Never be afraid to stand for what you believe in.
Are you scared?” My friend asked.
I grinned. “No. Why should I be?”
Her forehead wrinkled with concern as her eyes went from the open suitcase on my dorm room cot to my face.
“What you’re doing is dangerous.”
My head bobbed in acknowledgement as I ran my palm over the false lining. “US security is a lot more sophisticated than where we’re going. It will show books if x-rayed, but carrying books isn’t illegal and they don’t have that kind of technology over there yet.”
Now she nodded as her fingers traced the path my palm had. “Still… If any of you get caught…”Laying a hand on her shoulder reassuringly, I affirmed. “We’ll be fine.”
Her eyes watered as they moved up to meet mine and she nodded.
“I wish you were coming with us.”
With a sheepish expression, she admitted. “I wish I had your courage.”
Courage, they say, isn’t the absence of fear but choosing to act in a way you know is right despite feelings of fear. Smuggling bibles into a country where even owning one, much less preaching and witnessing, was illegal seemed foolhardy at best but I had sensed the mandate to go and when some friends had excitedly asked to accompany me, I took it as confirmation. “Don’t forget,” I reminded with assurance. “I grew up there.”
“Of course.” She agreed. “On that score, you won’t be challenged but what about the obvious Americans going with you?”
“We’re all prayed up. Everyone is confident.”
“I’m sure. Have a seat.” I offered, patting a place on the cot next to my suitcase. “I need to share something with you.”
Tentatively, she sat, her expression curious.
“You know that my parents were Christians.” I began. “When I was growing up, things in my country were less… hostile.”
“My parents ran an orphanage. They were strong in their faith and taught the WORD to the children in their care, and to my brother and me. The authorities in the area knew of their faith but left them alone because they cared for children no one else wanted.” I turned the chair at my desk around to face her and sat in it. “My brother and I attended a secondary school predominantly filled with students who believed differently than my family and were hostile to the Christian faith. I did my best to avoid confrontation with them and managed to keep a low profile. My brother and I stayed out of trouble, did our work and managed to do well academically.”
“It must have been hard.” She sympathized.“
I won’t pretend it was fun, but my parents loved us and life at home was a refuge. Working with the kids helped too, as they learned about faith.” I took a breath. “Then one day, and from that one to this I’ve wondered what brought it on, the headmaster decided that in addition to the devotional reading from their book, there would be a daily reading from the bible.”
“Really? What do you suppose…?”
“Maybe they expected it would show the superiority of their doctrine, I don’t know.” I admitted with a shrug. “Anyway, they chose me to read it before the assembly every morning.”
“Oh, wow. Were you the only Christians there?”
“At the time, I thought so but didn’t know. I found out later that there were others, but they kept a low profile, much like my brother and me.”
“So every day, my father picked out a verse for me to read.” I shrugged, remembering. “You know, generic ones that wouldn’t openly conflict with their ideology and cause trouble.”
“It wasn’t an atmosphere for evangelism. We weren’t looking to cause a riot.”
“My father had to go into a nearby village to pick up an abandoned child. He was gone over night.” Staring into the past, I shook my head. “I’d forgotten to ask him for the scripture and didn’t think of it until I was on my way to school — too late to ask my mother.”
Her gaze became intent as she waited.
“I muttered a prayer. ‘Lord,’ I said, ‘I’m going to trust you. Whatever scripture I open to, that’s what I’ll read. Guide me.” I took a deep breath. “I wasn’t nervous — even when I stood on the platform and opened my bible. Then I just dropped my finger on the page.”
She nodded. “And what scripture did you read?”
“1st John 4:1-4 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming and is now already in the world. You are of God, little children and have overcome them, because He who is in you Is greater than he who is in the world.” I grinned. “If you didn’t know, the leader they revere as their prophet came 400 years after Jesus.”
Her eyes grew large. “So….”
“Right.” I nodded decisively. “A group in the back of the room got up on their feet and started shouting at me. They charged the stage.”
“Nobody tried to stop them?”
“Are you kidding? To them, I had blasphemed — a sin that carries the worst kind of punishment.”“
Then what happened?”
“I rushed off the stage and out a side door. They followed me.” Taking a deep breath, I continued. “I’m a good runner. I figured I could lose them, but they were determined.”
She stared, her expression utter disbelief.
“I dodged them for a bit, but they caught up to me. One of them grabbed me and pushed me into an alley. I backed up until there was nowhere else to go. Against a wall, I was trapped.” Swallowing, I gazed distantly, still able to see and feel what I had that day. “I don’t know where they came from, but a couple of them had automatic weapons.”
“What?!” She gasped in horror.
“One of them, clearly the ringleader, demanded, ‘We have put up with you and your foolishness. Now, you will renounce this Jesus, or you will die.’”
“Oh, my gosh! What did you do?”
“Clearly, I didn’t die.” I grinned.“
Not funny. I mean…”
“No. I didn’t deny Jesus.” I answered. “They raised their weapons and prepared to fire.”
Her head shook involuntarily, her mouth open and her eyes wide.“
I closed my eyes. Quietly, I murmured. ‘Jesus, I trusted you and I obeyed you. If it’s time for me to go, I’m ready.’ So I braced myself for what was coming.”
“Wow.” She breathed.
“I heard the sound of gunfire.” I said. “With no idea what the experience of dying might feel like, I expected I would open my eyes and see Jesus, to face.”
“Instead, I felt nothing. We were too close for them to miss with their automatic weapons, but they did. Then, suddenly, one of them called on the name of their god and shouted, ‘Who’s that with him?’ They freaked out and all of them ran.”
“Whoa.” She acknowledged with a weighty tone.
The room seemed to fill with quiet presence. “It was at that moment, I think, that my faith in Jesus became my own; not just what I’d been taught.” I added. “They stayed clear of me after that, and no one ever said anything about what had happened.“
Wow. That’s so amazing.”
With a wry grin, I admitted. “They did stop the scripture reading though.”
She frowned. “Oh.”
“Because of that encounter, I have no fear of what the enemy can do. Greater is He that’s in me.” I got up from my chair.
Rising, her expression pensive, she admitted. “I’ve never had an encounter like that.”
I laid a hand on her shoulder and looked directly into her eyes. “God moves mightiest and shows himself strongest when we step out boldly to do what He’s called us to do.”
“I trust Him to bring you back safely and I’ll be praying for you. All of you.”
“Thank you.” I replied gratefully before adding. “I’ll be praying for you too.”
Sheepish, she averted her eyes but then her eyes lit up as she lifted them to meet mine. With a confident tone, she declared. “And next time, I’ll go with you.”
I chuckled. ‘You’re on.”