If you've been reading our blog for awhile you may remember me mentioning an organization called the Voice of the Martyrs. Each week I receive a prayer update informing me how I can pray specifically for persecuted Christians around the world. It's really rather humbling when I haven't even heard of half of the countries where these pastors and churches are located. Today as I was praying through the update, my heart was again stirred. The final entry was about a pastor ordered to leave his native town in Turkmenistan:
'According to Forum 18 News, "Pastor Kakataevsky's visa application to remain with his wife and family was rejected by the Migration Service and he will have to leave the country. He is due to leave on a flight to Moscow on December 11." Officials have refused to explain the reason for denying the visa, Pastor Kalataevsky explained to Forum, "But of course it is linked to my activity as a believer. Everything that has happened to me since 2001 is related to that." Pastor Kalataevsky was released in November after eight months in prison. Pray for his family during this difficult time. Pray for his church as they have no pastor, Ask God to protect them.'
The scripture passage included at the end of the paragraph was Psalm 23. One that most of us have heard over and over again. I think I even started memorizing it as a child in Sunday school and have sung it in countless songs over the years. But today as I read it, I felt like the Spirit wanted me to see it through a different lens. Through the eyes of these Christians who are risking their lives to attend church or share their faith. Now I know that we all face trials and endure struggles of many kinds, and those are not to be discounted or dismissed. But many of us will never have to fear death or imprisonment because of our relationship with Christ. I feel like we have some responsibility to lift up our brothers and sisters who will face that fear. We must remember that the Church is not limited to American Christians but includes fellow believers in Laos, Azerbaijan, India, Turkmenistan, etc.
I hope this isn't coming off too "preachy", but I felt like I should continue to make known the cause of the persecuted church in my own small way. So, may I invite you to check out their website (see link above). My hope is that you will be encouraged to see how God is working and compelled to take part through prayer or however else the Spirit leads.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.