Thursday, August 30, 2007

God with us!

by Bernie Daniel, International Projects Manager (The Voice of the Martyrs)

In early August, I went to couple of African countries on a mission assignment to assess the persecution situation in the region, and to conduct extensive consultations for projects development in the service of the Persecuted Church. My prayerful consultations with our co-laborers in the ministry were very fruitful. But the living conditions in one of the cities were very challenging. That unnamed city and the African country as a whole are emerging from a devastating war, and the terrible after-effects of the conflict are still there. Although I was told that I was staying in a reasonably good hotel, there was no water, no electricity, no air conditioner (and the nights were about 30 C), the backup generator was broken, and the food was not good. Almost every night, from 7 pm in the evening, I was sitting in the dark till midnight and then sleeping for about 2 or 3 hours. I never knew that darkness, especially the one you can not get rid off, can be so oppressive. Oh, how I yearned for the morning to come so that the sun can drive away the darkness!

Visiting the washroom in the pitch black of night, I opened and closed my cell phone to get some light (not one of the uses in the mind of the inventors of the cell phone, eh!). And I had to be very careful in using it as there was no way to recharge it. Sitting in the dark, I made Bible games such as remembering as many comforting verses from each book in the Old Testament and the New Testament. Well, many books were easy but can you remember a comforting verse, or any verse, from Amos, Obadiah, Micah, or Zephaniah? Oh yes, I remembered the one from Zephaniah 3:17. A former colleague had shared it in a devotional at a ministry essentials training we attended together about 7 years ago. The presentation was so powerful, I remember it as if it was yesterday. After sharing the devotional, he played beautifully a song based on that verse written by a noted gospel singer. The verse says:

"The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing."

By His Word, God gave me His peace although the living conditions remained the same. More often, God does change us while leaving our conditions intact. And during the last night of my stay in that country, when my body was starting to feel the cumulative effects of the challenging living conditions, the cell phone gave light in the dark room and started ringing. I got my first and only phone calls during the trip - two timely phone calls from my cherished colleagues Glenn and Floyd. More than they can imagine, God used the phone calls to demonstrate His abiding presence with me, to strengthen my spirit, and renew my hope in Him. Obviously, my short experiences of discomfort in the African city are infinitesimal compared to the plight of many persecuted Christians languishing in darkened prison cells and suffering various abuses for the sake of our Lord in many nations around the world. But the God of all grace who never forsakes His own does comfort and sustain them by His Holy Spirit. Similarly, He never forsakes us in our daily walks and struggles. In all, He is Emmanuel. God truly is with us!

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