Focus – World Christians in Crisis

Lt. Colonel Mervyn Morelock

By Lt. Colonel Mervyn Morelock – 

Reader’s Digest recently contained an article, “The Global War on Christians.” The world press, most human rights organizations, and U.S. churches have been strangely silent on the shocking persecution of thousands of men and women in many countries of the world, simply because they are Christians. Never before in the history of the world have so many Christians been persecuted for their beliefs. Two new books are helping to force the issue into the open: Nina Shea’s In the Lion’s Den and Their Own Blood Cries Out, by Peter Marshall.

More people have been persecuted in the last 20 years with deliberate starvation and slavery, murder and rape, than in any similar period in history. An estimated 200 to 250 million Christians are at risk.

Salvationists have not been immune from persecution. The martyrdom of two women Salvationists in Africa, killing of Salvationist soldiers in Ireland, the disappearance of the Seoul Korean Boys’ Band, threats to officer leaders, and the destruction of two villages of Christians in Pakistan, the growing difficulty of working in Russia, the delicate status of The Salvation Army in many countries of the world, all speak of a growing crisis for Christianity.

A recent article in Discipleship Journal illustrated how sensitive and dangerous the life of many missionaries has become. It gave ideas and advice on how to encourage missionaries through e-mail. Among the many “do’s” and “don’ts” were: “Do find out ahead of time how frankly you can write about spiritual things if the missionary is in a sensitive country. Don’t assume your e-mail communication is secure. Others may be reading it–unbeknownst to you or the missionary.”

Our recent conversations with Majors Ted and Rosalyn Mahr in India revealed how careful they must be in their conversations about their work or their people. Missionaries have been imprisoned or not allowed to return to the country where they have given years of sacrificial service because their private comments, written home in personal letters, were photocopied by authorities who had opened their mail.

The recent events in Russia illustrate how delicate and perilous is our work there. General Eva Burrows (R) was right when she said, “We have a window of opportunity to share the Gospel in Russia” — a “window” that is in danger of being shut by the political and religious interests who would like to preserve the status quo.

Truly this is a time when Christians around the world are in “crisis.”

Many years ago I read that the Chinese character for “crisis” is composed of two separate and distinct characters, one representing “opportunity” and the other “danger.” I called San Francisco Chinatown Corps Officer Captain Robin Hu to confirm my memory on the word. He said I was correct, but added, “Danger comes before opportunity.”

In thinking about the many “hot spots” of the world in which The Salvation Army is providing ministry, there is an element of danger and opportunity in each one. Most of us are very comfortable in our present situation, and really do not want to have our status quo disturbed. But Jesus teaches us, “what good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” (Luke 9:25 NIV).

Here are three things you and I can do to make a difference in the world:

PRAY–There is power in prayer. Pray for your corps and its officers, soldiers and attendees. Pray that our overseas officers will be protected from harm, and that their lives will count as a sweet perfume of love and care to the people they have been called to serve.

A board of Christian leaders is organizing an International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, set for November 16. The leader, Michael Horowitz, states, “If tens of thousands of churches engage in an interdenominational effort, we’ll send the world’s tyrants a message they can’t ignore. And Washington won’t be able to ignore it either.” We need to be part of that prayer witness.

GIVE– “The number one enemy that keeps us from reaching the lost world is not the devil, but our self-centeredness,” wrote K.P. Yohannan, the founder of the missionary organization, Gospel for Asia.

Salvationists have been exhorted to give an annual pledge for Self Denial/World Services. Yet the percentage of soldier giving is a small fraction of the total goal. We need to begin to really give to the desperate needs found overseas. The danger of our self-centeredness is that we will miss the opportunity for a personal blessing and that the needs will not only be unmet, but that the forces already persecuting Christians will become bolder and more ruthless because they believe we don’t care.

GO–It is not easy to go to another country of the world, but the fact is, there are thousands of Christians eager to be discipled, and millions who have never heard the Gospel message. Contrary to perceptions held by secular and Christian Americans alike, “Most Christians are not white. Three-fourths of all Christians live outside the West. It may be the largest Third World religion.”

You may not be able to give your life in full-time service overseas, but God may be wanting you to offer for one of the many short term service opportunities.

“CRISIS: Opportunity and danger…but danger comes first.”
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