One of the Persecuted…

Is she happy?  Not always.  Truthfully, she struggles for self acceptance.  The pain and rejection are still too real for her to put in the past.  Where, when, and how, I sometimes wonder, is the blessing for the persecuted like her?

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She was just a teen when she heard of the special meetings taking place in her legalistic and religious community.  She had heard some strange and wonderful gossip about those meetings.

Her curiosity, like the spiritual void within her, was growing.  She had to attend!  Except she was forbidden to do so.  Forbidden by her parents and forbidden by the local religious leader. A typical teenager exhibiting some form of rebellion, she decided to go.

She loved it. There was something there, she didn’t know exactly what, that made her decide to return the following evening.  Perhaps it was the music, or the way the message was spoken or maybe even the strange way they prayed at the end that drew her.  Whatever it was, her mind was set:  she’d be back.

She went home and was beaten that night.  “How dare you!” roared her father.

Broken and bruised, yet hungry for God, she dared again the following night, even after being told that if she attended again, she would be disowned and kicked out of the house.

Yet hope streamed into her heart for the first time that second night. Made new by the miracle of Christ within her, she was born again.

She returned home to find a locked house with no one willing to open the door for her.

The joy of a newborn spirit within was challenged by the pain of rejection.  Ironically, she was adopted into the family of God the same evening she was rejected by her own family.  Knocking and calling did her no good.   Shivering in the dark as tears flowed down her face, she curled up on the ground outside her front door trying to stay warm.

That’s how she spent that night. And the following night, and the next…

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All I could do was hug her when she told me that story years later- hug her and do my best to empathize.  She knows well what it means to be persecuted.  But did she feel blessed? Was she the epitome of a joyful overcomer? Not exactly.

As I talked with her awhile, I realized this:  the blessing happens in those moments when she turns to run into the supernatural arms of a loving Savior. The blessing happens the moments that remind her she is still alive and has the promise of God’s strength to lead her through another day.

The blessings are the calm in the midst of the storm she would call her life.

“From victory to victory” is not a cliche in her life.  It is her life.  Victory, struggle, then victory again.  Mountain top, valley, then mountain top again.   That’s what it really means.

Don’t let those Armani clad, oily haired, fake-tanned televangelists convince you they know what victory really is, no matter how nice their white fixed smile or how much they cheerlead you into believing it with their shouting or their sweaty, shaking jowls.  (Sorry, got off track and nauseous all at the same time with that one!)

Back to where I was: the final blessing will come the day she steps into eternity, for great will be her reward. (Matt. 5:12).  On that day, I believe the tender eyes of the radiant Son will look at her with admiration and complete love as His arms envelope her.  His voice will speak acceptance and an invitation to enter into the joy promised her.

Then she will be happy, forever and always.

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(This is a true story from the time we served among the Old Colony Germans in northern Mexico. It was originally posted on this blog January 2008.)

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6 thoughts on “One of the Persecuted…

  1. The story you posted here reminded me of persecution I faced as a pentecostal young person. I was brought up as a Schwenckfelder ( a very small German -based denomination in south-east PA similar to the Lutherans). My mom was out of Mennonite background.

    I was saved at a young age. Later as a teenager I got involved with the A/G and became Spirit filled. My two best friends were Christians also, but i was deemed a fanatic and a “ring-leader” by their parents. They didn’t like the pentecostal influence I was exerting on their girls and refused to let me spend time withmy friends.

    That angered my parents who decided I couldn’t attend the A/G church anymore on Sunday nights.

    I spent a long, lonely summer, but stayed faithful to the Lord. Within a year God overcame my parents’ objections about my attending a pentecostal Bible college so off I went to Zion in RI. A few years after I graduated, He saved my parents and they switched churches to attend an A/G church.

    Today I’m very blessed to be an A/G pastor’s wife.Though my persecution was nowhere near what it was for the woman in your story, I know it hurt me a lot inside at the time. You’re right – it does change you.

    1. Bonnie,

      What a story! Though the degree of persecution was less, I’m sure the pain and shock were not. I love what you said: “…but I stayed faithful to the Lord.” Amen!

  2. Beautiful… and sad… and hopeful, Ilona! While I do not know of students that we worked with that were beaten for their choice to follow Jesus, I do know many were shunned, ridiculed, ostracized, and criticized… and some could not stand against the pressure and did not return… but those who did, their lives are changed for all eternity. They walk with HIm through their struggles and pain, and wait with hope for a day of true peace. Thanks for reminding me of why I do what I do! Blessings to you today!

    1. Amen! Our work is NOT in vain. And we need these testimonies to encourage us in our own faith and to remind us not to grow weary in our ministry. God give you grace and peace with your students and bless the work of your hands (and heart) in multiplied ways.

  3. We’ve watched several TV documentaries/reality shows about the Amish and it seems that there is a bit of cruelty in the way they shun their young people who leave their tradition for whatever reason. And it seems to me that it’s founded in fear. They cling to their religion as the one thing they can count on and they seem fearful of losing that one thing. Despite the fact that they could give up their religion for Christ and have a true Rock upon which to stand – no cruelty required!

    1. With the advent of the Amish fiction trend, especially those that paint a utopian view of the “simple life”, many may not like hearing this type of truth. Yet the cruelties exists in greater amounts than “a bit”. But not because they have a label that says “Amish”, but rather because binding religion is their god, rather than the freedom of salvation found in Christ himself. But isn’t that true of any other religion and/or denomination – whether a man-made one or one that has strayed from their wonderful beginnings?

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