The conversations that happen when I'm tucking my kids in are often life changing... at least for me. There's something sacred in the moments of reflection, the pondering questions, the prayers that summarize the day. When I say "sacred" I mean the kind I see as a mom because I have magic ability to look past fidgeting, whining, and the somersaults my two year old is doing in her bottom bunk that are not helping her wind down.
We talk about the day, tell stories, and take turns praying (which also includes distracted tumbling routines, interruptions, and jabbing at each other when they see I have my eyes closed.)
For some reason we've often landed on the subject of persecuted Christians and missionaries in other countries. Hudson heard me talk about Christians in Saudi Arabia and had dozens of questions about why someone would cut off a person's hands just because they read the Bible. He began praying every night for Christians in Saudi Arabia. This young Hudson Taylor has felt quite a connection to the missionary Hudson Taylor (1832-1905) and his ministry in China. Seeing his sensitivity towards missionaries and Christians worldwide, I began sharing more. About a month ago I shared with them about persecution in Egypt and we prayed.
One thing we've discussed extensively (When I say "extensively" I mean for an elementary and toddler level) is how God's purpose in suffering is often different than we expect. We imagined that if we were witnessing Stephen stoned (Acts 7) we might think God never showed up. What a bad ending!
Then we looked closer. We saw that Stephen had an opportunity to share God's words with his accusers, very publicly. Even while Stephen was being stoned, he experienced the Holy Spirit and miracles. We know that later one of his persecutors, Saul, believed in Jesus and became Paul. How many more miracles stemmed from Stephen's life and death that we aren't even aware of?
Naturally, the kids want to know how likely it is that people will throw rocks at us. We talked about Revelation 2:10, "Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life." Maybe we won't ever be in Stephen's position but we remember that no matter what God allows, it's worth it to be faithful to Him because the reward outweighs anything we suffer.
Soon the kids were praying nightly, "Please help people in Saudi-Rabia. Help them in...what's that other place with the pyramids again?" We asked God to do Stephen-like miracles for people that are suffering, to give them courage and comfort no matter what their outcome is.
One afternoon Everett overheard me talking about Christian students who were mocked at a neighboring high school. I said, "I don't know what the staff's response is but those kids feel persecuted."
Everett's head came up from his coloring. "What's persecuted again?"
"Well, we've talked about persecution in the Bible and in Saudi Arabia and Egypt where people are hurt or killed because they believe in Jesus. When I say these kids are being persecuted at *** High School, I mean they are being made fun of and their friends don't want to be friends with them anymore."
The next night Sean was home during prayer time. He's missed many evening discussions and had been at youth group the two previous nights. As Everett prayed he ended with "And help those people in Saudi-Rabia getting hurt. And those people in...what's that place again, Mom?"
"in Egypt getting hurt. And help all those students at...where's that place again, Mom?"
"*** High School."
"at *** High School."
Sean's head snapped up and he gave me a quizzical, confused look. I bit back a laugh and whispered, "I'll tell you that story later."
My dad is friends with a pastor in Pakistan. The pastor has spoken at my dad's church and they were together in Africa this past year. As the pastor has received death threats in his country, my dad's church has been part of helping and supporting him.
Last Sunday I was in the cereal aisle at Safeway when my mom called. As I was deciding between Rice Chex and Corn Chex she told me the pastor's wife, infant daughter, aunt, and teenage cousin had been kidnapped. The bodies of his wife, daughter, and aunt were found in a dumpster. The Taliban notified him that they are holding his 16yr. old cousin hostage with plans to turn him into a suicide bomber.
I still can't remember if I picked Rice or Corn Chex. I know I prayed until I got home. I chose to share with my kids, in a way they would understand with very little detail. I kept thinking crown of life, crown of life, but felt like what the helpless bystanders watching Stephen must have felt like... it's a bad ending, God!
It was Darla and Hudson who helped me gain perspective. Hudson prayed for the pastor's sadness and for God to help him. Darla prayed that he would still be brave to tell people about Jesus and that he wouldn't stop. She prayed that God would help him because he must be so, so sad even if his family is in heaven. She's prayed every night.
They held a funeral in Pakistan yesterday under police protection with 1,500 people attending. The pastor spoke for fifteen minutes, until he fainted. He's fainted repeatedly this week. So...we keep praying.
I'm thanking God that He works this way- taking a pastor fighting on the front lines across the world and putting him in the minds and hearts of these soft, insulated Americans. We don't know what miracles are unfolding, but we're believing for them even while our hearts are grieving at the state of our world. We trust God is using the prayers of us on our knees (or somersaulting if we're a Taylor toddler) here in our little corner.
Lately I'm reading the news with Paul's (formerly Saul) words in mind. "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed- always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body... knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you." 2 Corinthians 4:7-10, 14
Just throwing myself out there a bit...