Imagine this scenario. Dad goes to the airport to leave on a ministry trip. Officials look at his passport and say his visa is no longer valid. He must leave the country immediately. He cannot go home. He must get on the plane and leave the country. His family is at home and doesn’t know this is happening. He is able to telephone them and explain the situation. He has to get on a plane and fly away from his family in the midst of tremendous ambiguity and confusion. It’s two weeks before the family can pack up their belongings and leave the country also.
Over the next days, other expatriate staff (Americans, in this case) are told their visas are no longer valid. They can no longer reside in the country. Family by family, they pack up and depart.
Young national staff are now thrust into positions of leadership earlier than expected. Dealing with ministry strategies, finances, communications, and relationships with churches and other organizations now become the responsibility of those who are just learning how to run a local ministry on a campus.
Stress is high for everyone. God is sovereign and he is never surprised. But this turn of events is difficult for all involved.
This happened recently in a country in this area.
2007 has been a year of trial around the world. Just in our organization:
- 5 staff couples were evacuated out of a Central Asia country, leaving behind their homes, friends, and possessions — essentially everything. They were under the threat of death by religious leaders in their country.
- 7 staff members in a communist nation are currently in prison.
- 2 staff members were martyred in a closed nation earlier this year, targeted by radicals due to their faith in Christ.
- 5 staff serving in Gaza, along with their families, were recently evacuated from the area after a Bible bookstore manager — with whom they shared a building — was martyred. That manager had come to Christ through the ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.
- In another nation too sensitive to name, 6 staff are in prison for sharing their faith.
- More than 40 staff are imprisoned in a closed nation, sentenced to five years, for insulting the dominant religion of the country. They include several mothers of young children.
How do we think about these difficulties? How to we continue on when facing such persecutions and trials? Some thoughts come to mind:
- I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
- And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
- Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39).
As one speaker here at the Eastern Europe conference reminded, “We’ve read the book! We know the ending! The good news is that God wins!”