Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Persecuted Church: Israel

One day Pastor Steven was running a bit late to work. On this particular day he chose to wear his American style basketball pants. The ones with snaps up each side.

As he was running out of his door in a hurry his pants caught on the doorknob. Before he knew what happened he was standing on his front porch, with his neighbors looking on, and his pants around his ankles.

He quickly snapped up his pants, laughed, and moved on. He ran to catch his bus, but got there just as the doors were closing.

Instead of showing a bit of grace and letting him on, the bus driver smiled and waved through the closed doors and kept going.

Thirty seconds later the pastor heard a loud blast, and dropped to his knees when he saw that his bus, that he was suppose to be on, had been victimized by terrorist bombs.

He knew many people who died that day, having traveled with them on that bus everyday.

But it was on that day that Pastor Steven realized that God had a plan, purpose and future for him. God protected him that day, because God was not done with him yet.

Pastor Steven was born and raised in Jerusalem. His church is there, and his church is currently undergoing heavy persecution.

He explained to us that how, after each service, a few brave men will volunteer to leave out the front doors of the church in order to distract the persecutors waiting outside. As these men run out the front, stones rain down on them from the people who have been waiting outside for their victims.

Meanwhile, people are being rushed out the back and loaded into vans. And still, with continual persecution, the church grows. Once, when Pastor Steven asked one of the men why he continued to come to church at the height of danger, he replied that even in persecution, he felt safer at church than anywhere else.

Pastor Steven also shared with us the story of a girl named Leena.

Pastor Steven had seen Leena several times standing in the back of the church while he preached from the front. Each Sunday he attempted to talk to this girl, but each Sunday he would watch as she snuck out the back just before the service was over.

Finally, on a Sunday that a guest was invited to preach, Pastor Steven caught the girl before she snuck out.

Leena told Pastor Steven she didn't know why she was there, just that each Sunday as she walked by she felt something pulling her in. At that point Pastor Steven shared with her about the love of the Savior who was pursuing her. She accepted Christ that day.

A couple weeks later Pastor Steven entered his office to find Leena's parents sitting there, asking what he had been teaching their daughter.

They were amazed at the change they saw in Leena. Leena's parents saw her transform from withdrawn and suicidal to joyful and radiant. Because of the change they saw in Leena, her parents also accepted Christ into their hearts.

None of this came without consequence for Pastor Steven. Angered family members beat him, but he continued on in his ministry even stronger.

One week, as Pastor Steven's church was holding Vacation Bible School, Leena asked if Pastor Steven could stop by her neighborhood to pick up some of the kids she knew. When Pastor Steven arrived, there was Leena, surrounded by 22 kids, ready to learn about the Bible.

That week nine of those kids became Christians.

Because of Leena's excitement for Christ, 11 people had already been saved through her testimony.

Sadly, parents and relatives of those children who accepted Christ at VBS were not excited, but angered.

At 4am one morning, during one of Pastor Steven's visits to the United States, he recieved a call from his father.

Leena was found, shot to death. Killed for her faith.

Pastor Steven wept himself back to sleep.

In his sleep Leena came to him in a dream. She told Pastor Steven to tell everyone that is was okay, that is was all worth it.

As Pastor Steven continues to preach the gospel in Israel, persecution continues.

Just 2 days ago a church down the street from his own was bombed.

As we met with Pastor Steven here, in the United States, Christians in Jerusalem gathered to full capacity in the ruins of the destroyed church. As Christians in Israel prayed for the church, we joined them.

Although separated by distance, we are united by a great God.

Today, as you enjoy the freedoms we have been granted, I ask that you too would take time out of your busy schedule to unite with your persecuted brothers and sisters through prayer.


Mark Langham said...
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Mark Langham said...

These stories are gasoline on the fire of my faith! Thank you for breaking my heart every day.... :)

Rebecca said...

Mark- Thanks for putting your heart out there!

I was talking to my friend last night who attended the conference with me, and we couldn't even talk about it with tearing up. I really wish I could share with everyone the full experience of hearing the stories from the people who lived them... And the presence of the Holy Spirit as we prayed with them. I am really not sure I am doing them justice, but I feel like I've just got to do what I can to get the stories out there.

All that to say, thanks for reading :)

Renee Ann said...