DARTMOUTH, NS, November 27, 2011 – It began as a quiet Sunday morning at Stevens Road United Baptist Church. Worshippers were greeted warmly at the door by the Baptist Bishop and his wife but as soon as they were upstairs and out of sight unsuspecting individuals were confronted by a member of the Department of Religious Suppression who demanded to see their IDs before entering the church sanctuary for worship. Some members complied. Others complained. It soon became clear that this officer had been misinformed. Canada is NOT one of the 60 countries around the world where Christians are persecuted for their faith. Upon realizing her error she gladly joined the other worshippers. Throughout the service startling facts were shared about the persecuted church that left people disturbed and moved to pray. Since the death of Jesus Christ, 43 million Christians have died for their faith, half of those in the last century alone. Every day, 200 million believers will face violent persecution or detention, 60% of them children. Today, 300 Christians will die for believing in Jesus. North Koreans who evangelize have a life expectancy of about three months.
As part of the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, the congregation was informed of the top ten countries in the world that persecute followers of Jesus:
1) N. Korea 2) Iran 3) Afghanistan 4) Saudi Arabia 5) Somalia 6) Maldives 7) Yemen 8)Iraq 9) Uzbekistan 10) Laos
Prayer was offered on behalf of persecuted believers particularly those living in North Korea. The Music Ministry read the words of a hymn written for the persecuted church and the congregation sang the third verse:
Raise up leaders in Your Church,
Lord, people of integrity,
who will lead by their example
as You, Lord, want us to be.
May Your people in each nation
work in loving harmony.
Change the hearts of the oppressors,
break the yoke of tyranny.
(Words: Hugh G Wetmore (c) 1999, written for the annual International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, Metre: 8787D Tune: Austria “Glorious things of thee are spoken”)
The story behind the hymn, “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus” was shared through video. A believer in India sang the words, “I have decided to follow Jesus….Though none go with me still I will follow…No turning back, no turning back” as he watched his children murdered and then his wife because he refused to renounce his faith. Then his own life was taken. Watch the video to discover how God used this tragedy for His glory
During the singing of the Advent hymn one verse was sung very quietly so no one outside the building could hear, just like it’s done in some house churches where singing can alert neighbours and police of an illegal Christian gathering.
The congregation was exhorted from Hebrews 13:3 to “Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” We listened. We prayed. We sang. Next Sunday it will be business as usual.