Have you ever tried to stand up in a massive storm? Not just a bit of rain and some light breezes, but a full-on storm with gale force winds and gushing rain? It’d be pretty much impossible to keep standing at all. The winds would be too strong, the rain and hail too heavy. It’d be impossible.
Yet, standing strong through storms is exactly what Open Doors is helping people to do in the face of immense persecution and pain. Recently, my youth group met Emmanuel, from Nigeria. He told us how through a training program called ‘Standing Strong Through The Storm’ that the church in Northern Nigeria is standing firm in its faith in Jesus – something that is nothing short of miraculous.
Here’s some of the facts. Since 2006, over 11,500 Christians have been killed in Nigeria due to religious persecution – mainly because of extremist groups such as Boko Haram.
In Lassa Borno State, 36 of 50 church districts were closed. From 2000, over 1.3 million Christians have been displaced. And the list goes on.
But, as Emmanuel said, these people are not just ‘numbers’. He showed us a picture of five women, all of whom had lost their husbands during a single prayer meeting. Extremists came and sprayed bullets through the windows of the church.
It seems like an understatement to call this situation a storm, but it is incredible that the church, despite being battered, is still standing strong. Many church leaders are choosing to stay in dangerous areas because they feel that God has called them to be there.
The ‘Standing Strong Through The Storm’ training programme has helped over 15,000 people, encouraging them to keep living for Jesus despite persecution.
He asked that she, and her children, would forgive the men who had killed him.
One story stood out for me. After the 2011 election, 200 churches were attacked. One pastor was beaten severely by a group of extremists, and sent to hospital. He rang his wife to say that he thought he was going to die, but he asked that she, and her children, would forgive the men who had killed him. He died of his injuries. And his wife did forgive these men. As Emmanuel said, this is a ‘miracle’. It’s not in human nature to forgive these kinds of things.
So how do these people stand strong? Emmanuel said that its is only through the the grace of Jesus. He quoted the passage from Acts when the early disciples prayed ‘And now Lord, look upon their threats and grant your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness…’ (Acts 4v. 29 ESV). Emmanuel challenged us to ask for this grace.
Maybe you have a storm which you feel is too much for you to be able to stand through. Why not ask Jesus to give you grace to stand firm in him?
Or, maybe, you’re not feeling any particular storm at the moment. Why not give yourself completely to Jesus, trusting that he will give you grace to stand through any storm you may face in the future.