenya.  Amongst the first to be killed were students attending a prayer meeting of that group, FOCUS.  They lost five members of their executive council that day.  Reflecting on the situation one of their staff workers, Lucas Owako, wrote:
The only consolation is that because many of these students knew and loved Jesus, they rest tonight from their hard labour in our cruel world.
It made me think: we are one family, but we don't have one life experience.  Christians in New Zealand rarely speak of having 'hard labour' in a 'cruel world'.

Then I read this, from the IFES group in Nigeria, NIFES.  They have groups in the North-East, where Boko Haram is most active.  I was humbled by the words of one of their staff members, Daniel:
Living the practical Christian life of loving our enemies according to the Scripture is not easy for us. But we keep encouraging one another using the Scripture and asking God for grace to do as Jesus did. And God has been faithful.
Unlike Christians in New Zealand, these brothers and sisters of ours live alongside enemies who wish to kill them for their faith.  I honour them for standing firm and pray that God will give them the grace to continue to do so.

And lastly, I listened to this video, filmed at a conference run by our own New Zealand group, TSCF, earlier this year.  Towards the end, some Kiwi students and staff who had attended an IFES international conference were asked to share what they had learned there.  I was struck by the recollections of one man, whose small group at the conference had included a woman from a country where you cannot openly practise Christianity.

She was horrified to hear of the apathy Christian student groups in New Zealand and similar countries battle against.  Immediately she called the group to prayer and prayed passionately and urgently against this terrible situation. The Kiwi student was amazed that a woman who had to attempt to evade the secret police on a daily basis could be horrified by what he had to live with! May we pray for her as she prays for us.

As we catch glimpses of our sisters and brothers far off, may we see the horror and struggle, grace and hope of their situations.  And may we even, though their eyes, see the same things in our own context.  We are one body.

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